Royal presentation for Downs Sailing Club volunteer

The 2023 RYA Volunteer Awards were held on Friday 10 November at One Great George Street, with 81 accolades given this year in recognition of the outstanding dedication and commitment made by volunteers of all ages and from all corners of the UK.

Lifetime Commitment Award

Chris received an RYA Lifetime Commitment Award which recognises the exceptional and long-term commitments made by individuals at the grassroots level of the sports and activities the RYA represents.

Chris has been at the forefront of the organisation at Downs Sailing Club (DSC) for over 25 years. Since the club became an RYA Recognised Training Centre in 2007, he has been the Chief Instructor, managing a training fleet of 14 dinghies and leading the annual ‘Learn to Sail’ courses. Each year he manages the promotion, finances, bookings and staffing of these, as well as tutoring some courses. He also introduced a ‘Get into Racing’ programme and an OnBoard hotshot racing programme.

His management skills were a key element in the success of the week-long National Schools Regatta held at DSC in 2014, when he oversaw the organisation of the entire event on behalf of Kent Schools Sailing Association, bringing together 350 young people from throughout the UK.

Chris can be found getting his hands dirty too. When the club roof was replaced, his involvement was key to a successful outcome. He also manages the club bar and finances. His attention to detail, in a very person-focused way, is exemplary.

Chris said: “The award was completely unexpected and I am humbled to have been put forward for it. I have been teaching sailing for almost 50 years and whilst I find it very enjoyable, it is also a nice way to put something back into the sport.

“Downs Sailing Club is a very friendly club where everybody has to work together launching and recovering the boats on what can be a difficult shoreline. However this is often considered to be an asset of the club as it brings members together.

“It was very nice to meet the Princess Royal and the awards ceremony is something that will remain in my memory for a long time”

RYA Director pays tribute

RYA Director of Sport Development Rob Clark paid tribute to the enormous impact that volunteers have in sailing and boating communities.

“It’s always so inspiring to hear of the amazing work that is happening every day, up and down the country, by volunteers right at the heart of our sport,” Rob explained.

“Whether it’s encouraging newcomers to give it a try, looking after facilities so people can get afloat safely, running weekend racing, or fundraising for equipment so more people can be introduced to the joys of being on the water – there really is a rewarding role for everyone in our communities, from teenager to octogenarian!”

Humbling achievements

“Our sport relies so much on the goodwill and skills of volunteers at every level, without whom the opportunities to get involved in boating would be greatly reduced,” said RYA CEO Sara Sutcliffe MBE.

“They are very often the first point of contact for new participants across the nations and regions, and can help to motivate a lifetime’s interest, or inspire others to train for fulfilling careers across the marine industry.

“It’s so humbling to hear of the many examples of selfless commitment our award recipients have shown – in many cases spanning decades – and they represent many thousands more who give their time to support boating in whatever way, great or small. Our grateful thanks go to them all.”

Start your volunteering journey

Volunteers form the core of RYA and club initiatives, offering rewarding opportunities and assisting others to experience the water’s numerous benefits.

With various volunteering options available, dedicating even a small amount of your time can create a significant impact. Join us and make a difference today.

Find out more about volunteering.

Downs Sailing Club

Find out more about Downs Sailing Club, which offers an extremely friendly, inclusive, family atmosphere providing a safe and fun environment in which to develop your sailing skills.

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