Royal Presentation for Excelsior Trust 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.

Outstanding Contribution

John received an RYA Lifetime Commitment Award, which recognises the exceptional commitments made by individuals at the grassroots level of the sports and activities the RYA represents.

John is absolutely dedicated to the never-ending task of managing and supporting the ex-commercial fishing smack, Excelsior, built in 1921, which he purchased in the early 1980s. He was instrumental in forming the Excelsior Trust and obtained grant funding for its authentic restoration and the purchase of dedicated boatyard facilities. Everything was replaced above three planks below the waterline. HRH The Princess Royal recommissioned it as a sail training vessel in 1988.

In the past year, the total number of young people taken to sea, often for the first time, has passed 10,000. These, frequently disadvantaged, young people often receive their own enabling grants, which he regularly sources himself.

John’s drive and determination, together with his outstanding ability to create links through networking and to persuade the most unlikely contributors, has led to Excelsior passing her century, and being listed as one of the 50 most important historic vessels in the UK. Excelsior has literally been his life’s work, and he remains Vice President of the trust, developing youngsters’ seafaring skills and bringing together a wide variety of people.

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.

The Excelsior Trust

Find out more about The Excelsior Trust – one of the UK’s most historic vessels, now offering sailing days and adventures for all.

For more information about how to get out on the water in the East Region, visit


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