Two of Northern Ireland’s most dedicated volunteers have been recognised for their work at the RYA Volunteer Awards 2023 in London.
Richard Robinson, of County Antrim Yacht Club, received an Outstanding Contribution award, while Jack Kennedy, of Strangford Lough Yacht Club, received a Young Volunteer award.
The event was attended by The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, and highlighted the amazing work of volunteers from all sections of the United Kingdom.
Commenting on the contribution of volunteers RYA CEO Sara Sutcliffe MBE said: “I am blown away by the commitment and dedication shown by our volunteers. I’m immensely grateful for everything you do, which simply put, keeps our sport and communities afloat.”
Richard supports County Antrim Yacht Club’s Training Centre as a qualified Senior Instructor, Advanced Powerboat Instructor, Safety Boat Instructor and Windsurfing Instructor. Over many years as a volunteer, he has taught hundreds of people to sail, led dozens of power and safety boat courses and facilitated thousands of races.
He is also the RTC Principal for Belfast Lough Sailability. Last year he encouraged three female members to undertake their Powerboat Instructor course and offered significant input and resources to their preparation.
In addition, as Bosun and Safety Officer he manages rotas and carries out maintenance on four safety boats. Richard has been hailed for the huge amount of energy he puts into all his endeavours and how he carries everyone along with him.
In response to receiving the award he said: “I feel honoured and humbled to be recognised for this award. Before volunteering in sailing, I had volunteered in another sport and had seen how much volunteer support can deliver and grow participation.
“Through my work with sailability, I’ve learnt how much people love to learn no matter what hand in life is dealt to them.
“My biggest challenge as a volunteer is time or lack of it. Being organised and helping organisations is where I help make the biggest impact.”
Jack began volunteering aged 14, helping at Sunday sailing sessions for young children at Strangford Lough Yacht Club where he was also an Assistant Instructor. He soon progressed to become a Senior Instructor and Powerboat Instructor, helping to co-ordinate other activities including the regional RYA Women on Water festival and Discover Sailing days.
He has been Training Captain and RTC Principal since 2021 where he has made an exceptional contribution to the development of club boating and has inspired younger volunteers to get more involved in sailing.
He was also the youngest member of the Commodore’s committee when he was appointed as Communications Captain at just 22. He developed and improved the club’s social media presence, introduced WhatsApp groups, and helped redesign the club website.
Jack said: “I’m delighted to be still considered a ‘young’ volunteer as many of the people at my club see me as old! On a serious note, I am honoured to have been nominated for this award, but also to have been awarded it.
“The main motivation for me to volunteer is to give back to the sport which has given me so much. Sailing and boating in general relies so heavily on committed volunteers so it’s important that everyone who has had the fortunate opportunity to participate in the sport/hobby gives back to it.
“Volunteering enables you to meet new people, make new friends and build your network. Some of the most important relationships I have made with people are through my time spent volunteering.
“Northern Ireland has so much to offer in terms of sailing and post Covid-19 that people are seeing that. The environments such as Strangford Lough, Ballyholme Bay, Lough Erne and more are beautiful and peaceful. We are seeing an increase in sport across all ages and that really excites me about sailing in Northern Ireland.”