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Volunteers Recognised at RYA Sailability National Conference



Some 120 volunteers from Sailability groups across the country attended the 10th annual RYA Sailability National Conference and dinner last weekend (18 February) where the winners of the RYA Sailability Volunteer Awards were announced (Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire).


The RYA Sailability Volunteer Awards were presented by the British Sailing Team’s Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas who competed in the Rio 2016 Games. These awards recognise the priceless contribution made by Sailability Volunteers and were awarded in four categories: Significant Contribution, Outstanding Contribution, Exceptional Contribution and Youth.


Significant Contribution


The winner of the Significant Contribution Award was Stuart Brierley for his work with Sailing for the Disabled for the past ten years. As skipper, sailor and an active fundraiser, Stuart is always willing to support and promote the charity and works tirelessly to mobilise other members.


Outstanding Contribution

The Outstanding Contribution Award was presented to three volunteers from Grafham Water Sailability. Alan Armstrong, Bruce Lamford and Geoffrey Collier are responsible for a two year project which saw their aging portable cabins replaced with fully accessible new log cabin style buildings, a boat house and a clubhouse. The new buildings have enabled even more sailors to get out on the water and enjoy using the club facilities unaided.  


Exceptional Contribution

Bill Foster from Belfast Lough Sailability (BLS) received the Exceptional Contribution Award. As an active member of the management committee for over 12 years and he teaches, sails and is committed to teaching and inspiring others to give the sport a go. Visually impaired himself, Bill is described as someone who is ‘always in the thick’ of it at BLS and helps others to see that anyone can have aspirations and dreams.


Youth Award

Eoin Bannon (Belfast Lough Sailability) picked up the Youth Award. The fifteen year old was recognised for his commitment, enthusiasm and willingness to offer his services to any task presented to him. Although Eoin found participating in mainstream sport difficult, he sails, drives the safety boat and is seen as a fantastic role model and an ambassador for BLS.


RYA CEO Sarah Treseder also made a special presentation to Debbie Blachford who retired in December, thanking her for her 23 years of commitment in her role as RYA Sailability Manager.


The dinner welcomed guest speaker RAF Aerospace Battle Manager Kat Janes who talked about Flying for Freedom and their goal of putting a team of sick and injured servicemen and women to be the first to fly microlights to the North Pole.


Earlier in the day, delegates were treated to a variety of expert speakers, including an introduction from the new RYA Sailability Manager Joff McGill. Waveney Sailability spoke about how they have encouraged and supported more of their sailors into racing and Belfast Lough gave a presentation on how they have recruited young volunteers. 


After lunch it was time for the interactive workshop sessions and the opportunity to address questions to the panel of RYA experts who offered advice on a range of topics including insurance, affiliation and legal matters.


RYA Sailability Manager Joff McGill said: “I would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s conference. As my first one it was incredible to be able to meet so many of the people who make it possible for Sailability to take place across the UK. The atmosphere has been buzzing all weekend and we have some really exciting things to look forward to in 2017”.


Thank you to Gallagher Heath and all the event sponsors and exhibitors.


To find out more about RYA Sailability visit


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