Northern Ireland's sailing stars recognised as coveted Club of the Year crown is shared
Northern Ireland’s sailing heroes were celebrated at RYANI’s Annual Awards ceremony in Belfast last month.
The awards, which celebrate the successes and people involved across recreational and competitive boating, took place at the Belfast Harbour Office.
This year the prestigious awards were sponsored by Sunsail and NIAVAC.
RYANI’s Chair Jackie Patton told a packed audience of around 130 people about the positive impact those who had been nominated had made to the sport throughout the year.
She commented: “The RYANI Annual Awards are a fantastic reminder of the impressive and inspiring work that goes on behind the scenes, as well as on the water, throughout the year. We are so grateful to our dedicated volunteers who go the extra mile and well beyond the call of duty – all to ensure that our sport thrives.
“It has been a fantastic year for our young sailors. They continue to do us proud and at RYANI we are delighted to be able to support them throughout their sailing journey.”
Ian Walker MBE, who is currently Director of Racing at RYA, told attendees of his experience competing and securing two Olympic medals. He also spoke about sailing at the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.
Across seven categories and a special awards category, there were many inspirational stories of the volunteers who keep the sport alive and those who achieved major success in 2018.
Instructor of the Year was awarded to Ross Johnston from Ballyholme Yacht Club. Ross is Chief Powerboat Instructor and also helps out with boat work and website work at the club.
Club Coach of the Year award went to Tom Purdon from Strangford Lough Yacht Club. Tom is a Dinghy Instructor with recent Race Coach Level 2. He has re-introduced race training activity at the club.
Young Powerboater of the Year was sponsored by Tiles and Wood Floor Store. It was awarded to Conn Finnegan from Ballyholme Yacht Club for his regular support for club racing and mark laying for national and international events.
Volunteer of the Year was awarded to David Nelson from Ballyholme Yacht Club. David developed his skills as a sailor, racer, official and coach assessor. He oversees and delivers a successful youth programme and Topper training at Ballyholme and has also taken on the role of club Bosun and provides advice on training.
Young Volunteer of the Year award went to Abbie Brown from Donaghadee Sailing Club. She is Junior Commodore, Assistant Instructor and organises many events. This includes a junior regatta. Abbie also promotes sailing and racing and represents junior views on the main committee at the club.
Young Sailor of the Year was sponsored by Carrick Marine Projects. It was awarded to Erin McIlwaine from Newcastle Yacht Club. She has secured many top spots – she was ranked 2nd Irish Topper Class, Irish Topper Champion and 6th at the Worlds, which was 1st female.
This year the Club of the Year Award is a joint award between Ballyholme Yacht Club and Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club.
Both clubs will go forward to represent Northern Ireland at the RYA Yachts and Yachting National Club of the Year Award later in March, where Ballyholme Yacht Club has also been recognised for increasing Membership.
Special Awards were also announced at the event. Liam Glynn from Ballyholme Yacht Club received the High Performance Sailing Achievement Special Award. Liam, who is part of the Irish Olympic Squad, secured wins at Laser Ulster and Nationals and 3rd at Laser World U21s.
Sheela Lewis from County Antrim Yacht Club received the Services to RYANI Sheela spent three years as Vice-Chair of RYANI, three years as Chair of RYANI and another year as past Chair. She has also supported and been a mentor to other board members.
Leonard Lawson from Portaferry Sailing Social Club was recognised as Outstanding Community Project Leader. He has led a team to transform a derelict building into an impressive vibrant hub facility with a focus on health and well-being for the local community.
Outstanding Contribution to Sailing and Club Development special award went to Denzl Dinsmore from Coleraine Yacht Club who has dedicated almost 50 years of service across all areas of the club as a volunteer.
David Ward from East Down Yacht Club also received an Outstanding Contribution to Sailing and Club Development award. Despite having no interest in racing, David has been an unsung hero at his club for over three decades. He works tirelessly at the club four to five days a week.
Belfast Telegraph Digital