James picks top sailing award

All the award winners from the RYA NI awards on Friday night.
All the award winners from the RYA NI awards on Friday night.

James Campbell of Coleraine Yacht Club has been named Instructor of the Year at the prestigious RYA NI annual awards.

The local man picked up the honour during a ceremony at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners on Friday night.

Northern Ireland’s most talented sailors and dedicated volunteers were honoured in celebration of their huge contribution to sailing and boating.

James has been invaluable to his club over the last year. He has provided leadership for the Junior Section as Junior Commodore and has also led a successful campaign at Coleraine Academical Institution to have sailing added to the list of supported sports at the school.

As a RYA Dinghy Instructor, Race Coach and a RYA Senior Instructor, James’ passion for the sport shines through.

Among the other award recipients was 25-year-old Hammy (Andrew) Baker, who received a special International Achievement Awards.

Hammy, who hails from Quoile Yacht Club and Ballyholme Yacht Club, is the first person from Northern Ireland to complete the Solitaire du Figaro, a gruelling 2,015 mile race between five European ports – the unofficial world championships of solo offshore sailing. He received RYA NI’s Special Award for his successes and dedication to the sport over the last year.

He hopes to complete challenge of a lifetime next year. He aims to be at the start line of the Solitaire again in 2016 and to then compete in the Volvo Ocean Race & Vendee Globe, where he would sail solo around the world against top sailors from around the globe.

Hammy commented: “I feel very privileged to have received this award, it’s very humbling. I started sailing with RYA NI when I was younger and that’s how I became interested. Living and training away from home, it is very special for me to know that people appreciate and follow what I’m doing.”

Speaking at the awards, Chair of RYA NI, Sheela Lewis said: “This is an excellent occasion to recognise the commitment of so many people to sailing and boating in Northern Ireland.

“We have had many successes over the last year and our clubs and athletes have done us proud. I looking forward to another thrilling year of sailing and boating, we have great talent within our clubs. On nights like this I am especially proud of all of our volunteers who have been invaluable to us. Volunteers are the bedrock of the sport and we are very grateful for all they do to facilitate sailing and yachting events in Northern Ireland.”

A Special Award also went to Kelley Rushton, who until recently was the only female Coach Assessor in NI for a number of years, helping young people to develop to RYA instructor level. Kelley has also been integral to growing the sport of windsurfing in NI and has worked hard to raise funds for charities including the Mary Peters Trust.

At just 14 years old, Cameron Date from Carrickfergus Sailing Club was crowned Young Volunteer of the Year. Cameron has dedicated all of his free time to sailing and has worked throughout the sailing season on safety boats, providing cover for club racing three evenings every week and also giving up many weekends to cover Regattas, Championships and providing support for training and coaching programmes, as well as many other events.

Young Powerboater of the Year went to Ballyholme Yacht Club’s Finlay McLees, who won the Northern Irish Heats of the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship and came come eleventh in the UK Final. He is a dedicated member of the Rescue Team at Ballyholme Yacht Club and often works in difficult sea conditions to support many local events.

Alistair McCarlie of County Antrim Yacht Club was announced as Club Race Coach Of The Year delivering race coaching every weekend as well as supporting and coaching sailors at events away from the club. One of Alistair’s many achievements has been helping club member Ellen Barbour with a transition from an Optimist to a Topper 4.2. She went on to become Irish Topper 4.2 Champion in 2005.

James Ogg from Donaghadee Sailing, who has been hailed a club hero, picked up Volunteer of the Year Award. Over the space of more than 20 years James has worked tirelessly to continually raise the standard of management, sailing and training and has served the Club in many roles including Honorary Secretary, Vice Commodore, Commodore and RYA Principal.

The night ended on a high with Belfast Lough Sailability announced as Club of the Year. Making a positive impact on the lives of many people in Northern Ireland, BLS continues to work hard to offer sailing to people with a disability and their entire family unit. The organisation provides respite for parents, carers and siblings and promotes activities that the whole family can take part in.