Gail Willows with HRH The Princess Royal


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Mary Lord

Mary Lord from Yarmouth, Chris Wilkinson from Brading and Gail Willows of Cowes were amongst 47 volunteers from across the UK who were recognised for their exceptional dedication and achievements in boating by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal at the RYA Volunteer Awards on Friday (22nd November).

The trio were selected as winners by the RYA Honours and Awards Panel. Gail and Chris travelled to One Great George Street, Westminster, London to receive their Awards from the Princess, while Mary received hers in Yarmouth.

The RYA is boating’s national governing body and the Volunteer Awards are considered the ‘MBEs’ of the sport, honouring people throughout the UK for their outstanding contributions across all the disciplines the RYA represents, including sailing, windsurfing, motor cruising, inland waterways and personal watercraft.

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Mary, a member of Yarmouth Sailing Club for over 42 years, has held a number of posts and is now a Trustee. She ran a sailing week for the children’s Optimist dinghy class for over 10 years. Her volunteering has helped to bring the fun and enjoyment of dinghy sailing to many. Mary was not able to visit the ceremony but received her Award later on in a local ceremony in Yarmouth. She said:

“I am so pleased that Yarmouth SC has appreciated my enjoyable work.”

Chris Wilkinson has been involved with both cadet training and various club committees at Brading Haven Yacht Club since the 1980s, supporting and mentoring other members to develop and grow, while also serving with the International Optimist Class Association (UK) and as Chairman of the British Europe Class Association. He helped the club achieve RYA Champion Club while he was Commodore in 2010.

After the ceremony he commented:

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“The event has been a very special day. It was a great honour to meet HRH The Princess Royal and talk to so many inspired, like-minded people. I thank all who proposed and voted for me. Volunteering is the very essence and future of our sport and clubs”.

Gail, who developed the Sharks and Dolphins programme at the Gurnard Sailing Club introducing children under 8 to the water, was delighted with her Award:

“The day in London was superb and it was wonderful to meet other volunteers,” she said.  “HRH Princess Royal is a fabulous ambassador for the sport of sailing.  There is something magical about volunteering work and I recommend anyone to embrace it, no matter how busy you are. I wish all the children that have joined me for adventures on the sea could have come up onto the stage too!”

Nominations are now invited for the 2020 RYA Volunteer Awards. For more information visit

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