Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

King’s Birthday Honour for RYANI Sailability Champion Bob Harper

17th June 2023
Bob Harper
Bob Harper is awarded an MBE for services to sailing for people with disabilities in Northern Ireland in the first list by King Charles III

Bob Harper, a dedicated sailing volunteer for almost 20 years, is among those named in the King’s Birthday Honours list on Saturday (17 June).

Bob is awarded an MBE for services to sailing for people with disabilities in Northern Ireland and is one of more than 100 people on the list — the first named by King Charles III.

The Carrickfergus man took up the role of RYA Northern Ireland sailability coordinator 2003 and over 18 years worked with clubs and centres all over the region. He stepped down from the role at the end of 2021, as previously reported on

Under his tenure, three dedicated sailability clubs were set up along with five accredited centres. They continue to bring the joy of sailing to disabled and disadvantaged people right across Northern Ireland.

Bob has always been an advocate for disabled sailing, helping to create and maximise opportunities for sailors, as well as supporting many initiatives and activities.

He helped to establish Belfast Lough Sailability, which has given hundreds of adults and children with any form of disability the opportunity to take up the sport and learn the skill of sailing.

Bob is also a keen author and illustrator and has written about his adventures sailing around the world with wife, Christine.

Greg Yarnall, chief executive officer of RYANI congratulated Bob, saying: “I am delighted that Bob has been recognised with an MBE for all of the hard work he has done for our sport. His enthusiasm is a shining example of all that is good about sailing and our dedicated volunteers.

“Over the years Bob has played a huge role in helping the sailabilty community grow from strength to strength in Northern Ireland. As a result of his hard work, hundreds of people have been able to enjoy sailing, regardless of their ability or their background.”

Commenting on his recognition, Bob says: “It’s a bit surreal, I’m going to have to buy a suit! I have lots of people calling and the WhatsApps are flying. It’s just great to be able to look back on all of the friends we have made and I am delighted that the organisation for disabled sailing has been recognised.

“My initial thoughts when I found out about it were of the many, many volunteers who supported me. This is the recognition of the work that countless volunteers have done over the years – without them, none of it could have happened. I was just the figure head for the whole thing.

“I didn’t start sailing until I was in late 30s and I was so enthusiastic I just wanted other people to enjoy it and I am delighted that I have had the opportunity to do all of this.” Team

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About the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Northern Ireland 

  • The RYA is the national body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sports boats, windsurfing and personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.
  • The RYA is recognised by Government, the media and opinion formers as the representative body and voice for the activities that it represents. It continually fights for the rights and freedoms of its 112,000 personal members.
  • The RYA has more than 1,500 affiliated clubs and classes, which represent some 350,000 boaters throughout the UK. It is estimated that 4 million people in the UK take part in boating activity annually.
  • The RYA also sets and maintains recognised standards for training for both leisure and commercial boating through a network of more than 2,400 RYA Recognised Training Centres across 58 countries. More than 250,000 people per year complete RYA training courses.
  • The RYA is responsible for one of the UK’s most successful Olympic medal-winning sports. Our coaching and development schemes actively support 800 of our country’s top sailors, from talented juniors to Olympic and World champions.
  • The RYA is committed to promoting all forms of boating and making them accessible to everyone. For more information please visit
  • The Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland (RYA NI) acts for the RYA in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Chairman of RYA NI is invited to join the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Policy Review Committee.
  • You can find the RYA Northern Ireland at Sketrick House, GE8, Jubilee Road, Newtownards, BT23 4YH.
  • RYA NI is a company limited by guarantee – Registration number NI 51945
  • Contact RYA NI: Tel: 02891 827154 email: [email protected]