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Four inspiring Northern Ireland volunteers have been recognised nationally with awards from the Royal Yachting Association.

Traditionally taking place at an awards ceremony in London, the RYA Volunteer Awards celebrate and say 'thank you' to volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport.

The volunteers are nominated by their sailing club, class associations and members of the boating community.

The RYA Community Awards are given across three categories: Lifetime Commitment, Outstanding Contribution and Youth and are presented to outstanding individuals for their commitment and services to boating at club or grassroots level.

RYA Northern Ireland's Chief Operating Officer, Richard Honeyford, said: "On behalf of RYA Northern Ireland I would like to thank all of our dedicated volunteers, who make our sport the success that it is.

"I am delighted for our four local sailors who have been recognised nationally by the Royal Yachting Association for all their hard work. Devoted to their clubs, these volunteers ensure the smooth running of many aspects of club life and also do so much to benefit the wider local community."

Jackie Patton, Chair of RYA Northern Ireland, commented: "Our volunteers are the bedrock of our sport, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of our clubs and the constant development of our sport. I am delighted that our volunteers have been recognised nationally for their efforts and congratulate them on their fantastic achievements."

Kate Pounder – Ballyholme Yacht Club

Kate Pounder received a Youth Award for going above and beyond in her role as an Instructor at Ballyholme Yacht Club. She has worked her way through the RYA syllabus, gaining her Senior Instructor qualification in 2017, leading to her appointment as Chief Sailing Instructor for her club's 2019 centenary season.

Kate Pounder – Ballyholme Yacht ClubKate Pounder – Ballyholme Yacht Club

Whether she's assisting with driving RIBS, providing rescue cover, transferring boats across the yard or laying racing marks, Kate consistently gives her time and infectious enthusiasm for the good of the club and its members.

Commenting on her award, Kate said: "When I realised I had won an award I felt completely overjoyed and surprised. For as long as I can remember, I've always enjoyed helping out at my home club and the more I got involved the better I felt about myself and the way others engaged with me. Sailing at Ballyholme is a real community and thrives on people getting actively involved and I wanted to be part of that".

Colin de Fleury – County Antrim Yacht Club

County Antrim Yacht Club's Colin de Fleury received an Outstanding Contribution award for his hard work over the years. A member of the club since 2007, Colin has always been a willing and very experienced volunteer. A Powerboat, Keelboat and Senior Dinghy Instructor and Race Coach, he is always on hand to take on the role of Race Officer, safety boat helm or crew, as well as maintaining dinghies and mentoring Assistant Instructors.

Colin de Fleury – County Antrim Yacht ClubColin de Fleury – County Antrim Yacht Club

Delivering courses and helping with 'Try Sailing' and other initiatives, Colin is always organised and thorough, a natural leader and inspiring for everyone around him.

Lindsay Nolan – Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Lindsay Nolan (pictured top) from Royal North of Ireland has been given an Outstanding Contribution award. Under her leadership, the club has benefitted from a vibrant social programme for all members, raising thousands of pounds for charities. Lindsay looks after the club's Facebook page, is editor of the annual Club Review magazine, contributes to the weekly newsletter and is often chief photographer at events.

As RYA Green Blue Co-Ordinator she has introduced a range of initiatives from installing a water fountain to organising a beach clean.

Paul Prentice – Ballyholme Yacht Club

Paul Prentice has been recognised with a Lifetime Commitment award. He has been a dedicated volunteer at Ballyholme Yacht Club for nearly two decades, as an instructor and a coach.

Paul Prentice – Ballyholme Yacht Club Paul Prentice – Ballyholme Yacht Club

In his current role as Training Centre Principal, he is devoted to promoting and overseeing adult and youth dinghy and powerboat training. Working with the Sir Thomas Lipton Foundation and its Buoyed-Up programme, the Andrew Simpson Foundation and the Department for Education for Northern Ireland, Paul has been key to the club delivering sailing opportunities for disadvantaged young people from schools in the local community.

Paul has been key in developing new links between the club and external organisations, as well as securing funding from innovative sources to deliver initiatives for the club and also the local community.

Published in Belfast Lough
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Less than 24 hours after posting that the Icebreaker event run by Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough, could take place on the scheduled date (tomorrow Sunday 18th), the club has had to cancel racing. Rear Commodore Rob Milligan informed members of the club's decision. "Unfortunately, as a result of the regulations published late last night, we have no alternative but to cancel racing tomorrow, Sunday 18th. RYA NI are meeting with the Minister for Communities and SportNI next week to discuss this turnaround in restrictions and we will keep members updated. In the meantime, the boat parks and slipways remain open and we would ask that when using the club, you continue to adhere to the guidelines".

The NI Assembly has published the Regulations that apply with IMMEDIATE effect over the 'Active Period' from 16th October. Key areas of note relating to boating activity are set out on Facebook by RYANI. They say that the implications for boating are that activity where gathering numbers can exceed 15 people – this applies both to training and racing/ competition, can no longer be allowed. A risk assessment in place no longer allows this number to be exceeded.

The Icebreaker usually attracts at least 50 participants.

The post continues " Our current understanding through communications received from the Minister of Communities means that our Participant Guidance for Sailing and Racing in Mixed Households is not currently applicable. Any such activity must ensure participants keep a distance of 2 metres as well as ensuring public health sanitising guidelines are adhered to." It continues " We are due to meet the Minister for Communities on Monday, with a subsequent meeting with Sport Northern Ireland next Thursday. We hope these will provide more clarity of restrictions over the 'active period' and we will share these as soon as possible with the boating community going forward. This has been shared with relevant clubs and centres".

More than 30 youth laser sailors from 10 clubs across Northern Ireland travelled to Cushendall Sailing and Boating Club for the RYA Northern Ireland Performance selection weekend.

The event, which took place on 10 and 11 October, saw the young sailors taking part in two days of coaching and selections.

Strict Covid-19 arrangements were in place and sessions took place outdoors in three groups with Laser Head Coach Barry McCartin, Performance Development Officer James Farrell and Performance Manager Andrew Baker.

Commenting on the action-packed weekend, Andrew Baker said: "Saturday was all about boat handling and shaking off any rustiness form a season with less sailing than normal. Gusts of 20 knots were a rude awakening for some. By the end of the day the groups were showing real promise and becoming more competitive within themselves.

"Sunday put into practice the previous day of training with a drill focusing on boat speed and changing gears in a laser. These sessions were aided by the ever-changing weather which had the sailors working the boats through light drifting conditions right up to flat out hiking."

He added: "The weekend concluded with three large races bringing all the groups together giving additional pressure of performing among a larger number of boats, which is what the sailors can expect at future events."

Reflecting on the success of the event, Baker said: "It was a great weekend and I am very pleased given the current Covid-19 climate that we were able to run the Performance selection weekend.

"I am impressed by the enthusiasm shown by all the participants. This was my first selection weekend as Performance Manager and I am pleased to see the talent Northern Ireland has to offer and excited to grow and support our future sailors.

"I would like to thank everyone for understanding the circumstances and helping us run the weekend safely and in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines.''

The successful young athletes who have been selected by RYA Northern Ireland will now be invited to be part of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Performance Programme and undergo six weekends on-water coaching, as well as other campaign support throughout the Winter period.

Much to the satisfaction of RYA Northern Ireland and Ballyholme Yacht Club, splitting the 89 strong Youth Sailing Championship fleet over two days to mitigate risk in accordance with COVID – 19 guidelines, allowed the event to run smoothly with the only hiccup being the fickle conditions on the Sunday but Race Officer Robin Gray and his team managed to do enough to get a result.

As Afloat reported earlier, competitors travelled from all over the North and from as far away as Lough Ree and Malahide, with 420s and the ILCA 6 (the renamed Laser Radials) racing on Saturday and ILCA 4 (Laser 4.7s) Toppers and Topper 4.2s on the Sunday.

Saturday brought perfect conditions with 10 -12 knots of wind and the full five-race schedule was completed.

COVID restrictions for Dublin, unfortunately, meant some sailors were unable to race in the 420 class but there were three pairings on the water to fight it out for what was also the class Northern Championships. Ben Graf and Alexander Farrell from Lough Ree demonstrated great talent and slick crew work to win three of the five races and be crowned this year’s 420 Northern Champions.

ILCA racing at the RYA NI champs Photo: Simon McIlwaineILCA racing at the RYA NI champs Photo: Simon McIlwaine

In the 22 strong ILCA 6 fleet, winner was Tom Coulter from Coleraine YC and East Antrim BC, counting two firsts and two thirds, finishing on 8 points, three ahead of

Erin McIlwaine of Newcastle YC and Royal St.George whose 15th in the third race put paid to her chances despite scoring two firsts and a second. But she won the tie split with Joseph Karauzum of County Antrim YC whose win in Race 5 secured him the third place tied with McIlwaine and the title of First Youth in the event.
Sunday brought a whole new set of conditions to Ballyholme and Race Office Robin Gray had to deal with a constantly shifting light wind. Despite the Committee Boat on the water for seven hours and the fleet for nearly six, only two races could be run before the 1600hrs deadline. It was local girl Hannah Dadley-Young top of the 15 strong ILCA 4 fleet with two firsts. Hannah was first girl and fifth overall at the Topper British Nationals last August. Eva Briggs from East Down and Royal North was runner up.

Ballyholme’s Hugo Boyd was top of the 17 starters in the Topper 4.2 Class with Freddie Doig of the Larne club, East Antrim, runner up.

The Topper fleet at the RYANI Youth Championships Photo: Simon McIlwaineThe Topper fleet at the RYANI Youth Championships Photo: Simon McIlwaine

The Toppers turned out the biggest fleet with 32 starters. Another East Antrim competitor, Zoe Whitford, and Daniel Palmer from Ballyholme were tied first on points but with a last race win, it was Whitford who emerged first in the Topper Class and also took home the prize of first Junior and First Junior Girl.

As well as championship prizes there are Schools and Clubs prizes. Ballyholme’s Junior sailors were crowned winners of the Club Trophy while Larne Grammar secured the title of Schools Cup Champions for 2020.

Full results: 19th September and 20th September

Published in Belfast Lough
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More than 90 of Northern Ireland’s Youth and Junior sailors have taken part in the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Championships, which were hosted by Ballyholme Yacht Club.

Racing took part of over two days on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September and the fleets were split to reduce overall numbers on site each day to mitigate risk in accordance with COVID – 19 guidelines.

The ILCA 6 and 420s took to the water on Saturday for five races in perfect conditions of 15 knots and sunshine.

Ellen Barbour from County Antrim Yacht Club showed good form early on to lead the way in race one, only to fall foul of being over at the start. This gave Coleraine Yacht Club’s Tom Coulter the win followed by Colin Crichton of Quoile Yacht Club in 2nd.

Race two saw Erin Mcllwaine from Newcastle Yacht Club was fast out of the blocks and took the win for race two with Crichton again runner up and Coulter in 3rd.
By race three Coulter started to show some dominance with his second win of the event followed by Ballyholme’s Oliver Haig.

The girls led the way in the fourth race with Mcllwaine doing her best to close the gap to Coulter with another win and Barbour a close 2nd to prove her performance in race one was not a one-off.



1st Overall

Tom Coulter

1st Overall

Hannah Dadley-Young

1st Boy

Tom Coulter

1st Boy

Conor McVeigh

1st Girl

Erin Mcllwaine

1st Girl

Hannah Dadley-Young


Erin Mcllwaine


Eva Briggs


Joseph Karauzum


Conor McVeigh


420 – Northern Championship

1st Overall

Ben Graf & Alexander Farrell


Jack McDowell & Harry Thomson


Garrett Leech & Conor Paul




1st Overall

Zoe Whitford

1st Overall

Hugo Boyd

1st Boy

Dan Palmer

1st Boy

Hugo Boyd

2nd Boy

Max Killiner

1st Girl

Jessica Dadley-Young

3rd Boy

Charlie Patterson


Freddie Doig

1st Girl

Zoe Whitford


Mateo Moore 

2nd Girl

Autumn Halliday

3rd Girl

Sophia Cahill


RYANI Youth Championships Overall

1st Junior 

Zoe Whitford

1st Youth

Tom Coulter

1st Lady 

Erin Mcllwaine 

Club Trophy

Ballyholme Yacht Club

School’s Cup

Larne Grammar 

 The Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland Youth Championships on 19/20 September will feel the ongoing effect of the Covid-19 pandemic in that a restricted Youth Sailing Championships will be run on the 19th and 20th September at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough.

This year each class will race on one day only, to enable the event to be run in a Covid-secure manner, so as it will look different to the usual. RYANI says it is important to read the Notice of Race carefully as this will give more details about how the Championships will be run.

On the Saturday, the racing will be for ILCA 6 , 420 and 29ers and on the Sunday it will be the turn of the Toppers (all rigs) and ILCA 4. There will not be a regatta fleet.

To be considered for the RYANI Junior or Youth Performance Programmes, sailors must complete the online application form before 30th September 2020 which can be found on the RYANI website under the Performance tab.

The 20/21 Youth Performance Programme training and selection will take place on the weekends of 3rd and 4th October (Toppers) and on 10th and 11th October for Lasers. The venue will be Cushendall Sailing and Boating Club on the Antrim Coast. You can book for both the Topper and Laser weekends through RYA NI Facebook page.

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Accomplished sailor Andrew Baker has been appointed as the new RYA Northern Ireland Performance Manager, taking up the post this week.

Recruitment for the role started in February but was delayed until lockdown measures eased and continued funding form Sport Northern Ireland was confirmed.

Baker takes over from Ballyholme-based 49er sailor Matt McGovern who previously held the role.

Popularly known as 'Hammy' Andrew started competitive sailing at the age of nine, racing Toppers in his native Northern Ireland. By the age of 13, he was selected to be part of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Squad in Toppers, and two years later in the Laser Youth Squad. After winning the Northern Ireland Youth National Championship, he represented Ireland in the Laser Europeans and World Championship. In 2014, Andrew was selected as part of the British Keelboat Academy and won the IRC National Championship.

His big break came when he got accepted into the Artemis Offshore Academy to be part of the 2015 squad. After training in Lorient, he took part in his first Solitaire – Bompard Le Figaro, finishing the race in 32nd place. Since then he has worked as a professional sailor but has also returned to work and assist as a Senior Instructor at his home club of Quoile YC in Strangford Lough.

Welcoming Andrew to the RYA Northern Ireland team, Chief Operating Officer Richard Honeyford said: "At RYA Northern Ireland, we are delighted to welcome Andrew on board as the new Performance Manager at a critical time for performance sport and our local athletes. With the Olympics delayed until 2021, Andrew will be looking to ensure our High-Performance athletes get the best possible support as well as looking to ensure the pathway and club development plans are prioritised."

Commenting on his new post, Andrew said: "Since our first family holidays on my parents' boat right up to sailing competitively at a professional level, I have always felt very fortunate to be involved in this sport and I realise it would not be possible if not for the work of our clubs, volunteers and the work carried out by the RYANI. Having gone from club racing and through the squad systems myself I know how important this stage of coaching and nurturing is to a future athlete. I hope to carry on the great work carried out by my predecessors and give something back to the sport I love through growing the depth of sailing here in Northern Ireland. To me sailing is a sport for life and I hope it can be for others too."

In the run-up to the return of Topper and Laser dinghy events, RYA Northern Ireland has arranged a series of Open Pathway training events during this month.

The RYANI Open Pathway Training (OPT) is aimed primarily at those sailors who wish to develop their racing skills with a Squad coach in order to help them gain a good understanding of racing within the class and to go on to compete at open class events and the RYANI Youth Championships, and looking to join the RYANI Performance Pathway.

For Toppers the sessions start at Ballyholme on this coming Tuesday 11th August, the others are scheduled for East Antrim on 13th August and Strangford Lough YC on 19th August. For Lasers, the dates are Ballyholme -12 August; Carrickfergus on 14th and Strangford Lough on 18th.

All sessions are strictly limited to 12 Toppers and 10 Lasers

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Women on Water became Women online for a festival which should have been held at Carrickfergus Sailing Club but had to be redesigned due to COVID 19.

The festival brought together like-minded women who have been involved in sailing from a young age or as part of the recent Women on Water programmes. The low-cost project runs every year across Northern Ireland and is open to women of all abilities. It lasts four weeks and teaches the basics of sailing and there are lots of social opportunities.

RYA Northern Ireland’s Active Clubs co-ordinator, Lisa McCaffrey explained: “Women on Water is a fantastic programme but our plans had to change. We were still able to hold a very enjoyable online festival and it was a lovely opportunity for everyone to catch up and share insights and information, as well as having a good chat in what has been difficult times for many.”

During the online festival, RYA Northern Ireland’s Development Officer, Mary Martin, delivered an interactive workshop. This included a discussion on the Women on Water programme and how it could be developed. Valuable information was provided on RYA qualifications, including instructor and official qualifications. The participants were able to find out about the benefits of the qualifications, such as delivering sessions at their local club which would allow more people to learn to sail, developing their own boating knowledge and also the potential career opportunities.

The Women on Water Leadership Group then hosted a quiz, with Jennifer Bryce, a graduate from the very first Women on Water programme in 2016, winning a free ticket to next year’s festival which will take place at Carrickfergus Sailing Club.

Speaking after the festival, Jennifer commented: “The talk was very informative and has encouraged me to work towards the Dinghy Instructor qualification. It would be wonderful to be able to teach other women, as I started with the Women on Water course a couple of years ago and have been slightly obsessed with sailing ever since! Just before lockdown, I bought a GP14, with the exciting plans to compete in the GP14 Worlds event in the summer but that has been postponed. My crew, Lara Sunday, also completed the Women on Water course last summer and we got to know each other at the first festival. I can’t wait to take my boat out on the water as I haven’t even sailed it yet. This time last year I was out sailing four or five times a week, I am getting serious withdrawal symptoms!”

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Many sailors are slowly returning to the water as the lockdown eases, but they have kept in touch by taking part in RYA Northern Ireland’s virtual forums, learning more about support, opportunities for funding and other important updates.

The club development forums were created by the governing body to connect with affiliated clubs and centres. So far over 20 Northern Ireland clubs and centres have been attending virtually.

RYA Northern Ireland’s Chief Operating Officer Richard Honeyford commented: “Lockdown has led to some very constructive and important discussions within the boating community through the RYA Northern Ireland forums. We’ve covered a wide range of different topics, from NI government advice to funding opportunities and Q&A sessions on the main issues facing our sport. During such a rapidly changing environment, we recognised the need to keep communications open to help address challenges and share valuable learning”.

He went on “We are continuing to provide guidance to clubs and centres on the latest government advice, which allows our members to make informed decisions about how their club is operating as government restrictions ease.”

The most recent forum on Tuesday 9 June provided clubs with discussions on how to safely return to recreational boating activity.

Ballyholme Yacht Club provided a valuable insight into their own journey to ‘Returning to Boating’ and discussed their Covid-19 team approach, which was set up under RYA guidance. Clubs taking part in the forum were given the opportunity to discuss Ballyholme’s journey and explain their own plans.

Lisa McCaffrey, RYA Northern Ireland’s Active Clubs Co-ordinator, commented: “I really miss visiting the clubs during the sailing season so getting the opportunity to connect has been super. The forums give us a chance to explain the work that we are doing including providing guidance to our clubs and centres within the various activities that we cover.”

Further forums are planned, and these will focus on returning to racing, returning to training and further volunteer development, sailability and cruising workshops.

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