STAFFORDSHIRE SAILORS HONOURED BY HRH THE PRINCESS ROYAL
A trio of Staffordshire sailors were presented with three of the Royal Yachting Association's most prestigious awards by HRH the Princess Royal, President of the RYA, at the organisation's annual awards ceremony at London's One Great George Street on Friday (23rd November).
Michael Wigley, from Lichfield, was awarded with an RYA Award, which are given by sailing's national governing body to outstanding individuals in recognition of their commitment and services to boating and the RYA at a regional or national level. Meanwhile South Staffordshire SC stalwart and RYA West Midlands committee member, Tony Hotchkiss, was awarded with a Lifetime Commitment Award, while club mate Steve Troke received an Outstanding Contribution Award.
A total of 56 voluntary awards were presented to winners hailing from across the UK from as far afield as Cornwall to Argyll.
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Having first got involved in boating governance by joining the committee of his home sailing club, Sutton SC, in 1975, Michael, who was first introduced to sailing age nine on father's cabin cruiser on the River Avon at Tewkesbury in 1953, held the esteemed post of RYA Honorary Treasurer from 2004 to 2011, a role in which he was responsible for ensuring the RYA's financial affairs were properly conducted and its resources used efficiently, economically and effectively.
During this time he chaired two of the most important projects in recent RYA history. First was the building of RYA Portland House - the single largest investment the RYA has ever made - designed, built and delivered on time and to budget for use by Britain's sailors as their London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic training and Games base. Used too by RYA Youth and Junior squad sailors and class associations, Portland House is a proud Games legacy. He then chaired the RYA's Governance Review Working Party in 2011, which culminated in a fundamental re-think of how the RYA should be governed and managed in the 21st century.
Tony, who started sailing at Midland SC in Birmingham age 12 before moving to South Staffs SC in 1988, has always provided guidance and inspiration to others at the club. He has played an integral role in South Staffs SC's junior race training over the past decade, seeing many of the youngsters progressing into RYA Zone squads. He also introduced the RYA OnBoard grassroots sailing and windsurfing programme to the club.
Meanwhile, Steve, who learned to sail on a family holiday in Scotland in 1989, has spent many hours teaching, coaching and fixing boats plus plenty else at South Staffs SC. Whenever there is something going on Steve is always involved somehow. His 'can do' attitude has been the enabling factor allowing the seeds of many ideas or events to come to fruition, with his unstinting energy and support along the way.
Michael said: "I've made a huge time and emotional commitment to the sport that has given me so much on and off the water. It is my passion for safeguarding the future of the sport in the face of ever-changing legislative, regulatory and financial challenges that has driven me. Governance matters should never overshadow our primary function to protect and manage the sport. I have enjoyed playing an integral role in shaping the next phase of the sport's evolution, and giving a new generation of British boaters the chance to enjoy the sport, and everything it offers, as much as I have done, and still do."
Tony said: "I may have been involved for a long time but I often feel my efforts are quite small compared with the time and energy so many put into clubs, classes and the sport. I'd like to think my award is recognition for all those that do so much for this great sport. Sailing is inclusive of all ages and regardless of gender. Sailing provided me with personal confidence I was very short of as a youngster. It's also given me the opportunity to communicate with people of all ages but with a common interest. I love competition and it's wonderful to be involved in a sport where everyone is equal."
Steve said: "I'm just happy I can help introduce families and individuals into the sport of sailing. Our whole club's ethos is 'Nothing is impossible' and I get my enjoyment from watching the new families and pupils, young and old, go through their various stages of trying to grasp the sport and then experiencing that moment of 'Bingo!' Whatever you chose to do in life is worthwhile if it's for the good of all. Sport in any field is a fabulous character foundation builder for youngsters and adults alike. We can't always achieve nor have everything we want in life. Life is a competition after all. I still feel amazed but also so proud that South Staffs SC nominated me for this award."
The trio, along with the other RYA Award winners, enjoyed a celebratory lunch in the presence of HRH the Princess Royal and was presented with a commemorative medallion and certificate.
Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive said "The RYA is delighted to make this award in recognition of Michael, Tony and Steve's enthusiasm, promotion of our sport and many years' contribution to the national and West Midlands' boating scene. The 56 RYA winners are an inspiration to us all and it is my pleasure to recognise and celebrate their hard work and dedication."