RYANI awards for BLS volunteers

RYANI Awards 2016 Hannah & Tori

BLS volunteers featured strongly in the RYA Northern Ireland annual awards at Royal Ulster Yacht Club, Bangor recently. With 13 prize winners, 90 guests and five Olympians in attendance, the prestigious ceremony, which took place on Friday November 11th, recognised successful sailors, rising stars and volunteers who have made a positive difference to the sport over the last year.

Special guests included Dame Mary Peters, Olympic sailor Ryan Seaton and Irish Olympic Coach Rory Fitzpatrick, who coached Silver medallist Annalise Murphy through Rio 2016.

There was stiff competition for all categories, with Powerboater of the Year going to Hannah Blair of Carrickfergus Sailing Club who has worked relentlessly to hone her skills whilst supporting Belfast Lough Sailability and CSC.

Young Volunteer of the Year went to Tori Blair who admirably spent a lot of her spare time helping to run training and sailing sessions in her home clubs, Carrickfergus Sailing Club and Belfast Lough Sailability.

The RYA is the UK national governing body for all things boating; for our region to recognise the immense contribution of two of our volunteers is a very proud moment for all at BLS.

Other BLS Award Nominees just pipped at the post were Paul Green, who narrowly missed out on Volunteer of the Year – a very worthy and deserving nomination – and Colin De Fleury nominated for RYANI Instructor of the Year for his tireless work with both BLS & County Antrim Yacht Club. And not forgetting our very own selves, just missing out to Quoile Yacht Club for Club of the Year for a second year running.

Congratulations to all our nominees and winners – we are so proud of you all.

Thanks to our friends at RYANI for their friendship and support – Richard, Mary, Gayle, Lisa and James – and for a fabulous night at Royal Ulster Yacht Club.


Main pic (RYANI): Hannah and Tori beside Dame Mary Peters and the other award winners at RUYC.

Intro pic: via Friends of Seaboard Sailing Association.


RYANI Powerboater of the year, Hannah Blair, receiving her award from Sheela Lewis.

RYANI Powerboater of the year, Hannah Blair, receiving her award from Sheela Lewis (RYANI).


RYANI Volunteer of the Year, Tori Blair, with Sheela Lewis.

RYANI Young Volunteer of the Year, Tori Blair, with Sheela Lewis (RYANI).


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.

“This has been a fabulous year for our sport, we have had many successes and our clubs and athletes have been brilliant ambassadors for our sport. I look forward to another thrilling year of sailing and boating as it is very evident that 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 throughout Northern Ireland.”

As well as the seven annual awards, there were four special awards on the night, honouring achievement and exceptional contribution.

James Espey from Ballyholme Yacht Club was given an award for his extraordinary achievement this year during his Olympic campaign. While he didn’t secure a spot in Rio, he won multiple National titles along the way.

Matt McGovern, Ballyholme Yacht Club, and Ryan Seaton, Carrickfergus Sailing Club, were recognised for representing Ireland at Rio 2016 and finishing in the top 10 in their class.

An award also went to the Hill Family who provided comfort and kindness to a young sailor who needed hospital treatment during the Topper Worlds.

A Special Award was given to Ronnie Browne for his dedication in promoting sailing and boating in Northern Ireland. Ronnie retired from his post as Chief Operations Officer of RYANI in May after serving for 10 years in the post, and for a number of years on the Board.