A dedicated volunteer from Chelmarsh Sailing Club has been presented with an award by HRH The Princess Royal, President of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the sport.
Club member and former commodore David Partridge was among those honoured at a glittering RYA Volunteer Awards ceremony held at One Great George Street in Westminster, London.
The RYA is boating’s national governing body and 48 RYA Volunteer Awards were presented to recipients from across the UK in recognition of their exceptional commitment and achievements in boating.
David has been an active member of Chelmarsh Sailing Club in Shropshire for 15 years and was presented with the Honor Preston Award, which recognises an individual who has made a significant contribution in time, effort, and personal endeavour to increase the inclusivity of boating, in particular female participation.
Elected Vice Commodore in 2017, David was key to producing a development plan to attract a wider range of members, and under his determined leadership the club has become financially secure after expanding its activities to include paddleboarding and open water swimming. He has also created opportunities for disadvantaged children and NHS social subscribing projects and worked with Mind to offer patients watersports sessions to help with physical and mental health difficulties.
David completed his term as Commodore in December 2021 and thanks to his efforts, Chelmarsh SC was an RYA ‘Club of the Year’ finalist in 2020 and 2021, in recognition of being inclusive and open to all.
Commenting on his RYA Volunteer Award, David said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and it’s really a recognition of all the volunteers at Chelmarsh and their work to raise the profile of the club and build membership, particularly female membership through the introduction of swimming and paddleboarding. More than 50% of our members are now female and anything that gets more people out on the water has to be good news.”
David became a SUP Instructor himself specifically to introduce paddleboarding and has, almost singlehandedly, trained most of the club’s current SUP members. This phenomenal personal commitment, alongside his own regular dinghy racing, has seen his almost daily presence at the club.
Current Club Commodore Richard Woods said: “David’s performance and level of commitment as Commodore has been quite exceptional by any standards. All of this in the most difficult time of a pandemic. Our club now buzzes with activity after diversifying from pure dinghy sailing into a ‘water sports centre’ also offering Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and Open Water Swimming (OWS). He has developed a sense of vibrancy, strengthened and integrated local roots, supported charities and enhanced standards of governance.”
Craig Jackson, Head of the SUP section, said: “SUP members now number 180, all joining since only two years ago.” OWS Lead Charlotte Hewer added: “In less than one year the success of the OWS project has generated 79 members and our swim page on Facebook has 750 followers!”
Sailing activities have likewise benefited from the club’s success. As club treasurer John Toone explains: “Financial stability from diversification has allowed us to invest in five new training boats. Club membership fees used to pay only for our lease and overheads but can now be stretched to allow development of training too.”
David has dedicated considerable time to developing dinghy improver sessions and race training, and more under-18s are taking boats out on the water after completing Chelmarsh SC’s RYA courses. He continues to be committed to the club and rather than rest on his ‘laurels’ David has now become the Principal of Training!
RYA Chief Executive Sara Sutcliffe MBE said: “The commitment and dedication that this year’s RYA Volunteer Award recipients have shown is simply outstanding. Each and every one of our award recipients has been an inspiration to us all and it is my great pleasure to recognise their contributions and achievements.”