Syston Sailing Club’s Royal Appointment

HRH The Princess Royal, President of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), will present two Leicester sailors with one of the RYA’s most prestigious awards this month, in recognition of their exceptional generosity and commitment to the sport at grassroots level.
Jez Lewis and Jill Magee, pictured below, from the John Merricks Lake-based Leicestershire and Rutland Youth Sailing Association (LRYSA), both received an RYA Lifetime Commitment Award, for individuals who have shown exceptional commitment and dedication to their club or organisation for at least 15 years, at the RYA’s annual awards ceremony in London on Friday 22nd November.
Although a non-sailor herself, Jill has been the backbone of LRYSA for over 20 years. Her official title is Secretary, but she contributes so much more; coordinating sailing sessions and regattas for hundreds of sailors, taking the lead on communication with sailors and parents, and organising the committee.
LRYSA is a fully inclusive charity that supports disadvantaged people and Jill has raised more than £100,000 in the last 10 years for training, new equipment and running free sessions. Her determination with a recent crowdfunding campaign raised over £25,000 towards a new clubhouse, with planning and further funding ongoing. Jill is a wonderfully kind person and is exceptionally focused in her commitment to making sailing available to all.
Jill said: “As a volunteer who only covers the admin for the charity I get great satisfaction in seeing the advantages sailing brings to people of all ages, whether it’s the young people competing in challenging conditions, building their confidence and self-esteem, or seeing retired people combating loneliness and feeling part of a group. Sailing is challenging to both body and mind and I have seen so many people young and older over the years improve their health and wellbeing through an enjoyable activity. It was a complete surprise when I heard I had won this award as I don’t sail or teach sailing, and spend most of my time at the computer as Secretary, I never thought I would ever receive an honour like this.”
Jez, meanwhile, has been an enthusiastic sailor since his teens. He organised and ran the Leicestershire Scout sailing team for 25 years, running ‘taster’ sessions and RYA courses for thousands of Scouts and staff over the years. He then moved on with great determination to modernise and professionalise Syston Sailing Club (SC), where he has been Commodore for the past seven years.
His passion and enthusiasm have placed him at the very heart of the community at Syston SC, as his cajoling and encouraging members have helped make countless improvements to the club. Jez has also overseen several successful RYA Open Days to attract new members and spent many weekends a year running a great number of RYA training courses to introduce new people to sailing.
Jez said: “Sailing has brought me the freedom to enjoy the great outdoors, and sail in some beautiful locations such as Copenhagen, Greece, Antigua and best of all the Lake District. I’ve enjoyed either cruising or pushing myself to my limits, and achieving the odd trophy on the way, as much as meeting new people and introducing them to the sport. From social sailing to racing, I like getting out and enjoying life to the full. I was very surprised and humbled to win this Award. I didn’t expect any thanks for what I do, I just do it because I love sailing and would like others to enjoy it too.”
The RYA is boating’s national governing body and the Volunteer Awards are considered the ‘MBEs’ of the sport, honouring people throughout the UK for their outstanding contributions across all the disciplines the RYA represents, including sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, inland waterways and personal watercraft. The winners were nominated by their clubs and selected by the RYA Honours and Awards Panel. 
For more information about the RYA Volunteer Awards or to find out how you can get out on the water in the Midlands visit www.rya.org.uk