A Bolt from the Blue

Posted by Mary Coles on 5 December 2019

Mary RYA 2019

In July I received an email completely out of the blue advising me that the RYA Honours and Awards Panel had recognised my 'exceptional voluntary contribution to our sport' by presenting me with a RYA Community Award for Lifetime Commitment. My name had been put forward  by Mike Veal on behalf of HOEOCA, aided and abetted by Peter Smerdon and Maureen Highfield- Sykes.

It was a complete surprise and a total delight.

I had to fill in some paperwork and make sure they knew that Mike didn't eat fish... I also had to provide a head and shoulders photo of myself and a picture representing the work of the Club, which was used as a backdrop when I collected the award. I chose one of our trip to the BVIs earlier in the year. Later I was asked to provide some information for the Press Release - what the sport of sailing had brought to me and my reaction on finding out I had won the award. Top of the list was the great social life and lifelong friends I'd made through HOEOCA, not to mention the fantastic holidays and weekends away.

My neighbour decided to take me in hand and acted as my personal stylist and make up advisor for the occasion...

We needed to be at the venue by 10.30am, to be seated by 10.45am. As our local trains have been somewhat unreliable recently I decided to travel to London the night before and stayed at the Premier Inn in the old County Hall building on the South Bank. The Christmas lights sparkled as I walked across Hungerford Bridge and London looked splendid.

London at Night


The next morning I made the short walk across Westminster Bridge to the venue - the Institute of Civil Engineers at One Great George Street. It's a an impressive Grade II listed Edwardian Building just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament. The views along the Thames, bathed in winter morning sunshine, were glorious and I was reminded of the sentiments in William Wordsworth's poem Upon Westminster Bridge.

Great George Street II

I met Mike just after 10am and after clearing security we collected our badges, chatted to some other recipients then took our seats in the lecture hall. It was clear that the RYA had done this before: all the award winners has named seats on the left side of the auditorium and our name badges had our lunchtime table numbers in the corner. Once everyone was seated we all received a briefing about the structure of the day then waited for Princes Anne to arrive, spot on time.

The Awards Ceremony took place after the RYA AGM which was chaired by Princess Anne with great efficiency in just over 20 minutes. The Lifetime Awards came first , followed by those for Outstanding Commitment, three Youth Awards, five RYA Awards and the Francis Elkin Award - 58 in total.

I was somewhat nervous and was glad I would be one of the first to collect their Award. When my name was called I walled to the front of the platform, walked up a small flight of steps, shook Princess Anne by the hand and received my certificate and a rather nice leather organiser.  We exchanged a few words before turning to the photographer for the official picture. There was a further brief parting exchange before I returned to my seat. It was over in an instant. I can't quite remember what I said but it was something about HOEOCA not having any water and sailing on the sea, in the Med and in the Caribbean instead.

After the Awards Ceremony the Award winners moved onto the drinks reception first where we were asked to gather together in small where we were once again able to meet Princess Anne and exchange a few words. Once again it was over in a flash.

Great George Street II

Mike then came to join me and we chatted to more guests over drinks and a very nice lunch. We had to explain to everyone we met how we manage to have a sailing club in the Midlands with no water or Club House..

It was over all too soon, but not before I was called, along with the other Award winners, for a group photo on the impressive staircase.

It was a lovely day and one which I will always remember. I still can't quite believe it happened and I'm very grateful to Mike and HOEOCA for putting my name forward.







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