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Article courtesy of RYA News


"A Bishops Waltham volunteer will be presented with one of the Royal Yachting Association’s most prestigious awards by HRH the Princess Royal, President of the RYA.

The Award is in recognition of his commitment to helping people with disabilities become involved with sailing.

Chris Williams OBE has been nominated for the RYA’s Francis Elkin Award, which is presented each year to an individual who has made a significant contribution in time, effort and personal endeavour to enable people with disabilities to become involved in sailing.

Chris has been selected as a winner by the RYA Honours and Awards Panel. He will receive his award at the organisation’s annual awards ceremony in London on 24 November.

Chris is the founder and Chairman of the Gwennili Trust, a voluntary organisation which has been providing offshore crewing opportunities for people of all ages with disabilities since 1995. He has invested huge amounts of his own time and money in encouraging organisations to take advantage of the trust’s facilities and supporting UK-wide events, and is a very active fundraiser for the trust.

His principled and dedicated approach over 22 years has streamlined the organisation to one that keeps overheads to a minimum, charters only Maritime Coastguard Agency coded yachts, employs commercially endorsed Offshore Yachtmasters as Skippers, and reflects best practice. Over the past four years Chris has fostered a close working relationship between the trust and the Ro-Ro Sailing Project, to the benefit of both organisations.

Through Chris’s leadership, the Trust has contributed to training disabled sailors for several high-profile sailing events in recent years, including transatlantic races, the Fastnet and Cowes Week. It participates in the Round the Island Race annually, and a catamaran chartered by Gwennili with a disabled crew, including one sailor in a wheelchair, won its class in 2016.

Thanks to Chris’ inspiration and hard work the trust has provided offshore yachting for 5,320 clients, of whom 807 were wheelchair users, and enabled the qualification of ten RYA Yachtmasters, 40 Day Skippers and 55 Competent Crew, both non-disabled and disabled.

The effect of this achievement has been immense – sailors often feedback how much they have been inspired and uplifted, and their expectations transformed by the opportunity to take a full part in sailing an offshore yacht.

Chris said of his win “The Gwennili Trust is thrilled and honoured to receive this prestigious Award following 22 years of providing off shore sailing to so many people with disabilities. We are entirely voluntary."

Chris will hand over to his successor in early 2018."