A SOLIHULL sailor has been handed a top award for her dedication to the sport.
Maureen Highfield-Sykes from the Heart of England Offshore Cruising Association (HOEOCA) has been given the Lifetime Commitment Award from the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).
The 67-year-old is one of 44 ‘unsung heroes’ from across the UK whose contribution to boating is celebrated in the RYA Volunteer Awards 2020.
Maureen became social secretary of HOEOCA 15 years ago where she organises the club’s annual end of season supper and awards ceremony, as well as other social events and visits to nautical venues.
In nominating her for the award the association said: “Her enthusiasm in the role remains undimmed. Her organisational ability has ensured the success of the numerous activities she runs and, more recently, the club’s promotional merchandise.
“Maureen not only has the skills to organise events but also to generate others’ interest, delighting in sharing her love of sailing.”
In addition to her role with HOEOCA, Maureen is a member of the RYA Midlands Regional Volunteer Team, helping to promote boating activities across the region.
Maureen, who is a retired educator, said: “I was astonished to find my name had been put forward for the award.
“I don’t do one of the big important jobs and I’m not a fantastic sailor but I just love sailing and the people who are in HOEOCA.
“I enjoy being a part of the club.”
Maureen started sailing in her 50s after taking a week-long RYA competent crew course and became social secretary of HOEOCA almost immediately after joining the association.
She said: “What I love about sailing is that in a way it doesn’t matter how much you know. If you are willing to get on board and do what you can and be part of that group, you’re accepted for what you can do. You don’t have to know everything or be the expert.”
Although the 2020 pandemic has resulted in fewer socials and more activities online there has been some sailing, plus events like socially distanced rambles, with Maureen continuing to volunteer her time when needed.
The group will be getting together to celebrate Maureen’s award once lockdown rules ease again.
There is usually a glittering awards ceremony in London but this year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the awards have been presented to volunteers at their local sailing clubs or during online gatherings from the safety of home.