SAILING: A SOLIHULL sailor is celebrating after being awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year Honours for his contribution to sailing in the borough.
Andrew Yates receives the BEM, awarded for meritorious civil service worthy of recognition by the Crown, for helping to open the doors to sailing for more Solihull people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds over 24 years at Olton Mere SC.
The 56-year-old has turned his own passion for the sport into an asset that benefits not only his club, but many Solihull schools, clubs and societies. His influence also extends to the wider Midlands through the RYA Midlands Regional Volunteer Team.
Andrew, who also received a Solihull Civic Honour for Sport in 2015, was raised in Lancashire and started sailing aged nine at Ribble Cruising Club in Lytham. After a spell living in Essex, he relocated to Solihull in 1992 and very quickly got involved in the management, as well as sailing, at Olton Mere to help fulfil the club’s aim to make sailing more inclusive for anyone in the borough.
This included leading on the club becoming a recognised RYA Training Centre, meaning it conforms to the highest standards of quality and safety, in 2010, and four years later being recognised as an RYA Sailability centre, enabling people of all abilities to learn to sail and sail regularly.
Through its Sailability status the club now has a close relationships with, amongst others, Reynalds Cross Special School and Solihull charity Signpost Inclusion, offering low cost sailing opportunities on most Saturdays between April and October.
Andrew said: “It has been a real pleasure to share my passion for sailing and to be able to promote sailing as a genuine sport for all. I have a very simple ambitions; to get more people sailing more often and ensuring there is a safe structure in place to achieve this aim.
“I am humbled to have been recognised this way and the award should be for the club and the willing volunteers that make everything we do possible.”
Gareth Brookes, RYA Midlands Regional Development Officer, has worked closely with Andrew and Olton Mere SC over the past decade and he believes the honour is very fitting.
Gareth added: “Not only is Andrew thoroughly deserving of this award for his contribution to the sport of sailing but it couldn’t be going to a nicer person.
“His dedication, calm manner and professionalism have enabled him to build invaluable relationships with many local partners, making sailing more accessible to all, and his commitment to thinking innovatively about how to help get people on the water makes him and Olton Mere SC a pleasure to work with. Everyone at the RYA is absolutely delighted for Andrew in receiving this honour.”
If learning to sail is your New Year’s Resolution here’s how you can at Olton Mere www.oltonmere.com and for more information about how to get out on the water in the Midlands visit www.rya.org.uk/go/startboating