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Celebrating Success

Mark Burkitt

On Wednesday 23rd November 2011,   HRH Princess Anne presented our Commodore from 2009 to 2011, Mark Burkitt, with a RYA Volunteer Award for  his Outstanding Contribution to boating. (Click here for the RYA Awards Booklet)


His nomination from the Management Committee of Ulley Sailing Club read as follows:

How has the nominee directly influenced the club?  

Mark was elected to the position of Vice Commodore in November 2006, just 6 months before the devastating floods of 2007 threatened to breach the dam of the reservoir on which we sail.  The club was faced with a great deal of uncertainty and disruption over the next 4 years until repairs to the dam were completed.  The reservoir was finally filled in December 2010, when the club could properly return to sailing on its own water (though for another month that water was ice!).

Following his election as Commodore in 2008 Mark worked hard to keep the club together, leading the rest of a very loyal Committee by example.  Since the return to our own water and club house, he has striven (entirely voluntarily) in every direction to ensure the successful relaunch of the club.  Having qualified as an RYA sailing instructor (encouraging 2 other club members to do so also) during our disrupted period, he was central to the Club’s offer of half-day Sailing Experiences at the Gala reopening of Ulley Country Park, staffed by himself and other volunteers at very modest cost.  This and other of his personal initiatives, including weekly winter desk top training, has contributed to attracting some 20 new club memberships (mainly families and young people, with a good proportion of women to men) from 2010 to date.  As a small inland venue, with a current boat park capacity of fewer than 60 boats, this represents some quarter to a third of our membership, which now stands at more than 70 against our development plan target of 90 memberships (the capacity of our facilities and small water).  We are confident that target will soon be met after a very successful two Open days on the May Day 2011 weekend.  This very successful event, spearheaded by Mark, attracted more than 200 visitors, and saw many people from every background and age group trying a free sailing taster in heavy winds.  (Mark had also used his professional expertise to prepare necessary risk assessments for the club!)  Twenty of them quickly signed up for a subsequent half-day sailing experience during the next month, offered voluntarily mainly by Mark, and there is a waiting list of similar numbers which we shall endeavour to accommodate in additional sessions.  Mark’s entirely voluntary offering of Sailing Experiences will have added some £500 to club funds this year (as well as the considerable added value for those participating) which should help us towards our immediate aim of extending our boat park so we can accommodate more members.

Mark arranged that he and the Club’s other Enterprise sailors would race with novice crews in our 2011 Brass Monkey series.  Despite ice and strong winds, some 16 boats competed in the inclement weather.  In March, all efforts turned to re-fencing our boat park, leased from Rotherham MBC and now made urgent by the theft of one of our safety boats.  This major endeavour, facilitated by Mark, was completed with much good nature and a lot of hard work by club volunteers, who – including Mark’s family – even ended up competing with each other to feed the gang at their own expense. 

Despite all this activity within the Club, on top of a responsible job, Mark has also found time to attend many RYA regional conferences and events as our Club representative and key contact.  Suzie Blair (RDO North East and Yorkshire) reports that he always comes with a positive approach to developing both his personal skills/knowledge and helping to advance the Club’s activities. 

The new season started on 2nd April and the Club is absolutely buzzing with activity.  Some 50 members have already taken to the water, mainly in racing, over the past few weeks, with average weekend turnouts well into double figures.  As well as the Sailing Experiences aimed at attracting new members, Mark is also entirely voluntarily offering safety boat and sail/race training to club members on one Saturday each month.

Against a background of static and declining membership and activity at other much larger clubs, we regard the contribution of Ulley Sailing Club to British sailing – including Olympic, World Champion and national champions – and to local community development as exceptional and are proud that Mark, together with his committed family, have helped us uphold that tradition through 5 very challenging, but ultimately rewarding years.

What is so special about the nominee’s contribution or achievements? 

We believe that Mark has been central to ensuring that Ulley Sailing Club emerged renewed from a unique set of circumstances.  We are not aware of any other sailing club that has had to face 4 years of disruption and emerged the stronger from it.  Now sailing in its 40th season, the club is more vibrant than in my and most other members’ experience of it. 

Mark is not from a privileged sailing background but from a modest Rotherham home and only began sailing when he came across an old Enterprise to do up.  He (and his family’s) friendly, humourous, down-to-earth manner has really helped to attract new members from all sorts of backgrounds, in keeping with the Club’s mission of making the sport of sailing affordable and accessible to all.  He has led by example and inspired the Committee and membership into playing their part in a great deal of voluntary effort, from refurbishing the club galley, to refencing the boat park and giving up their Bank Holidays to run Open Days.  Mark has been the absolute lynchpin of our new sailing and safety boat training programme, offering his services with no charge.  He (and his wife) rarely miss an opportunity to race their Enterprise, regardless of the results, and have frequently offered the use of their boat for the Club’s regular participation in the WLYC 24 hour race, for which they normally organise the team.  Mark and his family devote most of their spare time to the Club (even at the expense of their new bathroom – still an ongoing project!) and have shown absolute loyalty and commitment through some very difficult and some very successful years. 

Is there anything else you would like us to know about, or consider regarding this nomination?

We would like to acknowledge the invariably cheerful support and assistance of Mark’s wife Linda and their children Rachel and Will.

Supporting letters for the nomination were provided by Steve Butler (as a long-time committee member) and Chris Hartley (as a very new member).


Jamie Mawson

Jamie Mawson progressed from sailing a Topper dinghy at Ulley to single-handing some of the fastest and most challenging boats, including a hydrofoiling International Moth (see photo above).  Jamie competed on the Yorkshire & Humberside Schools circuit, eventually finishing in third place in his final year, just two places behind club mate and Olympic gold medallist, Paul Goodison.  Jamie has been a regular campaigner on the national circuit, initially in the Laser Radial class, where he was ranked in the top ten on the UK ladder, including an 8th place at the National Championships and a respectable mid-fleet position at the World Championships.

At this point, the lure of faster boats took over, first in the RS300 and then the RS600 , winning open meetings in both and finally finishing 3rd at the RS600 National Championships.  After experimenting with the International Moth, which did not prove as robust as Jamie, he is back to sailing an RS600 and looking forward to a successful season.   Meanwhile he also takes pleasure in getting his young daughters on the water and 6 year old Rowan has already started helming her own boat.

Update September 2010

Jamie Mawson RS600 National Champion 2010

Following the change back to the RS600, Jamie took part in the RS600 Nationals in Torbay and came back with a convincing win. He won the overall Championship & came 1st in six out of the 10 races.

Paul Goodison

Paul Goodison grew up in Rotherham and started sailing aged four with his father in a National 12 at Ulley Sailing Club.  He is currently the World number one Laser sailor, holding the Olympic, European, World and British titles.   

Since turning professional in 1996 he has put together a most impressive string of results.  His first major success came in the 2000 Laser European Championships where he won silver. At the Athens 2004 Olympic Games – his first Olympic Games – he narrowly missed a bronze medal.
Finishing in the top ten has become a regular habit for Paul and he has been going from strength to strength ever since.  He finished in gold medal position for an impressive third year in a row at the 2007 European Championships in Hyeres. He also won gold at both the 2006 and 2007 Olympic Test Events in Qingdao, China . At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Paul competed in the Laser class and won Olympic gold.  His homecoming party at Ulley was quite something!
In 2009, Paul won his fifth consecutive European Laser title.  In August he then went on to win his first World Laser title in Halifiax, Nova Scotia.  Paul remained undefeated since Beijing until he was fifth at the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth in September.
Paul has one of the best Laser sailing records in the world, having finished within the top ten in 84% of all the Olympic Classes events he has entered over the past decade.
The Laser is one of the two single-handed dinghies that are sailed at the Olympics by men, the second being the Finn dinghy which triple Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie now sails.  Ben was an inspiration to Paul whilst he was growing up but now the pair are both friends and rivals.
Paul enjoys windsurfing, kiteboarding and playing golf in his spare time.
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