Lifelong sailor honoured for work with disabled

A LIFELONG sailor who has worked tirelessly for Sailability, a sailing club for disabled people at Grafham Water, received an honour from Princess Anne on Thursday. Robin Gumbrell, 70, from Hartford, who has been boatswain and beachmaster for Sailability

A LIFELONG sailor who has worked tirelessly for Sailability, a sailing club for disabled people at Grafham Water, received an honour from Princess Anne on Thursday.

Robin Gumbrell, 70, from Hartford, who has been boatswain and beachmaster for Sailability for 11 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Yachting Association.

This community award is bestowed on only one person each year.

He received the award at a special lunch attended by The Princess Royal in Westminster.


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Mr Gumbrell, a member of Hunts Sailing Club, based in St Ives, told The Hunts Post: "I got quite emotional when I heard about the award.

"This means that the team, which I have the privilege to head, has worked very well. This is recognition for the team's efforts."

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Sailability meets at Grafham on Thursdays and Mr Gumbrell is charged with making sure the 16 boats are fit for use and launched safely.

He joked that he had received the award for "10 years of undetected crime" the phrase used by Naval Chief Petty Officers to describe their stripes.

On Monday, Sailability was one of eight good causes to be shown on a televised bid for National Lottery funding.

All this week on Anglia Television at 6pm, charities and community projects will pitch for the money in a short film. Viewers can vote for the cause they think should get the money and at the end of this week the five projects with the most public votes will get a share of £7.8million in The People's Million, a regional version of The People's £50million Lottery Giveaway.

The Grafham Water Sailability Club is seeking £65,000 to build a 200-ft pontoon or jetty to allow the group to easily access dinghies and allow for Paralympics racing all year round. On Monday, in order to encourage votes, Mr Gumbrell was out in Huntingdon and St Ives distributing leaflets headed: Pontoon or Bust.

Mr Gumbrell, who joined the Merchant Navy aged 17, said he had been influenced as a boy by Arthur Ransome's book Swallows and Amazons. He added: "I agree with Ratty in Wind in the Willows, there is nothing like messing about in boats."

He captained oil tankers around the world for Shell for 11 years and then spent 10 years running Shell's coastal tanker fleet.

He has a son and daughter and three grandchildren. He has been married three times, divorced once, as a young man, and widowed twice, losing two wives to cancer. He met his current partner, Lesley, 59 when her daughter, who was disabled at the age of 21, joined Sailability. In May this year, the couple drove 3,000 miles in four days from Huntingdon to Greece, taking two Challenger dinghies on a double trailer behind a motor home.

The mission was so that disabled people from Sailability could take part in an International Federation of Disabled Sailors event off eastern Greece. The sailors flew out to join them for the event.

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