Zara Roberts has been awarded the RYA Yachtmaster of the Year 2016 for her exceptional performance across all aspects of the examination.
The 30-year-old, from Scarborough, was presented with the prestigious trophy by HRH The Princess Royal today at the 63rd London Boat Show at ExCeL, London.
She undertook her exam for RYA Yachtmaster Offshore for power vessels in May 2016 through RYA Training Centre “Quality Time” at Portland on the South Coast.
The recipient of the prestigious Yachtmaster of the Year annual award must possess outstanding skills and knowledge as a skipper and will have successfully demonstrated their expertise and experience during their exam.
Zara has a strong link to the Navy through her parents and was introduced to sailing from an early age. With Scarborough’s sea cadets she learned to sail, windsurf and powerboat, eventually becoming an instructor at Scotland’s national sailing school.
Her passion for sailing was fuelled further when she participated in Tall Ship Races.
Zara said: ‘I fell in love with sailing, I just knew I wanted to be at sea. Then I started to look at it as a career.’
Qualifying as a water sports instructor through UKSA (United Kingdom Sailing Academy) then prompted a move to Australia, where Zara worked in Sydney gaining more experience in the marine industry across a range of boats both large and small. “Being paid to sail and introduce others to the sport is an incredibly rewarding experience,” she said.
Zara’s return to the UK saw her gain a degree in Nutrition and branch out as a nutritionist and personal trainer, a business she still runs today and which she combines with her career afloat.
But the sea was calling. Zara took her RYA Day Skipper exam, propelling her towards her next goal – the RYA Yachtmaster qualification.
While Zara had plenty of sailing experience under her belt, the time she had spent away from the water made the exam extra tough.
Still, she dug in and found the strength to perform at the highest level on all counts. David Gray, a long serving RYA examiner was so impressed that he nominated Zara for RYA Yachtmaster of the Year just a few days after having conducted her practical exam. David said that Zara demonstrated a very well rounded ability, excelling in all aspects of the exam – the theory, practical tasks and soft skills necessary for effective command.
In his report, he summarised: ‘This is an exceptional candidate in all respects. Her previous experience in both Tall Ships and Superyachts and a close relationship with the Royal Navy through her parents has had a noticeable influence on her outstanding command capabilities. The challenge was with the examiner having difficulty in finding any area of marginal weakness on which to comment.’
Speaking after the presentation on the RYA stand [C009], Zara said: ‘Passing the Yachtmaster exam means the world to me. It was a really pivotal moment in my life. I thought I had done well, but the weather was awful and it was mentally taxing, so I had no idea I’d done that well.
‘I’m so fortunate to enjoy what I do, and I hope this award will inspire others to get out on the water.’
RYA chief examiner and director of training and qualifications, Richard Falk, said: ‘The RYA Yachtmaster is undoubtedly the world’s leading yachting qualification. Not only does the RYA Yachtmaster of the Year have to be a first class sailor and navigator, they also have to demonstrate that with an examiner at their shoulder watching their every move.
‘To be the best candidate of the year amongst more than 3,000 people who undertake the certificate of competence exam each year is an outstanding achievement – and one that Zara should feel rightly proud of.’
Nominations for the highly-respected award were put forward by the RYA’s worldwide team of RYA Yachtmaster examiners. In recognition of her achievement, Zara received the RYA Yachtmaster Trophy – donated by the Royal Institute of Navigation.
To find out how you can learn how to sail, visit www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining or come along to the RYA Stand C009 to find out more.
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