15th December 2020
Ken Newing, Rear Commodore Training & Principal of RYA Training Centre at Port Dinorwic Sailing Club - Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli
"One thing we've always tried to be is an open club,” notes Ken Newing. “It's ordinary, everyday people sailing.”
Like most nautical clubs, Port Dinorwic Sailing Club (Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli) was formed just after the second world war, beginning with dinghy sailing on the Menai Strait between Bangor and Caernarfon. In 1970, the old RAF hut that served as its base was converted into a clubhouse through a local education committee grant. Ken Newing joined six years later and has been sailing there ever since.
The sprightly 70-year-old has helped steer the club for the past four decades by sitting on its committee and working across different roles, actively encouraging new people in the local area to take up the sport: "People think of sailing as a very expensive sport, which it can be, but it needn't be. For the price of a replica Liverpool shirt, you can have an annual membership of a sailing club.
Port Dinorwic Sailing Club - Clwb Hwylio Y Felinheli is one of the many incredible organisations that receive support from some of the £30m raised for good causes by The National Lottery every week.
Boasting 300 members, 60% of whom live within ten miles from Y Felinheli (“a very Welsh village”), Ken says that the club “is part of my family”. When the pandemic hit, the health and safety quality assurance manager was forced to quarantine due to a hip replacement operation, and then shield until mid-June.
But, despite the restrictions, Ken represented the club on every one of the Club Development Forums hosted by RYA Cymru – the National Governing Body for the sports of sailing, windsurfing and powerboating - totalling 30 sessions. He provided feedback to the club on all the guidance and advice to provide a safe and secure environment. He also organised e-sailing programmes and conversations across social media encouraging club members to share their stories of sailing, helping to bring the community together during a difficult time.
"When the lockdown hit, we couldn't do anything,” notes Ken. “Because of my job, I do a lot of risk assessments, so we helped pulled together mountains of documents to help the club get back together in terms of reopening and getting people back sailing. From year to year, the club almost runs on autopilot, but this year it's been a lot of hard work.
"The club was recently awarded Club of the Year status, but the most uplifting moment of the year was when we were allowed to go sailing again. There's a sense of community in the club, it's really important to us – you can go to some of the bigger clubs and nobody seems to speak to each other. After racing one day, it was nice to be able to talk to people again and catch up with them, from a social distance, of course. That was almost nicer than the racing!”
In recognition of his dedication and volunteer work for the community during the pandemic and beyond, Ken was one of the select few chosen by The National Lottery to have a stadium named after them. The Sport Wales National Outdoor Centre in Caernarfon will soon become The Ken Newing National Outdoor Centre, which according to the Rear Commodore Training & Principal of RYA Training Centre, means the world to him.
"I still haven't got over it, really! I was both shaken and stirred when I found out, I was really lost for words. This club is a group effort, there are a lot of people who are involved. Our commodores do a fantastic job and this wouldn't be possible without them. We are the heart of the community and the community are a huge part of what we do. We're ordinary people – nothing more.”