RYA appoints new chief executive

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has appointed Sara Sutcliffe MBE as its new chief executive. Sutcliffe will take up her new post in early 2022 and has previously worked with the British Olympic Association and attended four Olympic Games as Team GB general counsel.

“With over 20 years’ experience in the sports sector Sara brings with her a wealth of knowledge, expertise and passion that will be a true asset to the RYA,” says Chris Preston, RYA chair.

“Her appointment, I believe, will bring an exciting new dimension to the association and its members and will assist the RYA’s strategy to support all participants and stakeholders in boating and the marine leisure sector.”

Speaking of her new appointment Sutcliffe says: “I am excited about the opportunity to lead the RYA in this crucial leadership role, providing excellent support to its members and clubs, and leading the way with its world-leading extensive education and training programmes.

“The talent pathway has, for several years, continuously produced outstanding British and Olympic sailors. I can’t wait to lend my support to the leadership of the British sailing team and embrace the changing dimensions of the Olympic programme.  At its heart, the RYA must embed equality, diversity and inclusion to ensure that boating at all levels is accessible and welcoming.

“Additionally, the role the RYA plays in tackling and influencing policy on issues such as marine environment sustainability and access to clean and open waterways is a complex and important area that I am looking forward to being a part of and ensuring the voice of the RYA’s membership is heard.”

Recently awarded an MBE for services to sport, Sutcliffe is a native New Zealander but she has lived and worked in the UK throughout her career. 

A qualified lawyer, she spent her formative years working in the City at leading global law firm Baker & McKenzie.

With a keen interest in sport, she later took the opportunity to join the British Olympic Association (BOA) developing her legal and management skills and attending four Olympic Games as general counsel to Team GB.  She was also instrumental in the London 2012 bid, working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Mayor of London to secure the hosting of the Games.

Following the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sutcliffe joined Table Tennis England as CEO where she has overseen considerable sustained improvements in governance, performance and participation in the sport as well as leading the bid to host the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London.

Sutcliffe will be taking up post in early January 2022 and concludes: “It is an honour to play a part in the distinguished history of the RYA, to lead it on the next chapter in its journey as it develops its post-pandemic strategic plan looking beyond its traditional four-year cycle. I look forward to working with the board, senior management team, committees, volunteers and the whole RYA team.”

Sutcliffe and her family are all keen boaters and enjoy family sailing holidays; her children are currently on the RYA learning pathway.

In September 2021, the RYA announced the appointment of Mel Hide as its new director of external affairs, following Howard Pridding’s decision to retire from full-time employment. 

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