RYA appoints new director of external affairs

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has today announced the appointment of Mel Hide as its new director of external affairs, following her predecessor Howard Pridding’s decision to retire from full-time employment. 

The role will involve working with the senior management team to ensure that recreational boating interests are represented effectively and that government, in all its forms, takes account of the sector’s activities when balancing competing interests.

Working closely with the RYA’s policy-forming external affairs and cruising committee, the role also has an ambassadorial responsibility as a spokesperson for the recreational boating industry, the RYA’s 100,000 valued members, and the organisation.

The RYA’s external affairs team has a diverse remit – providing legal advice on all aspects of boating and related issues from purchase, registration, consumer disputes, salvage, safeguarding and VAT to name just a few. The team also works to ensure that legislators, regulators and other authorities understand, and take account of recreational boating activity.

Hide is a public relations professional with a broad perspective and extensive strategic communication experience gained across retail, government and not-for-profit sectors. She joins the RYA from an international charity, where she created strategies to grow membership, improve brand visibility and gain stakeholder support for the charity’s ambitious business plan. 

Formerly, Hide was head of corporate affairs and communications at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Whilst at the RNLI, she was responsible for brand and reputation – advising on corporate positioning and assuring relevant representation and campaigning success. 

During her five-year RNLI tenure, Hide led many initiatives, including the opening of the All Weather Lifeboat Centre and the commissioning of the BBC TV series, Saving Lives as Sea. She developed a sound understanding of water safety issues and is proud of her contribution to the RNLI’s Community Lifesaving programme with the launch of the award-winning campaign ‘Respect the Water’.

Hide will join the RYA in October 2021, following a handover period with her predecessor. 

Commenting on her appointment, Hide says: “As a passionate communicator who enjoys watersports, this is a dream job. There’s an opportunity to leverage recent Olympic achievements and inspire wider participation in the sport, while also spearheading sustainability to ensure boating is protected for future generations. I find this highly motivating and can’t wait to join RYA’s fantastic team.”

The RYA appointed Howard Pridding as interim director of external affairs in 2018, for an initial period of six months. He had previously worked at British Marine for more than 27 years, the latter five as chief executive. During his three-year tenure at the RYA, Pridding applied his deep understanding of the boating industry to play a leading role in representing the industry to politicians, government officials and the media. Notably, Pridding and his team successfully lobbied for boaters to get back on the water safely as part of the first phase of activity that was permitted as lockdown restrictions began to be lifted. 

RYA interim chief executive, Dave Strain, says: “We wish Howard a happy retirement following his long and accomplished career in the marine and recreational boating sector. Mel’s broad-ranging skills, along with her vast experience of representation activities, will stand her in good stead to take over the reigns as the new RYA director of external affairs.”

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