Tributes have been paid to a stalwart of the sailing community.
Neal Hill, a passionate and dedicated ambassador for boating and marine conservation in the North East, has died at the age of 76.
The former Royal Yachting Association North East secretary became a member of Coquet Yacht Club in the late 1980s and went on to serve the sailing community of Northumberland – and the work of the RYA at a regional, national and international level – over more than three decades.
A member of the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, Neal cruised his yacht Naiad on the west coast of Scotland for many years, and was also a member of the Old Gaffers Association.
He gave countless hours of his time as a volunteer.
He joined the newly-formed RYA North East Regional Committee in 1992 as the Coquet Yacht Club representative and became secretary of the RYA North East Committee in 1994, a role he continued in for more than 20 years.
He was also commodore of Coquet Yacht Club from 1995-1997 and then the club’s secretary until 2007.
Described by RYA colleagues as both practical and professional, numerous chairmen and fellow committee members found his expertise and support to be invaluable.
In 2012, Neal was presented with an RYA Regional Award by the Princess Royal, president of the RYA, in recognition of his contribution to the sport.
He was committed to the protection of the marine environment, an interest that stemmed from his days as a chartered engineer and former project management engineer for the Central Electricity Generating Board and National Power.
One of his final professional roles before retiring in 1995, involved emission control and testing at Blyth Power Station during its decommissioning.
During his time as chairman of the RYA planning and environment committee, Neal was instrumental in steering the formation of The Green Blue joint initiative by the RYA and British Marine. Officially launched in 2005.
The Green Blue is now recognised as a world-leader in raising awareness and promoting best practice to protect the marine environment.
He was also an RYA international affairs commissioner, representing the RYA on the European Boating Association and working with a steering group towards the European Water Framework Directive, which set binding targets for water quality.
Sarah Treseder, chief executive of the RYA, said: “Neal demonstrated outstanding dedication at club, regional, national and international level, lending his skills and expertise to numerous RYA committees and in doing so, helped to influence and shape both UK. and European environmental legislation.
“His length of service to both the sport and the environment were exemplary.”
Sam Usher, RYA North East regional development officer, added: “Neal was a much-loved member of the team and I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside him. He held a pivotal role on the regional committee in supporting the RYA’s planning and environment department and will be greatly missed.”