THE Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club in Rhu welcomed a royal visitor to a landmark championship event last week.

HRH the Princess Royal visited the club, and the nearby Rhu Marina, on Thursday to meet some of the participants in the Blind Match Racing World Championship, hosted by the RNCYC over five days from September 3-7.

The princess – a well known sporting enthusiast, and the patron of the ‘Royal Northern’ – spoke to members of all the crews competing in the event, which was held in UK waters for the first time in the championship’s history.

Her visit came on the penultimate day of the championship, which was won by Sharon Grennan and her GBR1 crew, with GBR2 – including Royal Northern member Laura Cammidge – winning silver.

The bronze medal was won by Team USA, whose skipper, Walter Ranieri, was one of the sailors introduced to the princess during her short visit.

He said: “Her easy-going nature and knowledge of yachting allowed her to integrate right into the mix of sailors with the poise and grace of an experienced racer.

“When I finally had a chance to speak with her directly, I was surprised by the knowledge she had about my background. She obviously spent some time preparing for the event to get to know the skippers of each of the teams.

“I was humbled by her dedication to the sport and honoured by being able to speak with her so frankly about yachting in general and match racing specifically.

“It is true that sailors are all members of a worldwide community and it was so wonderful to experience it first-hand with one of the members of the Royal Family.

“Being totally blind, I could not see the expression on her face but I think I made her smile when I took off my black out glasses and offered them to her so that she could put them on and experience what it is like to sail blind.”

David Whitham, commodore of the RNCYC, said: “We enjoy a special relationship with HRH The Princess Royal as she is the patron of the club, so we were delighted that she was able to take the time to visit the event.

“The Princess Royal seemed genuinely impressed by the skill and close racing between the teams of completely blind helms and blind or visually impaired crews.

“Princess Anne met with each and every one of the competitors, asking them insightful questions about their personal journeys to get to this level of competition. As an experienced sailor herself she has a good understanding of the challenges our sport brings, and seemed fascinated by the achievements of blind and visually impaired sailors.”

Reflecting on the success of the week as a whole, the event’s chairman, Dr Craig Macdonald of the RNCYC, added: “I’m very grateful to Blind Sailing International chair Vicki Sheen and World Sailing’s Liz Baylis for helping to bring this event to the UK for the first time.

“I’d also like to thank the race officials and umpires, and club members who made this event such a success.

“This event really highlighted the technical and organisational capability of the members of the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club to successfully host an event of this size and importance."

* Meanwhile, a level playing field was ensured by expert support for all the athletes from the Helensburgh branch of optometrists Black & Lizars.

As official partner of the competition, staff assessed and then gave official classification to new competitors at the branch in Sinclair Street.

Practice Manager, Jay Osborne, said: “We were thrilled to be invited to help at such an extraordinary event. These sailors are incredible athletes and have been a real inspiration to us all.”

Dr Craig Macdonald said: “It’s great to have the Blind Match Racing World Championships at the Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club – the first time this event has been hosted in the UK.

"Having expert, external partners nearby to support us to assess athletes’ vision is important, and we’re grateful to Black & Lizars for providing this essential service and becoming an official partner.

"Black & Lizars has been exceedingly helpful in the important classification process. The professional and knowledgeable staff based in their Helensburgh branch have provided technical support to ensure that competitors’ visual capacity is properly assessed according to international standards and ensuring a level playing field.

"We are extremely grateful for their expertise and thank them for their support of this event."

Black & Lizars is one of Scotland’s largest and most renowned optometrists with more than 23 practices across the country and over 180 years of experience in delivering outstanding eye care.