UKSA exists thanks to the inspiration and generosity of its Honorary Founders, Noel and Sylvia Lister. Starting with nothing at the end of World War II, Noel began his business career by selling second-hand furniture from a London corner shop and went on to build the UK’s largest and most innovative furniture retailing group: MFI.
The Listers also took up sailing and became well-known for their succession of Whirlwind yachts which cruised extensively and competed at the highest levels. After the sale of the MFI furniture group, Noel and Sylvia went off to explore the world in their 105ft custom sloop Whirlwind XII. Their 200,000 mile, 10-year double circumnavigation took them to some of the remotest places on the planet, where they enjoyed numerous adventures such as the exploration of a 200-mile-long uncharted river, bear encounters in the Alaskan wilderness, and diving with sharks.
This is just a flavour of the “Lister spirit” that led Noel and Sylvia to commit some £4m to the establishment of UKSA in 1987. Their aim was, and remains, to introduce as many young people as possible to the inspiration and challenge of sailing that had done so much to enrich their own lives.
The growth of UKSA
In the early days there were 60 beds, plenty of dinghies and 1,500 children a year taking part in activities. Over the years we have expanded significantly, providing instructor training and professional training courses as well as accommodating many more schools and youth groups. We gained the royal seal of approval in 1992 when HRH The Princess Royal became UKSA’s patron.
In recent years we’ve evolved into a youth training charity with a focus on personal development. Today UKSA helps more people than ever before.