Senior team

Meet our senior team

UKSA is led by a senior team with a wealth of knowledge in both the charity sector and the world of sailing and watersports.

Ben Willows

Chief Executive Officer

Ben Willows is CEO at UK Sailing Academy (UKSA). Prior to this Ben was UKSA’s Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations. He first started at UKSA in 1998 as a student and then started work as a watersports instructor. Ben came to UKSA from a dinghy sailing background, sailing on reservoirs in the midlands. Once qualified he worked onboard various high-profile yachts and spent several years teaching and coaching in Australia and the Caribbean, before he moved back to Cowes to work at UKSA’s HQ. He has worked at UKSA for over 20 years. Throughout this time Ben has gained an unrivalled breadth of knowledge about the academy and its facilities.

“I continue to be inspired by our students, many of whom have come from challenging backgrounds. We have seen them turn their lives around and leave UKSA with renewed confidence and with the employment and life skills necessary for a long-term career in the maritime industry. It is a reminder for us all that with encouragement and training, anyone can begin a more positive chapter in their life and look ahead to a rewarding, long-term career.”

Julia Hutchison

Director of Business Development & Marketing

Julia joined UKSA in 2018 after over 20 years of professional experience and achievements in the Advertising and Publishing Sector. She previously spent nine years as Chief Operating Officer of the Content Marketing Association (CMA). At the CMA she was responsible for delivering £60m of business to the content marketing sector, and driving it forward to become what it is now, a £1bn industry. While there, she also worked directly with top brands such as Audi, John Lewis, RBS, Boden, Bang & Olufsen and Standard Life, providing a consultancy service to help them enter the world of content marketing. Prior to this she was head of new business at media agency Starcom, following senior commercial roles working with Associated Newspapers and Sunday Business. Her communication skills ensure that she builds lasting working relationships with clients, colleagues, senior stakeholders and board level management. Under her direction, objectives are met on time and within budget.

“I am passionate about motivating and developing people. Because I can recognise talent and maintain high standards, as demonstrated by the success of my career to date, I believe that I add value to UKSA through my people focused approach coupled with my drive for commercial success.”

Mark Smith

Director of Finance and Risk

Mark joined UKSA in June 2022.  Mark is a chartered management accountant, having qualified with Tesco where he started his career.  Prior to UKSA, Mark worked in several industries, ranging from FMCG, leisure & tourism and utilities.  He has worked in the UK, India, Hong Kong and most recently in Singapore where he was the Commercial Finance Director for a Southeast Asian retailer.  Mark started sailing when he was eight and is now a RYA Yachtmaster Offshore.  At university, Mark spent three years with the Southampton University Royal Naval Unit and sailed with the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre in Gosport. Having completed a Fastnet campaign, he is also a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

I first came to know of UKSA at University when I started to sail in the Solent and to Cowes.  Any sailor on the Medina River can’t miss the iconic UKSA dinghies being towed up and down the river.  A few years later I attended one of the open days and discovered first hand the amazing experiences that take place here at UKSA.  Whether you are a 6-year-old sailing an Optimist for the first time, a returning superyacht crew completing MCA courses or a fully funded beneficiary on a five-day Sea Change programme, UKSA throws everything it has at you to maximise your experience and learning whilst on site.  Seeing first hand how the immersive experience grows confidence, resilience and leaderships skills in our students is a great reason to bring my fullest to work every day.

Amy Sweeting

Amy Sweeting

Director of Development & Fundraising

Amy joined UKSA in June 2021 and brings a wealth of knowledge from 10 years’ experience in the fundraising sector. She has built multiple charity funding streams from scratch in several different charities, with a key focus on raising high value income. Amy is a recognised leader in the sector and strives to achieve sustainable income growth, having raised tens of millions of pounds for charities. Amy is Chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Major Donor Group and sits on their highly regarded Convention Board. Having moved from London, Amy likes to get out on the water as much as she can now she’s by the sea. She also loves to see the world and has kayaked on every continent.

“My absolute favourite thing about working at UKSA is the sound of children’s laughter that constantly surrounds us. It’s inspiring to be part of an organisation that makes such a transformational difference to the lives of children and young people. They learn vital life skills, grow their confidence and, most importantly, they have fun. Having grown up nowhere near the sea, it’s lovely to see the faces of children who are seeing the water for the first time – it’s a genuine joy to come to work every day!”

Chris Frisby

Director of Training and Operations

Chris is a high-level RYA coach who has worked in the maritime industry since training on UKSA’s WIT course over 20 years ago. After working for Neilson and Sunsail, he travelled the world running high-end watersports resorts. After this he used his qualifications to set up RYA training centres in Egypt, before running UKSA Australia for two years. He is still passionate about on-the-water activities such as surfing, and is a keen mountain biker.

“UKSA is an incredible organisation. I love to see the positive change that can happen between a child’s first visit here and when they return for a careers programme to train for employment in the maritime industry. UKSA offers such enormous benefits, both physical and psychological, and has such a strong and wide-reaching impact on people’s lives.”



I continue to be inspired by our students, some of whom have come from challenging backgrounds, and we have seen them turn their lives around and leave UKSA with new work and life skills that will set them up for a long-term career in the maritime industry.

It is a good reminder for us all that with the right encouragement and training, anyone can begin a new chapter and look ahead to a rewarding, long-term career.

Ben Willows -UKSA Chief Executive

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