PARALYMPIC medallist Ade Adepitan celebrated with crews from a Hampshire disabilities charity scooping a flagship national sports prize.
Members of the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) were stunned when the wheelchair basketball star and television presenter declared them winners on a surprise visit on their latest epic voyage.
There were emotional scenes as Ade broke the news that the Woolston-based group had been voted the UK’s Best Sport project in this year’s National Lottery Awards.
The charity, which unites both disabled and able-bodied people for regular sailing trips, received 5,790 votes from the public – more than twice the number of their closest rivals.
They will receive a £2,000 cash prize which will be presented at a star-studded ceremony broadcast on BBC1 next month.
Ade came aboard the tall ship Tenacious at Salt Mead, off the Isle of Wight, as the crew returned from an 11-day trip from the Tall Ships Race in Norway.
He presented captain Darren Naggs and its 43-strong-voyage crew with a coveted trophy.
Ade hailed the charity for its dedicated work and added: “This should be a blueprint for how the country could run.
“These trips are all about equality with able bodied and those with impairments coming together and creating long-lasting memories to improve people’s skills and confidence.
“There was an amazing reaction when they found they had won and it just shows how much it means to everyone involved.”
“National Lottery players should be proud their money is helping charities like this.”
Joining the crew was wheelchair user Andrew Saunders from Hedge End.
The 20-year-old said his highlight was being winched into the crow’s nest in his chair and added: “It’s been a unique experience, making me feel more independent.
“It’s been hard work but worth it and the donation shows how amazing the charity is.”
Jack Finch, 20, from Romsey, was among the able-bodied members and taking part for his Duke of Edinburgh Award.
He said: “It’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve learned so much and had such an experience meeting different people.”
The charity, established in 1978, has run trips for 38,000 people, including 19,000 disabled sailors and 5,000 wheelchair users.
Captain Naggs thanked voters and said: “We provide equality for everyone and are a microcosm of what we would like to see in society.”
The awards are broadcast on BBC1 at 10.30pm on Friday, September 19.