Award-winning sailing coach and rugby player dies from cancer at 34 after ‘incredibly courageous battle’

Martin Boatman receives the Performance Development of the Year Award at the UK Coaching Awards in 2016.
Martin Boatman receives the Performance Development of the Year Award at the UK Coaching Awards in 2016.

Tributes have been paid to an award-winning coach and rugby player who has died from cancer at the age of 34.

Martin Boatman was a Royal Yachting Association national coach and was even named Performance Development Coach of the Year at the UK Coaching Awards in 2016.  

Martin Boatman, right, alongside brothers Jonny (left) and Danny.

Martin Boatman, right, alongside brothers Jonny (left) and Danny.

Mr Boatman, from Washington, also played rugby for West Hartlepool Rugby Club.

Despite his illness Martin, who worked as a teacher, was able to perform best man duties at his eldest brother Lee’s wedding just a few weeks ago. 

A statement on the club’s website read: “It is with great sadness that we have to report that Martin Boatman passed away earlier today after a long and incredibly courageous battle with cancer - he was just 34.

“An accomplished international sailor and Team GB coach, Martin played rugby whenever he could following elder brother Jonny and younger brother Danny in wearing the red green and white.

West Hartlepool Rugby Club player Martin Boatman who has died aged 34 from cancer.

West Hartlepool Rugby Club player Martin Boatman who has died aged 34 from cancer.

“Fortunately, he was able to be present at the wedding of the eldest Boatman brother Lee just a few weeks ago.” 

The club’s director of rugby, Graeme Southern said: “Martin was a typical Boatman.

“His sailing came first, of course, but when he was able to play rugby he would turn out for any team which needed him, and that included answering a late call to play on the wing for the first team, but more often than not for the Stags, the Thirds and even for the Vets.

“Our thoughts are with Sam and the children and the whole Boatman family who are all so highly respected in our club.”

As part of his coaching, Martin had been working with young sailors in the Laser 4.7 sailing class, even taking a group to the European Championships.

He was presented with his honour at the UK Coaching Awards by HRH The Princess Royal.

Speaking at the awards night in 2016, he said: “I didn’t even realise I had been nominated, my bosses did it without my knowledge then rang me a couple of months ago to get some video pieces of me coaching.

“You don’t coach for the accolades, you do it because you enjoy it and you love what you do.” 

He added: “I started coaching 10 years ago at a regional level and then a national level and took on a girls’ squad to try and get a 50/50 gender split which is something we’re really pushing for.

“The biggest change from a few years ago is the psychological difference, we’re really thinking about our coaching and what makes our athletes so successful, and that’s where the girls are flourishing.”

After he was given his award the Royal Yachting Association said: “Boatman was nominated for his work with young sailors in the challenging junior Laser 4.7 class, achieving great success particularly with his female charges who have dominated major championships in 2016.

“Under Boatman’s tutelage, Great Britain won u16 European Championship gold and u16 World Championship bronze in the Laser 4.7 this year, and had four sailors inside the top 10 at both events, while he also supports and mentors coaching colleagues as a valued leader within the RYA Pathway team.”

West Hartlepool Rugby Club say that details of Martin’s funeral will be released in due course.