With little under 2 weeks remaining of 2016 it is appropriate for us to reflect on the past year and begin to look forward to the 159th of our Club.
There can be little doubt that past year has been full of up’s and down’s and we can perhaps even suggest that our Club year mirrors the world around us. On balance we have enjoyed more highlights and can be proud of our achievements, all thanks to the commitment and dedication of members.
Among the highlights of the year we can be very proud of the acquisition of our new bridge boat, the magnificent R B Townsend, and fleet of Pacer 27 sport boats thanks to the generosity of the Late Bruce Townsend and our honorary life member Mr Tim Dykins. These assets certainly enhance the value of club membership and provide us with the tools necessary to promote the sport of sailing and yachting lifestyle. It is pleasing to note how many members and non members have made use of this unique facility and the access to the water they provide. We were able to introduce over 100 Boat Show visitors to sailing and the look of sheer delight on their faces was most rewarding. We look forward to more members participating in the sailing events in the New Year and further enhancing our sail training program. We encourage you to visit the website www.rnyc.org.za/pacer for more information, especially our Ladies sailing program which is based on the example of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and our corporate sailing day opportunities which is a very popular feature of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s sailing calendar. It is pleasing to note that a number of members have used this facility to treat their employees to a day afloat as part of their end of year staff parties.
Another highlight of the year was the permission we received from the Ethekwini Municipality and Amafa Heritage AkwaZulu Natali for the restoration of the historic Vasco da Gama Clock and Monument. This achievement is the result of over 2 years of consultation and commitment from members who recognised the deteriorating state of the structure and the urgent need for the restoration and preservation of this important landmark feature. Through the dedication and skill of a number of generous members restoration work has already commenced and we are looking forward to seeing the structure on the Ndongeni Lawns fully restored to its former glory for the enjoyment and appreciation of future generations. To date the project has been funded entirely by generous members and as it is the “Season of Goodwill & Giving” it seems entirely appropriate that we encourage members to visit our website www.vdg-clock.co.za where you can learn more about this important project and make a donation towards the preservation of an important piece of KwaZulu-Natal’s maritime heritage. We believe this project is another example of our continued commitment to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and to the growth and development of the Ethekwini Municipality.
During the year we have worked on developing and nurturing many friendships with other yacht clubs and organisations both locally and abroad. Our membership of the International Council of Yacht Clubs is certainly an important example of our international standing and we are delighted that through our efforts and connections at the Nordddeutscher Regatta Verein a delegation from Portnet and the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal recently met with significant members of the port and shipping community in Hamburg which resulted in the signing of a substantial contract which will see enormous economic benefit for Portnet. This on the back of the visit to the state of Maryland and the Annapolis Yacht Club, which resulted in the co-operation agreement signed by the Premier and Governor of Maryland. Our Memorandum of Understanding with our friends at Clube Naval de Maputo has also resulted in an agreement between the Province and Mozambique. In addition to our efforts to stimulate economic development and promotion of the leisure marine industry we have also worked at promoting relations among yachtsmen. While we have been busy welcoming the many visiting yachtsmen to Durban we are delighted the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the President of the International Council of Yacht Clubs are hosting our junior members, Michaela Robinson, Chad Stevenson and Benji Daniels, who are currently representing South Africa at the World Sailing Youth Championships in Auckland. Not only are we proud of the achievements of our young members who previously won the local J22 Junior Championships but we are thrilled that they now have the opportunity of making more international friends while flying our burgee.
There are a number of other projects which we are busy working on and with the continued hard work and dedication of members these will come to bear fruit in 2017. Perhaps one of our special projects which is still very much work in progress is our Wednesday Evening Fun Sailing and fund raising activities for the Cancer Association of South Africa. This is a very worthwhile cause, while we enjoy the “fun in the sun” and raise funds for the Research, Education and Support efforts of CANSA. We must not forget that it was through our efforts last year that we raised R 35 000 and this caught the attention of Standard Bank who generously agreed to sponsor our Wednesday Sailing season and help us raise funds again this year. This initiative, while foreign to South African yachtsmen, is common practice internationally and certainly demonstrates our commitment to the wider community and deserves our full support.
Looking back on 2016 we have again enjoyed a busy calendar of sailing and social events, it has been a pleasure to attend these events and enjoy the company of members and the many guests who visit the Club. While the Club has been well patronised and supported throughout the year we have unfortunately not been able to make full use of our Ndongeni Lawns over several weekends due the poor weather. While we appreciate the urgent need for good summer rains we also look forward to enjoying our usual Sunday afternoon festivities and the accompanying food and beverage revenue which is so important for us in order to maintain our facilities and the services to which we have become so accustomed. We encourage members not be deterred and to make use of the Clubhouse even when the weather is a little inclement as the weather does not dampen our camaraderie. As my good Swedish sailing friend says “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. Hopefully the famous Durban summer weather will soon settle in and we can begin to enjoy those balmy days out on the lawns. Members will have noticed the addition of several wooden benches out on lawns and we must record our grateful thanks to the members and our many friends of the Umhlanga Ski Boat Club for their generous donation.
In preparation for the summer weather we have completed the redecoration of the Ladies downstairs ablutions and the facelift to the Gents facilities should soon be complete thanks to the generosity of our friends at the S. A. Maritime College.
The 1st Port Natal Sea Scouts have been enjoying their annual Christmas camp at the Easthard this week and we are grateful to those members who have sponsored their meals and gifts. It is wonderful to see these youngsters all turned out in their uniform enjoying themselves both on the water and around the Clubhouse engaged in various activities including sailing, rowing, fishing, various ball games and lectures on navigation and flags. This weekend we will be hosting our traditional Christmas Party for member’s children and grand children and we are looking forward to the usual festivities and arrival of Father Christmas.
At this busy time of the year it is customary for us to pay tribute to our all our loyal and dedicated staff under the careful leadership of our Club Manger Mr Steve Rawlins. This year we are delighted that a group of members have decided to host a Christmas Party for this special team of people who work extraordinarily hard throughout the year with some long hours tending to the needs of members and the many end of year functions hosted at the Club. It is only appropriate that we show our appreciation for their efforts in maintaining our ”home from home” by contributing generously to the Staff Gratuity Fund so they too may all enjoy some Christmas Cheer with their families over the festive period.
I do hope you will be able to find the time to visit the Club over the festive period and enjoy the magnificent facilities with your families and friends. We of course also look forward to welcoming our many out-of-town members and renewing old acquaintances during the holidays. In keeping with our longstanding practice the Club maintains an open door policy and we look forward to extending our usual hospitality to all our many friends within the yachting community.
On behalf of my fellow Flag Officers we take this opportunity to thank you for your support and commitment to the Club throughout 2016. We wish you and your families a wonderful festive season and best wishes for the New Year.
Finally, as members of the sailing community may we forever remember the wise words of the late Paul Elvstrom “You haven’t won the race if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors.”