Like many other sailing and sporting organisations, the SSAA is struggling to retain interest and relevance. The numbers of members, and of participants, have greatly declined since the heydays of the 1980s and 1990s.
A short history – the challenge of single-handed sailing first caught the imagination of a group of sailors during the late 1970’s – a time when shorthanded racing was not offered in Australia, and so the idea of forming an Association was born. The first BOC around the world race in 1982-83 was an inspirational catalyst, so Don McIntyre and others founded the SSAA in 1983.
In these early years shorthanded racing was considered ‘cavalier’ by mainstream yacht clubs and, accordingly, the SSAA created its own rules and safety regulations, which were more stringent at that time than those for fully crewed racing.
Then came the 1998 Hobart race. Club insurance became very expensive, YA made their Equipment Regulations stronger, and the SSAA membership at the time agreed to affiliate with YANSW. So, we affiliated, but other than the cost of insurance coming down, nothing much really changed. We did not get the spike in membership that we had expected, as our annual membership fee was far less than other major clubs.
We tried hard to market the joys of shorthanded racing, and we had some small successes, some years, but overall not really. We had some success with RPAYC who at first allowed us, and then encouraged us to race with them. They now offer shorthanded divisions in their Pittwater to Paradise race and welcome multihulls. There has been absolutely no reaction or respect from the CYCA or RSYS.
The extent of our Winter Programme has waxed and waned over the last 18 years or so – offering up to 12 races some years, back down to 4, then 8 races for years, but for last few years (up to 2015), 5-6 races – a couple of passage races to Newcastle and Pittwater return, the Polar Challenge out and back to a longitude, and the longest race Sydney Harbour – Bird Island – Flinders Islet, and back to Sydney. Our last Winter Series was raced in 2015. By that time there was really only 5 yachts racing regularly. We also let our YANSW affiliation lapse.
A number of people have come and gone from the Committee as their interest peaked and waned. I joined the Committee and started taking on more responsibility in the early 2000s. I have been doing it pretty much solo (seems appropriate somehow) since, but it hasn’t worked. At the moment it is just Bruce Watson and me on the Committee, and whilst we feel it is best for new blood to take the SSAA forward, and thus will not be continuing on the Committee, we will remain members, supporters and competitors.
There are still many people who are interested in shorthanded sailing, and the time has come to get things moving again. Shorthanded sailing is greatly successful in just about every other major sailing area in the world. The Sydney Hobart race is the only major world yacht race that does not allow shorthanded entries, or multihulls.
In our view, the SSAA needs a number of committed, energetic people to shake it up again. It is now time for the tiller (or wheel) to be passed to sailors with new ideas and the commitment to carry the association forward. Bruce and I will remain as members and support the incoming Committee.
To that end we are calling upon all people who are interested in moving forward with the SSAA to contact me, either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone on 0414 344 914. Please also contact me with any questions you may have. I would say that with the changes in Regulations and technology, that the administration of the Association should be far easier than it has been.
By way of examples, Aquatic Licence requirements have changed greatly, and I have been approached by a company that could handle our website, membership lists, event lists and also handle all payments. Previously this all took a great amount of time.
Also, check out the Facebook page at Facebook Shorthanded Sailing Group. Whilst this is a closed group, anyone who is interested in shorthanding can ask to join.
Based on this interest I will be inviting everyone to come to a meeting to be held in early 2019. There will be some formalities, given memberships are not current, and these are set out below.
We hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you there.
- Accept membership subscriptions and settle current membership list
- Convene General Meeting with consent to short notice from financial members
- Call for nominations for office bearers
- Elect office bearers
- Discuss program going forward
- Close meeting
I look forward to hearing from you.