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 at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Manly

Official Opening of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s 135th Sailing Season

Member for Lytton, Ms Joan Pease MP; Commander Savvakis; Commodore, Captain Cuneo and fellow Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron Board members; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure for Kaye and me to join you on the shores of Moreton Bay today, and a privilege to hear once more the moving prayers and hymn that reflect so well the bond between sailors and the sea.

Sailing, it seems, is a widely shared secret desire, even for confirmed landlubbers. As the Belgian writer Paul Carvel put it: ‘Whoever is staring at the sea is already sailing a little’.

Perhaps part of reason for the recent enormous growth in ocean cruising is that these experiences offer, even if in the smallest way, a taste of the romance of sailing – albeit without the effort.

Perhaps the same phenomenon drives the thrill we feel watching maxi yachts powering through the swells outside Sydney Harbour on their way to Hobart on Boxing Day.

And why else would the late Patrick O’Brian’s series of novels set in the age of sail around the time of the Napoleonic Wars have sold more than three million copies and been translated into 20 languages?

Enough of vicarious sailing, however. We are here today among sailors who do far more than stare at the sea. 

They strive always to hone the art and craft of contending with wind, wave, tides and lumps of that hard material they call land, using only their skill to harness nature’s forces in propelling a vessel from A to B, or A to somewhere unexpected if your navigation is not so good.

They might even object to the use of the word ‘romance’ to describe the bracing experience of sailing in rough weather, or conditions below deck.

Yet there is certainly something unique about the experience of being answerable only to the elements that keeps its devotees coming back again and again. 

This venerable Yacht Squadron – 135 sailing seasons is an impressive figure in anyone’s language – has played a critical role in setting succeeding generations on the water to learn the art and craft of sailing.

It has encouraged this healthiest of addictions to sailing across succeeding generations, as is evident in many instances of the Squadron’s multi-generational membership.

The Squadron has nurtured aspiring sailors, including me at one point, from their first experience just out there on the fringes of the Bay, to those who have competed successfully at the very highest international level.

It has taught succeeding generations to respect the sea, to understand that care, skills and experience matter.

Last sailing season was another great success for the Squadron, including in its hosting of nearly 300 competitors at the prestigious Etchells World Championship in October last year.

The massive line of storms that swept across Moreton Bay on practice day was not exactly the best welcome that mother nature could have organised, but it clearly did not dampen spirits.

I congratulate the Squadron on this triumph, and on its many other achievements last season, including continuing growth in membership numbers and participation.

And I thank the Squadron’s Flag Officers, executive, staff, volunteers, and members from the rawest novice to the oldest salt for their many contributions to this enviable level of success.

We look forward today to another successful season of competition and companionship for the Squadron and its membership, just as Kaye and I look forward to the sail past in a short while – always a magnificent way to mark the start of the season. 

And that is my cue, as Patron of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, and with the greatest of pleasure, to declare officially open the Squadron’s 135th sailing season.

Thank you.