Located 10 km south of Forster and surrounded by Booti Booti National Park, Great Lakes Sailing Club has lapped up the splendid views of Wallis Lake for over 40 years – and in the process, brought a joy of sailing to many people, young and old.
New President of Great Lakes Sailing Club (GLSC), Kingsley Pursch, tells us about the club’s commitment to the development of its junior sailing division and sails us through its four-decade existence …
Please tell us about the extensive 40-year history of GLSC.
GLSC was established in 1971, and we sail on Sundays from September to May each season. We organise club racing, junior sailing and learn-to-sail programs. We also host state and national titles for a range of classes, and our club is well respected among sailors for its idyllic location, our friendly members and an excellent race committee led by Brian Bath, Ross Kneebone and Tim Haffner.
GLSC is also proud to host the annual Wildcat Regatta on the October long weekend, which attracts sailors from all over the country and is one of Australia’s biggest and most successful catamaran regattas.
What is required of you in your new role as President of the club?
There’s the administration side of things (meetings, policies, safety, finances, race schedules), which is made very easy for me, because our committee is so active, experienced and cohesive. Most of my direct efforts focus on increasing participation through welcoming new members and reducing barriers to participating in the sport.
As a club, you are committed to developing the junior sailing division. What does this involve?
Getting kids on boats to experience sailing takes a huge effort and commitment from a range of stakeholders. Our current model for junior sailing has proven to be extremely successful. Learn-to-Sail programs are delivered by the YMCA through Len Newman and Simon Lee and assisted by GLSC volunteers. YMCA utilises the facilities of GLSC and boats supplied by Gnomes Landscaping (Fay and John Hiley), Brian and Heather Bath, Stacks Law Firm (Digby Dunn), Dr Dave KcKeag (Eye specialist), GLITA and the YMCA.
Participants register through the YMCA. Keen sailors then become involved in Sunday racing with GLSC. People can directly join the club, especially if they have previous experience in sailing and their own boat, although for most local juniors the YMCA program is the best entry into sailing.
At what age can children start sailing, and what is involved in the beginners’ course?
The YMCA program takes children aged eight years or over. Anyone younger would need to contact us directly to discuss sailing opportunities. The course content varies according to the group. Len is an experienced program provider, and every session is customised according to the needs of the group and individuals within the group.
The last group that completed the six-week program were so advanced, that by the third week kids were racing a proper course and learning finer details of starting and boat trim. It depends on the starting point of the individuals, their prior experience and transferable skills they might have.
What sorts of crafts do the different age categories sail?
Sailing can be a lifelong sport, with no age restrictions. John Hiley is 72 years old and racing a high performance catamaran (Nacra 5.8) and alternatively, most juniors are aged between 10 and 15. All classes of boats are encouraged to race at GLSC and we currently have Hobies, Nacras, Taipans and Maricats (all catamarans), as well as a rapidly growing laser fleet (Monohulls). The junior sailors use Open Bics, which are fantastic boats for leaning to sail.
What’s involved with the impending Inter-Club weekend – which clubs will take part, and when does it happen?
Fay Hiley recently told me that Booti Booti means ‘Plenty Plenty’. The Booti Cup is the race for Glory and will be held on February 11 and 12. We have some great prizes, along with the overall club trophy.
In previous years, this has been a camping and sailing weekend for Taree Aquatic Club. With the growing fleet at Coomba Park Aquatic Club, we feel the weekend will be strengthened if we invite boats from all clubs within the Manning-Great Lakes region. It’s a casual weekend of sailing that will attract a range of competitors from beginners to advanced sailors, with a bit of friendly inter-club competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have 40 to 50 boats this year.
Does Great Lakes Sailing Club attend intrastate competition weekends?
Countless members have travelled around Australia and internationally to compete, representing GLSC at state, national and international events over the past 40 years.
The most recent international traveller was Ray Muld. who competed on his Hobie 16 in Fiji and has a long list of international travel. Last month Caleb and Ethan White attended the Hobie 16 National Titles and these boys, along with Bryce Haffner, are constantly travelling around Australia to enjoy the toughest competition.
Mark Braithwaite and his daughters, Annika, Hannah and Sophia competed in the Taipan National Titles last month and have placed well in the Taipan class at the past five Taipan National Titles.
GLSC members and their families will compete in the Trial Bay regatta at South West Rocks on March 3 and 4. Then at Easter, many of our juniors will compete in the Bic National Titles at Noosa.
What are some of the benefits people can expect to gain from learning to sail?
Fun, fitness and friendships are the immediate benefits. GLSC is a perfect venue for learning to sail in flat, shallow water and a (usually) steady wind.
Sailing can accommodate any person, regardless of age, background or previous experience. It provides a fantastic opportunity for physical activity and for adults, being on the water is a healthy way to escape busy schedules. For children, sailing provides constructive leisure opportunities and builds confidence.
I’m a massive advocate of any organised sport. Individuals develop a strong connection to community and make friendships that last forever through sport.
Aside from Great Lakes Sailing Club, there are other active sailing clubs dotted around the Manning-Great Lakes … get in touch with your local club.