THE SUCCESSFUL SEVENTIES
by Gilbert Thomas (Tig)
Written in 1989
The 70s saw a vast change in the Clubhouse facilities and the numbers of members, both male and female.
After years of planning, the present clubhouse was opened by His Excellency the Governor of NSW (and club Patron) on December 18, 1971. Doug Sturrock (Eudoria II) was Commodore during those early planning years and Charles Middleton was the Commodore at the time of opening the clubhouse. Doug Gilling of Joseland and Gilling (also a member, keen competitor and owner of September), was the architect.
Coincidentally, a purple yacht, Plum Crazy was launched at Clontarf the same day with identical colours to that of the clubhouse furniture and, eight days later, brought honour to the club by winning 2nd Division and Division 2b of the Sydney to Hobart Race.
The builders of the new clubhouse were P.L. Carroll Pty Ltd (Pat Caroll) currently sails that fast Adams 10 The Carpenter. The Secretary during these hectic years was Jack Debney.
The cost of a new building and furniture was $290,000 - $200,000 of which was borrowed from Westpac and $30,000 from North Shore Gas Co. to cover the balance.
With a new commitment to supporting a larger clubhouse, it was not surprising that after a short time the financial strain became obvious. In his annual report to the 1973 AGM, Commodore Charles Middleton, referred to a loss of $829 compared with the profit of $36,015 the previous year. Overhead costs had risen from $130,851 to $200,630 and the small membership could not support the new clubhouse without substantial increase in members or subscriptions.
Jack Debney retired during the 1972-73 season and Dugald McGregor took on the task of Secretary/Manager Don Richards succeeded Charles Middleton as Commodore. With great care and tight control of finances, the following year saw a return to profits with a surplus of $30,550, however, the club's "working capital" was still in the red as we had to repay $30,000 of our long term debt.
Unfortunately, 1974-75 was another financial low and subs, which had been left unchanged for two years, saw a rise in 75-76. A member's levy proposal was rejected by members and, after much soul searching, the entrance fee was removed with a view to encouraging new members as the essential ingredient to our financial viability. Membership rose, as a result of a concerted effort from 1,684 to 2,197 in the year to April, 1976. The efforts of Andrew Clinton had much to do with that 30.5% increase in membership. Remembering, in 1971 the membership was less than 1,000! Membership has been maintained at over 2,000 since.
During 1975-76 there was a period of four months when there was no Secretary/Manager following the resignation of Dugald McGregor in September '75. Don Williams served briefly as Secretary/Manager before Alan Cameron took over that role.
In 1976-77, Tig Thomas succeeded Don Richards as Commodore and the following initiatives occurred:
1. The Cruising Division was established -- the committee having recognised that only 200 of the 400 yachts on the register were actually racing.
2.The Sailing Birds, under Joanna van Gray, became a strong and effective group in the club, developing training programs for anyone who wanted to learn about sailing, provided they joined the club. The group also made a great contribution in expanding the social activities of the club with the reintroduction of a Club Ball.
3. Regular monthly members meetings were reintroduced.
4. The Dining Room developed a new character under the capable and friendly management of Mitti Fitzgerald.
5. Alter years of great personal sacrifice by a dedicated team of race officials and race secretaries, Ian Alfonso was appointed a full-time paid race secretary having served in an honorary capacity during the previous year or so!
The financial results also improved with a profit of $34,071 and membership grew by a further 22.4% to 2,689 but the club still needed more funds to repay its long-term debt to the bank and provide essential capital improvements.
In 1977-78, there was a levelling out of club membership to 2,664 from 2,689 the year before and financial results levelled out at a net profit $32,100 compared with $34,071 the previous year. However, during this year, a great deal of overdue maintenance was carried out. (The maintenance bill rose to $72,201 from $33,968 the year before). A major new sponsorship from ATN-7 financed our new starters boat, Colour 7, and steps were taken, (after months of group discussion between a small band of enthusiastic members) to establish a Forward Planning Committee under the capable chairmanship of Ric Barnes.
1978-79 was another difficult financial year with an economy cursed by high inflation and unemployment testing the financial management of the committee. The profit dropped from $32,100 to $9,015 and membership from 2,664 to 2,472 reflecting the tightening of family budgets, and high subscriptions. However, 99 of those losses were in Associates suggesting loss of enthusiasm from some of the newer Associates.
In the Rear Commodore's report this year, he reported the club conducted races on 170 days for over 200 entrants - probably surpassing any other club in Australia.
The Forward Planning Committee submitted its first annual report and had 19 matters on the agenda. (Since then some of those have become reality such as the development of the O'Rourke Boatshed and the major redevelopment of the restaurant area). Plans were finalised to install a computer (with the kind assistance of RPAYC) to facilitate the production of race results for all the divisions on Saturdays and to computerise the office accounting and membership register.
In the final year of the 70s Dak Harrington succeeded Tig Thomas as Commodore. Profits were up again to $34,134 from $9,015, but membership fell by 225 to 2,245 - the drop being in ordinary members (down 97) and associates (down 102). Alan Cameron resigned as Secretary/Manager to be replaced by Harry Wilkinson (his assistant). Mitti Fitzgerald retired from 'The Jolly Roger' restaurant after seven happy years of service.
A man who still gives tirelessly of his, and his wife's time to the club, was made a Life Member - Geoff Foster. An award of recognition so well deserved, although he still seems to be working at it!
Siltation of the beach area, which had been such a problem for so many years was resolved.
first Sydney/Suva race was conducted and His Excellency, the Governor General, Sir John Kerr started the inaugural race in 1976 with his successor Sir Zelman Cowan starting the 1978 and 1980 events.