Aon Club of the Month - Bluff Yacht Club

by Michael Brown

Club of the Month is not just about celebrating success stories but also recognising the hard work people put in to keep the sport going in their region.

The Bluff Yacht Club are in a situation many other clubs will identify with as they look for ways to maintain and grow their membership in an increasingly difficult landscape.

Their membership fluctuates between about 50 and 80 but a number are older, non-sailing members which is prompting the committee to address how they are doing things. They have the additional challenge of being in a small region with a smaller population to draw from.

They presently have a fleet of dinghies - Optimistis, Sunbursts and a Laser - and there are also a number of trailer yachts and keelboats but commodore Anders Jagvik said they will review their options, including the viability of some O'pen Bics which have taken off around the country.

"There are still the same number of boats in the province but people tend to use them less," Jagvik said. "From a financial point of view, we make sure there are no barriers to get into sailing but there doesn't seem to be that same impetus this year.

"We might need to try different things but whatever we do is usually down to two or three guys on the committee and we are a bit worn out. We're not planning on stepping aside any time soon but the day we decide we're not willing or able to do it is a concern."

There's still plenty to be positive about, not least of all this weekend's Oyster Regatta.

Every season the Bluff Yacht Club host the regatta, which includes both dinghies and trailer yachts, and this weekend should see a bumper fleet of about 30 dinghies and 20 trailer yachts with the Southland Yachting Association championships and South Island trailer yachts championships incorporated into the competition.

For many, though, the racing is secondary with plenty of social events on the schedule, including a night sail on the Friday night before the 'serious' racing starts.

"The Oyster Regatta is our flagship event," Jagvik said. "Everything else during the year morphs into this weekend."

The country's most southerly yacht club don't tend to host many other regattas but have a regular learn to sail programme running every Thursday night for both adults and children and they also have annual try-sailing days with an Invercargill school and a tie-up with the local sea scout group.

A number of their members also travel frequently to regattas in Queenstown, Te Anau, Dunedin and Riverton.

One of the highlights of last year was hosting Emirates Team New Zealand as they took the America's Cup on the road. 

"It was fantastic," Jagvik said. "We are still on a high from that event and it rejuvenated us at the club. It felt like a reward to all of us who work in the community.

"We had a dinner for about 100 people, which was a great night, and the Bluff community really enjoyed having the team around but it hasn't really translated into new members."

The Bluff Yacht Club have to deal with some pretty challenging conditions, from weather and tides to shipping lanes and a working harbour. One of the biggest challenges is the social landscape but they have a bunch of individuals willing to tackle it head on. 

19 Mar 2018
20 Mar 2018