They might be New Zealand’s oldest yacht club but the Nelson Yacht Club have adopted a progressive approach to the way they do things to ensure membership numbers remain some of the healthiest in the country.
Not only do the club contract out their learn to sail programme but they also work closely with another group to run a teams racing programme and they also host a popular Sailability programme every second weekend.
“We are a very vibrant club,” commodore Geoff Pitcaithly said. “You wouldn’t go down there any day of the week and find nothing happening.”
There's plenty of activity there are the moment. The Nelson Yacht Club are also about to host their first world event, the Flying Dutchman world championships from February 13-21.
As many as 40 teams from as far afield as Hungary, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands will compete in Tasman Bay, including 10 from New Zealand. It's the third time the event has been held in this country in the 62-year history of the class championships.
“It’s very significant because we are the oldest yacht club in New Zealand and it’s the first worlds event we’ve had here," Pitcaithly said.
“It came about through the enthusiasm of our local Flying Dutchman sailors who felt the event should come to Nelson. We’ve got the biggest Flying Dutchman fleet in New Zealand here.”
There’s confidence that the club’s numbers generally will continue to swell, with some of that down to the way they tackle their learn to sail programme.
The Nelson Yacht Club contract Nelson Watersports Ltd to run the learn to sail programme and they also offer tasters, social sailing and more advanced courses. It’s an arrangement that has been working well for the past five years and helped Nelson maintain their membership base of about 350.
“It takes pressure off us and is working well for us at the moment,” Pitcaithly said. “Tim Fraser-Harris employs his own coaches but uses our equipment. He also does promotion in the schools or wherever he thinks he can attract new sailors.”
Fraser-Harris has plans to expand but a lot of that will come down to resources and facilities, especially with teams racing and Sailability also being run out of the club.
The teams racing programme is also run by a separate entity, the Nelson Bays Youth Teams Racing Association, but from about two years ago has been run out of the Nelson Yacht Club. It’s a requirement for all teams racing members to also be members of the yacht club and all of the boats are stored at the club.
Sailability is run every second Sunday and demand outstrips supply. It was a programme set up and run by Flying Dutch worlds regatta chairman John MacDuff, who is also an honorary life member, and Nelson identity Dennis Win can often be found lending a hand. Win, who is into his nineties, last year received a service award at the Volvo Yachting Excellence Awards.
The Nelson Yacht Club's resources were stretched even more than they normally are when part of their deck was damaged in a storm but they've been fully operational since Christmas, which is just as well given everything going on at the club.
“We are a pretty active sort of club,” Pitcaithly commented, “and there’s a lot of vitality there at the moment.”
That doesn't look like changing any time soon.