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'A lot of people behind you': Club leaders take plenty from conference

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The Yachting New Zealand Club Conference was a rare opportunity to share ideas and suggestions with others facing similar challenges and a timely reminder that support for clubs is only a phone call or email away, says Jonathan Kline.

Few clubs have faced more challenges so far this year than Kline's Mercury Bay Boating Club.

The Whitianga-based club has been severely impacted by weather events over the past few months, losing 14m of its foreshore during Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle - and nearly losing its clubhouse.

The clubhouse had to be shifted 25m inland in January after it was left teetering on the water's edge following a storm surge caused by Cyclone Hale weeks earlier.

Kline, the Mercury Bay Boating Club commodore, was one of more than 70 club leaders at the conference at Bucklands Beach Yacht Club on Saturday.


Mercury Bay Boating Club lost 14m of its foreshore in two cyclones this year. Photo / Eduan Roos

“It was a great opportunity to be able to attend this conference, especially for a remote club like ours, to be able to mix and mingle with clubs that are not only larger than ours but also clubs that are smaller and facing many of the same challenges,” Kline said.

“The best part about today was reinforcing the notion that you've got a lot of people behind you if you're willing to put up your hand and ask for help.

“I don't expect Yachting New Zealand or the member clubs to find our solutions, but it's good to know that they want to be part of the solution.”

Kline was especially impressed with the insights from keynote speaker Mark Orams, who highlighted the work that was still needed to address sailing's gender imbalance.

“As the father of a daughter who's twelve, it's really interesting to hear those stories and be able to take the knowledge home to my daughter," Kline said.

"But all the talks were great and hugely relevant to those in leadership positions at clubs.”


More than 70 club leaders from across the country attended the 2023 Club Conference at Auckland's Bucklands Beach Yacht Club. Photo / Eduan Roos

Getting an update on Yachting New Zealand’s groundbreaking RŪNĀ schools programme was a conference highlight for Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club manager Jo West.

It was great learning more about the ins and outs of something like RŪNĀ, that many of the clubs are already involved in, but that we will now be able to take to schools and be able to better explain,” West said.

“It was also good to talk to people from other clubs and to hear that our challenges are also their challenges and to work together to come up with solutions.”

Bluff Yacht Club commodore Grace Finlayson enjoyed the depth and breadth of presentations.

“I don’t think anyone would have left the conference without taking something from it," Finlayson said.

"Talking to people from other clubs about ideas on bringing through younger members and hearing Mark [Orams] speak about how, for many club members, racing is not the most important thing was also very relevant.

“Many people in our club aren’t interested in going around cans. They just want to be out on the water and have fun.”

Paremata Boating Club's James Swinney (right) was one of the young leaders at the conference. Photo / Eduan Roos

Paremata Boating Club's James Swinney (right) was one of the young leaders at the conference. Photo / Eduan Roos

Eighteen-year-old James Swinney found the day “surprisingly engaging” and was excited about introducing a kit swap day at his Paremata Boating Club.

“I am a coach at the club but I am working toward becoming a committee member in the next year or so,” Swinney said.

“I am not really involved in the club’s environmental efforts at the moment but it is definitely something I will give some serious thought to with the roles that I am looking to take on.”

Click here for access to all material presented at the 2023 Club Conference.