At the Hart Marine International Optimist Australian and Open Championships, Principal Race Officer Chris Jackson received a standing ovation from around 1000 people attending the Presentation Night at Mornington Yacht Club in early January. Chris led a team of 150 volunteers from several clubs who delivered an outstanding regatta for 350 young Optimist sailors and their families.
Principal Race Officer receives standing ovation from over 1000 people for regatta success - Hart Marine International Optimist Australian and Open Championships 2014
In January 2012, Chris Jackson and Greg Sharman drove out of Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. Their children had just completed the Australian Optimist Championships, and although they faced the long drive home, back to Melbourne, they decided then and there that they would bid to host the very same event in two years’ time.
Little did these two know, but what they set in motion that day would turn out to be the largest single-class event ever held in the Southern Hemisphere, and herald a new milestone in junior sailing in Australia.
At the time of their bid, they knew that success would depend on ensuring the sailors and their families had a sensational experience. Once they had won it, they knew they would need to engage all of the clubs members to deliver this.
unnamed (1) - Hart Marine International Optimist Australian and Open Championships 2014
Not only were there 350 competitors at the event, but over 500 family members and supporters, 150 volunteers, and 100 support boats.
For the first time at an Optimist Nationals, three different levels of sailing were provided, offering a fun, competitive environment that anyone could participate in, they included:
- Open Fleet, which uses the full International Optimist Dinghy Association Class Rules and ISAF Rules, catering for the ‘hot shots’ of Australian junior sailing
- Intermediate Fleet, which was the same format as the Open Fleet, but with a lower wind limit, catering for anyone who didn’t want to sail in the Open Fleet
- Green Fleet, which used the ISAF Introductory Rules, and provided on water coaching support to sailors to help the get around the course and sail in an environment that focused on participation and fun rather than results.
Events of this magnitude cannot operate without the help and support of volunteers, and at Mornington, there were plenty, not just from Mornington members but neighbouring clubs which include: Davey’s Bay, Frankston, Mt Martha and Safety Beach.
Over 150 volunteers donated their time, experience and expertise to the event. Led by Chris Jackson as Principal Race Officer, over 8000 volunteer hours were given to the event. Even former Commodores undertook duties as varied as car park attending, to rubbish bin emptying. In fact, volunteers could have been seen at 1 a.m. moving coach and support boats around Mornington harbour to ensure that equipment wasn’t damaged.
When you have over 1000 people in the one place, catering for the needs of such a large number could be quite daunting. However, Mornington’s focus on family involvement and customer satisfaction was clear.
unnamed (2) - Hart Marine International Optimist Australian and Open Championships 2014
What is usually a hard stand for Etchells and trailer sailors was transformed into a 300m2 marquee, which served as the hub of activity for the event providing:
- A competitor services desk for help with everything
- A toy and colouring in section for young siblings of sailors
- A ‘gear locker’ manned by club volunteers, with all proceeds going towards funding a junior clubhouse
- A bar for mum and dad (as well as volunteers!) to wind down at the end of the day
- A walk-through boat wash that sailors could walk their fully rigged Optis through
- A coffee van and kiosk serving great hamburgers (a major talking point around the boat park).
The boat park was buzzing with how successful these facilities were during one of the days with a long postponement!
There is a saying from sailing author Stuart Walker that states, ‘fifty million Frenchman can’t be wrong’. When the Event Organiser and PRO get a standing ovation from around 1000 people at the presentation function, then you can be pretty sure that the mob has spoken.
With the Australian Optimist Championships and Australian Youth Championships being hosted at Fremantle Sailing Club in January 2015, the benchmark has been set for future major junior and youth regattas.