Macquarie Access World Championships - Going above and beyond

Gill Attersall, John Figgures, Wendy Bates and David Staley - Macquarie Access World Championships 2012
Ted Sheedy
Macquarie Access World Championships 2012, hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club, could not have succeeded without the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and staff who have contributed their skills, time, equipment and even homes to make the event an enjoyable experience for the 120 competitors.

Nick Ward, a volunteer working on the race results, really captured the mind-set of those behind the scene when he said that the regatta has been great because 'everyone’s happy.'

Many volunteers have gone above and beyond in their efforts. Wendy Bates, for example, has earned the nickname ‘Wendy Will' due to her inclination to do anything that needs doing.

'Every night I’ve been going home and boiling 100 eggs then mashing them with butter to put in sandwiches for the next day,' she explained. This is in addition to her duties as a hospitality volunteer while at the Club which entail: answering a deluge of questions, giving directions, selling sponsor clothing and helping with the daily sausage sizzle.

Competitors raved about the volunteer force – and about the Middle Harbour Yacht Club staff, whom competitors described as 'helpful and really friendly – we feel at home here.'

The regatta has experienced 'the two ends of the spectrum,' in regards to weather, Gill Attersall said, pointing out that weather this varied is the domain to the truly skilled sailors.

Unfortunately, the heavy weather at the start of the event led to a significant amount of equipment damage. However, everything affected was patched up or replaced, thanks to a delivery of parts from Chris Mitchell, the designer of all the Access boats and the SKUD 18. He had to drive them up all the way from Nowra on Sydney’s south coast.

At the other end of the weather extreme, the single crew competition was cancelled today, the final day of the Championships, due to lack of wind, which was also quite light, but at least sailable, on Thursday.

Even the slower conditions have been a boon to some sailors, allowing them to take advantage of the little wind available.

John Figgures, a member of the International Jury, commented that 'you don’t become a good sailor by reading a book,' and that, 'every regatta you learn something.'

Both able-bodied and disabled sailors competed in a single event that left some racers slightly nonplussed due to the advantage of those whose upper body strength helped in the heavy weather.

The inclusive nature of the event, though, had a generally positive perception.

David Staley, Access Class Executive Officer, feels that the general view was in keeping with goal of the boats; 'To give a platform to compete on an equal playing field.' There is a perception among other sailors that the Access boats are 'disabled boats,' Staley said. 'Chris (Mitchell) is just about getting people into sailing and giving them a non-threatening first experience.'

Middle Harbour Yacht Club has proven to be more than up to the task of hosting the event, in large part due to the 'spectacular volunteers,' Staley stated. There we some concerns about space at the Club, but thanks to the volunteers, these evaporated.

'The whole atmosphere has been wonderful and relaxed', Staley commented. He said that bigger clubs in Sydney may not have been as 'well disposed' toward the nature of the event.

Racing has also gone quite smoothly. Figgures found that there were no more protests than at any other regatta.

There was a small issue with power boats causing trouble for the fleet by not being aware of the impact of their wake on the small Access boats. 'Maritime had a quiet word with a couple of boats', said a wry Figgures.

Sir James Hardy, in his position of Patron for the Macquarie Access World Championships, has been present for the entire week, and is consequently in an ideal position to give a full overview.

Sir James, a speaker at the Opening Ceremony, found the whole event 'A-grade... the MC, Errol (of EJP Communications), ran a tight ship,' he said. Sir James was also impressed by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, 'speaking from the heart.'

An outstanding sailor himself, Sir James found the competitors 'dauntless with amazing spirit,' and said that they had given him a 'serious education.'

The Sydney-based yachtsman has also been helping out in his own way; taking out volunteers, sailors and spectators on his famous wooden yacht, Nerida, to watch racing.

Sir James lived up to that charge of his Freemasons Lodge, a sponsor of the event. 'Living in the design of happiness and conferring it to others,' being generous with his time, yacht and food. When asked about his opinion of Middle Harbour Yacht Club as a venue he simply said: 'Full credit to Middle Harbour Yacht Club Commodore, Julie Hodder. Julie contacted me a year ago to be Patron of the regatta and the preparation has gone on that long.'

Commodore Hodder described the Macquarie 2012 Access World Championships as 'bigger than Ben Hur.' She said that the event could not have been a success without the help of over 300 volunteers; particularly Glynn Attersall, Wolfgang Kullik and Trevor D’Alton.

The Commodore noted that some of the volunteers are essentially permanent, working once a week at Middle Harbour Yacht Club reception. At this point, Liz Folkard, one of the many volunteer, commented 'Julie’s too modest; they do it because they love her.'

The Worlds have been a godsend for Middle Harbour Yacht Club too. Not only due to increasing visibility of the Club as a whole, but also through the friendships formed with local, national and international supporters such as: Middle Harbour Skiff Club, Manly Sailability and Sailability in general, the Access Association, Mosman Council and the Macquarie Group Foundation. The last of which is credited with providing more volunteers.

Macquarie Access World Championships website