Salute of Appreciation to hidden heroes

There is little doubt that the success surrounding the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race has been created from the loyal support and enthusiastic energy of proud community volunteers.

The dedicated service has become tradition particularly in Gladstone since the Mayor J F O'Malley announced in 1949 that the town was to host the finish of a major yacht race.

Almost the whole town turned out to welcome the inaugural fleet of seven yachts when they sailed on a trailblazing course during the Easter holiday weekend 53 years ago.

This was an amazing response considering Gladstone was devastated by the fury of a cyclonic storm some days before the race was due to start.

In fact there was some doubt that the race would go ahead but that was resolved with sailors and race supporters 'dipping into their pockets' to answer an urgent SOS for funds to help the cyclone relief.

The excitement, enthusiasm and morale of a town in distress were unified when the news was relayed on Easter Sunday morning that the first yacht (Hoana) had passed Gatcombe Head and entered the harbour.

This became the signal for the community who placed the re-building programme on hold as they prepared for what was proved to be a spontaneous welcome where wives baked roast dinners over wood fired stoves while their husbands and children welcomed the sailors into their homes to enjoy their first warm bath in several days.

Support from the community volunteers was overwhelming with the Country Womens Association providing healthy country style cooking for gala trophy presentation dinner.

These traditional welcomes have become a feature of the Gladstone Race, which is renowned as the only major Blue Water classic where each yacht is greeted by the City Mayor and presented with a cold carton of beer.

Night or day, the proud elected community leader who has the loyal support from an equally proud team of volunteers carries on with the traditional welcome.

Sure some of the remarkable old personalities are missing but they have expressed the message on what the race means to Gladstone by encouraging a new group to join the volunteer team.

Gladstone's volunteer State Emergency Service and Vessel Marine Rescue teams who provide race finish staff and escort are an invaluable asset.

In all cases they are the first to arrive and the last to leave manning their stations 24 hours a day from the time the first yacht is sighted to when the last yacht finishes.

The growing city of Gladstone, Queensland Cruising Yacht Club and the Port Curtis Sailing Club owe an enormous gratitude to their volunteer support teams who represent the real reason behind the success of the blue water classic.
Costing this labour of love happily expressed by a dedicated team would run into millions, which is a significant contribution to the Gladstone Yacht Race, the sport of ocean racing and the community of Gladstone.

There are just simply too many to thank, but people like Ray Wegert, Ian McNeill, and Graham Savage are three volunteers who stand out with a dedicated long term of service.

They like all other volunteers deserve a gesture of gratitude and recognition for community services in The Year of the Volunteer.

Please accept my personal thanks.