Well, yes, the prestigious Yachting Australia Club of the Year award is certainly a distinguished ‘badge’ to be given. There are, however, many marks that go into attaining this highest of praises.
The Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC) may not wax on lyrical about the many things it
does so well, but its already esteemed profile just got a whole lot bigger.
When Commodore Andrew Plympton took the reins a while ago, he wanted to enhance the club’s
reputation and also put in place thoroughly modern systems to carry it forward. First was the
highly qualified and respected former Olympic coach, Adrian Finglas, to be the Sailing Operations Manager. The latter has done so well that the Victorian Institute of Sport even noticed and now share his talents with their Development Squad.
This in turn allowed the SSCBC to employ the very experienced Adam Hawkins to run the
multitude of craft in the club’s fleet. Ben Fels has been able to come on board, part time, to look after Sailing Administration, which includes a lot of documentation.
New Club Captain, Drew Marget, got a team together and they set about offering more amenable
and desirable water time to both male and female sailors of all ages. There can be no doubt thatthe high level of member retention, combined with the batch of new members, and a gender
balance that stands out industry wide, will both appreciate these new waterborne activities and are also some of the reasons for the award itself.
New faces on that committee, Sally Law and Scott Llewellyn have had immediate impacts with
Women on Water and the new pathway from learning to sail and club racing being highlights.
So whilst of all of this is of critical importance, they are but just some of the marks we mentioned earlier. Great events, the efforts of both past and existing members, officials, volunteers and staff,along with a truly engaging community spirit are what afford a club that marque of Club of the Year.
Speaking with SSCBC’s General Manager, Phil Hall, we got to unravel some of the activities and modi operandi that have made it all possible. “I have lived and worked on the Mornington
Peninsula for the past 30 years. It is a beautiful place to be. For the last eight years I have been the General Manager here at SSCBC and for the 10 years before that I was at the Mornington Golf Club. This current post has got to be the best job I have ever had! The people, the place itself, events and smiles just make it so worthwhile.”
“The best part about my job is the people that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. We understand that the members are at the club to relax and enjoy being with family and friends. It brings great satisfaction to be able to facilitate these enjoyable times.”
“This award to be shared by the whole place. It is the people at the club that deserve the
recognition of the award. There are so many that give so willingly of their time to make this a great place to be. I sincerely hope that they also feel richly rewarded when they contribute to such a great place”, enthused Hall.
On or off?
At a place like the SSCBC one could easily be forgiven for struggling to determine which one is better – on or off the water. Whether it’s the challenges of tide and wind out on the glorious racecourses that stretch from Rye to Point Nepean or the golden sands, majestic views and conviviality of the clubhouse proper.
Hard choice indeed, so we won’t go there, but Hall may be able to help us out. “During the off season we have been working hard on our policies and procedures and have migrated to cloud based platforms. This includes many things like member bookings and information sheets.”
“Yet you know, I’m really pleased to have all the activity happening back on the water. Our focusfor this season, with no major regattas being conducted, is club activity. We have Tackers, Sail and Play, coaching programs with our new pathway, then dinghy and Couta Boat racing. It is great to be back in operation for the real joy is talking with people, and the best part is the members.” The club’s Opening Day was on November 7, 2015, which is kind of fitting, seeing as they won the award the very night before. Speaking about the club during his Address on the day, the great John Bertrand AM was clear about the family orientation being one of the best aspects of the place, and you could see how true it was, for he had his Grandson there with him. Bertrand said afterwards, “The SSCBC is one of the most impressive family orientated sailing clubs I have ever had the pleasure of being involved in. The initial design brief for the new clubhouse was simple…’kids had to feel comfortable with sand between their toes’! In other words, a totally user-friendly sailing club. And I think they nailed it!”
“In addition, the club has demonstrated the capacity to host absolute world-class regattas,
namely the 29’er and 49’er world championships (’07) and more recently the International Moth
class world championship (’15). People from around the globe are still talking about the incredible
facilities, the hospitality and the sailing conditions. Who could ask for more?”
“My congratulations to everyone involved in having the SSCBC anointed national ‘Sailing Club of the Year’. A very fitting result”, Bertrand finished by saying.
The next day, the annual Past Commodores’ Lunch was held for the 24 former and current senior
Flag Officers. 18 of them are still actively involved in racing and volunteering at the SSCBC – still giving because it is their nature!
Tell it like it is.
Others have been able to be very apt in both their applause and appreciation. Perhaps one of the highlights of Opening Day was the plaque presented to Commodore Plympton by Richard Jackson,
the Victorian President of the International Moth Association, in recognition of the successful World Championship the club hosted earlier in the year.
As tremendous as that is, it may not be the best or most notable. Hall details for us, “That regatta was held at the busiest time of year. We had over 40 Moth sailors from around the globe billeted at homes – many thanks to those members for going above and beyond. So many sailors said how pleasant and enjoyable their digs really were, so we can only say thank you to those families, for it would not have happened without you.” Christopher Rast was one of those billeted sailors, and he took to Social Media to comment after hearing of the SSCBC’s win, “Our best regards and thanks to the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club for hosting an amazing event. The club, its members and all of the volunteers did an impeccable
job. You totally earned this award and I hope the next Moth Worlds will live up to the task!”
Easy to say, generally harder to define.
Now community spirit could be a bit like the term, after sales service. Many apply it, but not that often is it truly discernable. The sad burning down of Sorrento’s iconic, The Baths, was felt by many, from owners to locals and most identifiably by wedding parties. Some of the latter were booked in for the very next weekend.
The Baths owners, James Gibson and Helene Johnson, had no problem expressing their
sentiments; “We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the committee, staff and
members for your tremendous support at this difficult time. The speed of response was fantastic and the couples were extremely grateful for this. We were in attendance for Friday night’s wedding to ensure that there was minimal impact to members and they were all extremely supportive and understanding.”
Phil Hall sums up the general feeling of feedback from the members who have to go without their dining room, commenting, “So many have said that they’re more than delighted to be helping out, so it really isn’t an inconvenience at all.”
Weddings, Parties, Anything!
So then it is not surprising that another long term and dedicated local, with over nine years
association with the club, has been the one to bear the brunt of this increased activity. Hall says of him, “He truly appreciated that the brides were all put in a very difficult place, so he was there offering support within a few hours. He’s a true professional and just gets the job done. Four days after the fire his team was delivering the same menu and wines as was meant to be on offer at The Baths. He’s also offered all The Baths staff employment until that operation is back up and running.”
The man referred to is Barry Iddles, who is in charge of Food and Beverage at the SSCBC. He said, “Our focus is on providing great quality service and food for members. We’re about impact and individuality – food with a bit of a wow factor, for presentation and taste do go hand in hand!”
Iddles is not one to talk about himself so much, but to give you an idea of the effort involved, in January, the 125-seater Dining Room will do two to two and a half turns a night. Then for the prestigious KPMG Couta Boat Classic, the team will prepare lunch for 550 souls. There are 12 on staff for the bulk of the year and this blossoms to 60 staff for the manic month. Many of that increase this year will be the former staff from The Baths.
So there is all of that going on and he still managed to take on eight of the weddings that had been booked in down the road. Yet it is not the end of Iddles’ community mindedness. There are things like the Probus Hospice, who hold a regular monthly meeting, some of which are held at the club, and five of the peninsula’s 44 groups are coming for their Christmas celebrations. Iddles also runs ‘Skinny Duck’, which is a charity for the homeless. Their last event raised $250,000, which creates 500,000 meals for the needy through FareShare.
That makes for an encapsulation of the club on the side of the cliff with the killer view,
distinguished and large membership, active sailing program, and now accolade it deserves.
Friendship amongst members, staff, volunteers and sponsors is a hallmark of the SSCBC. KPMG,
Mercedes-Benz of Brighton and Mornington, Gant, Zhik and Panerai Watches are all part of the
So set your mark and take up Finglas’ mantra to ‘just get people out on the water’ and come
check out sailing for yourself. Do hurry though, for the SSCBC’s learn to sail programs are always full. Last season the club had 281 participants enjoy their first nautical adventure, and that was
just in the junior program.
Prepared by John Curnow, © November 2015