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Yacht Racing

Episode 4: Ray McMahon Show Notes

OSP: Hi Ray, thanks for joining us on the Ocean Sailing Podcast today. It’s great to be able to chat to you about the history of the Southport Yacht Club. Its 70 years old this year and interestingly when we chatted a little while back you explained how it’s not always been a sailing focused yacht club, even though it always had the name Southport Yacht Club. So, tell me about the birth of the yacht club initially and what really drove the development of the sailing club well we were largely a power boater’s domain back then. 

Ray McMahon: As you said David the yacht club is 70 years old and in fact in just three short weeks from now, on April 19th we celebrate the 70th anniversary from when the club was first incorporated back in 1946. Over the years the club has gone through many changes, power boaters, sailors alike have frequented the club and used the club and both have used it with great excitement. And there’s been several attempts over the years to create a racing club here as well, as another arm of the Southport Yacht Club but I think over the last 10 years it’s been the most successful. We now have a serious racing division at the club and we have got over 500 races this year at the Southport Yacht Club.

Ray McMahon as MC at Sail Paradise 2016

OSP: Well, that’s more than on a day, it’s a pretty good batting average.

Ray McMahon: It’s a big ask, isn’t it? And the people behind it do a damn good job and having to keep up with the pace as well, yes more than one a day.

OSP: Okay, when racing started off at Southport, did it start at Southport Yacht Club first? Were
there other sailing clubs in the early days on the Broadwater? 

Ray McMahon: Look, clubs have come and gone and there are still other a few clubs around here on the Broadwater but the Southport Yacht Club seems to be the one that’s survived the test of time and obviously in surviving the test of time has grown and grown into what it is today.

OSP: Okay. And what I find unique about the facility here is its got a big food and beverage business and It’s in a unique location and my experience has been that most yacht clubs struggle to operate food and beverage other than Friday, Saturday and maybe a Sunday and they don’t have the patronage that we have at the club. How much of that contributes to the ability of the club to invest and grow, outside of revenue from Marina berths and sailing fees and all that kind of stuff?

Ray McMahon: Yes, massive contribution. The food and beverage brings new people into the club and they discover the sport and want to be involved. Part of the reason why this is busy 7 days of the week is again the 70 years it’s been here. It’s been here a long time if you’ve opened a restaurant up, we all know the first few years are the toughest ones but it’s been here for 70 years, its 7 days a week. 

We are also a bit unique on the Gold Coast as well in that we have got this fantastic weather pattern, where even our winters don’t really hurt us too much so we can be out on the deck four seasons of the year and enjoying it. We are also very blessed to have the view that we have got here. Those people 70 years ago that setup the club put it in probably one of the best spots you could on Broadwater.

OSP: It’s pretty unique and enviable. Surely there is plenty of cases where yacht clubs don’t have
waterfront views or water frontage in terms of what they look out at so that makes it a unique facility.

Southport Yacht Club offshore racing is friendly but extremely competitive

Ray McMahon: Absolutely and if you travel up the down the east coast yacht clubs, many of them have pleasant views of fishing trawlers etc and that is unfortunate for them because I am sure they would like to have our view, but yes we are lucky. We are blessed to have the fantastic location, fantastic view and all this helps the club to go forward. 

OSP: So, tell me about when yacht racing actually got started here at Southport, how did it get started? Was it inshore, was it offshore? Tell me about those early days.

Ray McMahon: Yes I will take you back to almost 10 years ago, which I would term the modern era of yacht racing here at the club. There were a few attempts that have come and gone, but for many years the club has owned our sailing squadron up at Hollywell as well which is a brilliant venue, its great and kids learn to sail up there and there are some amazing sailors such as Matthew Belcher that have come out of Southport Yacht Club.

Kids start learning how to sail on opti’s and sabers and then into teenage years on slightly larger boats. And we have had a fairly strong inshore fleet and for what I would say trailer size sailing boats. But we have never really had a big boat keelboat series that’s been successful for a number of years. 

I moved here from Sydney just over 10 years ago around the same time as another guy famous with yacht racing in this country; Rob Mundle who had moved here about a year before me, also from Sydney and a few locals around here Matthew Percy a former Olympic sailor, John Hall who was known up here as a broker, and Lee Dorrington another ship broker. These guys all got together some 10 years ago and realised there was nothing really happening out of the Main Beach clubhouse for big boats. I think our complete racing calendar for the year for big boats was about 5 races.

Formative years at the Southport Yacht Club

OSP: Wow!

Ray McMahon: Yes. It’s nothing when you consider going to other clubs that would have 70, 80 or 100 races for the year for big boats. So, the guys got together and formed a twilight races series because twilight racing is the big thing around the world. Its social, yes it is racing, but the bottom line it is social. Not too scared to have a drink in hand while sailing around in a twilight race. Every club these days that is successful has got a strong twilight race series and most clubs do them throughout the summer. 

So about 10 years ago these guys got together and formed the group called the KBG as opposed to the Russian Secret Service, which is the KGB. We were the KBG which stands for the Keel Boat Group and we organised a race series for 8 Thursday afternoons on 8 consecutive Thursdays in the summer and thought we would see how this goes. We had no real idea what was going to happen after that. So in first race when we had 5 boats which was quite exciting and when the eight weeks were up and I think that every boat owner and every crew person was like ”oh, what do we do now, its been a great 8 weeks and it had ended in mid March. 

So we started again in spring later that year with a much longer twilight series of 13 weeks, which was 6 weeks pre-Christmas and 7 weeks post-Christmas and then at the end of that we found ourselves saying, “what do we do now?”. It was about our 3rd year we decided that why don’t we run our twilights through the winter as well.  Just because other clubs don’t do it doesn’t mean we can’t when we have got the weather here. So we decided to have a spring summer and winter series. Cut a long story short now we have 42 twilight races each year, we have three series throughout the year. 

So we do a 14-week series and then have a 3-week break and a 14-week series and a 3-week break. So throughout the year we are doing 14 weeks on and 3 weeks off and over Christmas we have the 4 weeks off. So twilight racing really was the start of what is now building into a fantastic keelboat fleet and offshore racing. Probably about 5 years ago we then also realised perhaps offshore racing could start to lift as well and not to preempt any criticism about offshore racing, but this year now the club now has 76 races for the year for keelboats with a combination of twilight and offshore racing. It’s a long way from the 5 races 10 years ago.

OSP: It’s a substantial change. What about the fleet sizes for twilights and offshore what sort of
numbers are you seeing with this kind of frequency? Is there fatigue with the increase in race
numbers, is there fall off or is the opposite happening in terms of growth in race numbers?

The Broadwater before it was dredged and before the Seaway Entrance was established

Ray McMahon: Interesting question. I think to a degree our fleets are fairly typical Gold Coast and what I mean by that is Gold Coast is a rather transient area. People come, stay for their 5 or 6 years and eventually move on. Others like myself love it here will stay forever but it’s quite transient. So, I have been finding that our fleets are literarily the same with the people who come and sail with us for 4 or 5 years and potentially move on. 

So our numbers are good. In a twilight race we have around 20 and have had as many as 30 out there which is great and our offshore fleet is undergoing unprecedented increase in fleet numbers as well. But at first I was a little concerned how we were getting to 20 and weren’t climbing above that and I have noticed we have lost some boats. 

But looking at where we lost them we only lost them because the boat had been sold when the owner had moved on or the owner had moved and taken the boat with him to another part of Australia. So we weren’t losing them for reasons of not enjoying the club or not doing the right thing, we only lost the boats because they were changing their post code. So I have had to come to terms with that. As much as I am builder I like building things. I don’t mean a builder as in houses I just like building businesses or whatever. Now we get the growth in numbers and we get to lose a few I have got to accept that. I don’t like it but that’s Gold Coast. People will transit to the other capital cities of Australia.

OSP: Ok. So, if we go back to those early years and again how the KBG were operating. So they were operating outside of the Southport Yacht Club initially and then the yacht club approached you I think for and talked to you about using their facility. How did you go from operating outside of The Southport Yacht Club on probably minimal resources to then suddenly morphing into it and working inside the Southport Yacht Club? How did that all come about? 

Ray McMahon: Yes. You are absolutely right David. Initially in the early days and I will give you a bit of a background to how tough it was, John Hall one of the guys I mentioned earlier, he is a solicitor. We wanted to have John involved because John was able to draft up documents to ensure that in the event of an accident, I hope it never happens obviously, but that we are indemnified against that risk and obviously we had to get aquatic permits and so on and to get aquatic permits you have to make sure you have structures in place etcetera. 

Southport Yacht Club is an world class facility in 2016

So having a solicitor onboard was very handy for him to actually draw up a lot of this gear and make sure we were doing the right thing and make sure we were going the right way. So, we did a lot of work behind the scenes ourselves. Every week we were on the phone talking to other boat owners trying to get them involved. 

Lee Dorrington who was a boat broker and involved in the early days, used to walk up around the marina literary knocking on the boats doors when he saw an owner onboard saying, “Hey, you want to come and join us for a sail?” And we were doing all the work. That’s fun. We were happy to do that. We wanted to go racing ourselves so no problem. But you are correct I think the club saw it was going well, after attempts in previous times where it hadn’t been successful, so the club thought it was going on well and were approached to bring the Keel boat group under the banner of the Southport Yacht Club. 

I must admit to a rousing round of applause to the guys that did all the hard work, because we all had businesses to run or jobs etcetera and that was kind of a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel, after the work that we had done. For the club to take over and run it through their already structured administrative system was great. 

So that happened which was great and we basically handed the reigns over to the club. There was teething issues at the time and I think at one stage we found we had almost lost a few boats, but I think the owners felt perhaps we had actually (the KBG guys involved) had stepped back too much and we knew what the owners wanted because we started the structure. 

So a few of us are still very much involved now and again to make sure what started, maintains its progress etcetera. So the club now runs it, which is great, a few of us are still involved to help with the running of it, but the KBG is long gone. A lot of fun but a lot of hard work at the time.

Early Gold Coast days before the Southport Yacht Club was established

OSP: It’s interesting. And who were some of the colourful personalities behind this in those in the early days and are they still around today?

Ray McMahon: There are two of us still around today very much so. Colourful, absolutely. Lee Dorrington a broker as I mentioned earlier, Lee is one of the most colourful guys you will ever meet and those that know Lee, I am sure we will be going “yes he is colourful”. He is ok, he has got the beard and the long hair and when he is on the dock is not afraid to call a spade a spade. 

Great guy real good bloke, happy to call him my mate and actually he just recently attended last years presentation night and we actually got him to present a few prizes because he was one of the guys that actually started his whole big ball rolling. He is a great colourful character and he is in Sydney these days. Matthew Percy longest member here at the club, Vice Commodore of Sail at one stage, former Olympic sailor as I said earlier and Matt again colourful character. Matt is about 6ft 7 and probably about 130 kilos, so when Matt’s in a room you know it. And Matt being a character he is, uses his very bold stature and when he is in the room and he will put his hand on your shoulder you know Matt is the only person it could be. 
So Matt is a very colourful character and a guy that has been part of the sailing of this club for many years and I am sure he will be for many more years. John Hall who was our solicitor at the time John now lives in Melbourne and John is a lovely bloke, great guy, fairly quiet and I guess to a degree he just went about his business and made no fuss. And then we all know in the yachting world Rob Mundle. Rob is still very much involved at the club. Rob is a past Commodore of the club went on to become Commodore of the club shortly after the KBG days and Rob has written many hundreds of articles regarding sailing and yachting around the word and now he is getting more notable as an author of maritime books and doing a great job and still very much involved here at the yacht club.

OSP: Its quite fascinating when you think Rob is pretty understated guy, comes out and sails, nice guy but then you go to the bookshop and there is a whole lot of books there and then you listen to the commentary on the Hamilton Race week on TV, there is Rob’s voice and you wouldn’t know it is the same guy.

Ray McMahon: Yes. Its true and every now and then Rob asks me if there are any spare crew if he is short of crew for his boat, so I will put someone onboard and I will say to the person you are in Rob Mundle’s boat today and often I get back “The Rob Mundle” “Yes, the Rob Mundle”. He is ok, he is cool, he doesn’t bark he doesn’t bite, so he is just a good old bloke that gets out there and I don’t mean “old” Rob, but he is just a good bloke that gets out about there and has a sail. Yes very much understated as you said.

Southport Yacht Club early years

OSP: Ok. So when you look at the last 10 years have there been any moments at the club where the sailing just kept going because of a core group of passionate people or has it’ just gone from strength to strength over the last 10 years?

Ray McMahon: I guess if you have to really answer that in a short phrase, it has gone from strength to strength to strength. Obviously there have been patches where there has been lulls and the odd J curve and the GFC hurt boating and yachting around the world. So, it hurt us to be sure and many of us including myself a few times questioned was it going to survive and keep going, but fortunately those questions where 1% of our thinking and 99% were how do we go forward? How do we progress and so on. So, on a whole I would say it has kept going forward from strength to strength, with the odd speed bump rather than mountain to overcome. 

The Broadwater before the Southport Yacht Club was established

OSP: It was just too expected. Okay, so, when you look at some of the prestigious clubs, well established clubs around Australia CYCA, Royal Prince Alfred, Royal Victoria, Royal Perth and Middle Harbour, how would you say the Southport Yacht Club compares and where are the areas that we could still be better at or build strength, competency and reputation with?

Ray McMahon: As a club we compare very well with the ones you mentioned and other clubs around the country. Obviously I can’t speak for them but speaking for ourselves, we are a strong club financially and with growth and we are quite a strong club that’s had good management here over the years and I think we compete and compare with the best around the country. 

On the water it’s certainly a different story. Certainly our juniors have been very much competing and comparing with the best around the country and we have got a fantastic credibility at junior regattas where the Southport sailors will come home with all the cookies. In bigger boats, in keelboats it hasn’t quite been that way. There has been periods throughout the club’s lifetime, but in my time here (and I came from Sydney and was a member of the CYCA) and I felt our fleet was a little naïve at the time, and again five races breeds naivety and probably everybody knows everybody. 

But it was a little naïve at the time and so therefore in building a race series, we have also had to ensure that we built the skills of our skippers and crews to go along with that. We knew we would get to a stage where we had 20, 30, 40 even 100 boats out racing and potentially with 100 Muppet’s at the helm, you don’t want that, that’s dangerous. So, we had to make sure we kept increasing our skills for our crews and our skippers along the way. Where are we today compared to other clubs? Well, we are building and we have got a great yacht club here but we are building a racing keel boat division and where we have come in 10 years is amazing and I know that David, I’ll have this conversation again with you in 10 years time and we will be going even better. 

The last couple of years we have been able to bring home a few decent trophies back here to the club. A local boat won the Beneteau Cup, which was great, another local boat won its division in the 2015 Sydney to Gold Coast race and another in Airlie Beach Race Week. Things like that 10 years ago was just not going to happen. Now our keel boats are starting to compete with the bigger clubs on the water. We always competed with them as a club venue and I am convinced 10 years from now we will just be as strong at competition level with the ones you mentioned.

The Southport Yacht Club at the head of the Broadwater today

OSP: So somebody who is listening to this may have read about sailing, they may have always dreamed about getting to the sailing. You look at a yacht club and you look at these expensive boats sitting there. How easy is it to actually get into sailing and become a sailor and step onboard with no experience and just doing some sailing? How do you go about that and how easy is it?

Ray McMahon: One of the great anomalies about this sport I am sure people sit on the shoreline and see a beautiful yacht go past and think God I wish I could do that, how do I get onboard? Well it’s actually easy, you just walk in the front door of the yacht and we will happily do our best to find you a ride on a boat that suits you and your personality. And again adding to that, it’s also quite bit funny that often we struggle to find crew and you get people who say, what are you kidding me? And yes its true boats will go out sometimes needing 10 crew and they will have 8 or 7 because we often struggle to find crew. 

We obviously struggle to find very good crew, but sometimes we just struggle to find any crew just to fill spots. So it’s quite easy to get into, it’s a great sport, its very healthy sport, you don’t
have the drug issues that some other sports have unfortunately for them. We are a very clean sport which is great and we spend our entire time out there on the water in the fresh air and it’s just great. The camaraderie is just great as well we will go out there and have a race and then back in the club will be the stories how I let you beat me etcetera and its great camaraderie and we have a good club house that makes it even easier to do that, but yes get down here, come for a sail and I promise you the only drug that we have in sailing is your own personal drug of “you want to come back again and again and again”. It’s great fun.

OSP: It’s very addictive. It’s one of the few sports where you can enter at any age. You can be 50, 
overweight, out of shape and be a great sailor, right? You don’t have to be an athlete and you still don’t need to have steroids to help you with that, because clearly it’s not that demanding.

Ray McMahon: Absolutely right.

Southport Yacht Club foiling catamarans racing on the Gold Coast

OSP: …quite extreme although with dingy sailing and some of those high performance sail boats, you need to be very fit and athletic, but keel boats are pretty easy to enter at any age really, age 16 or age 66.

Ray McMahon: Absolutely right. You can come here for a sail. We start taking kids from age 7 here at the club, we will start teaching them from 7 years of age and again if you go to the other extreme, there are guys like Syd Fisher who are out there so you don’t need to be young.

OSP: Syd Fisher recently retired.

Ray McMahon: I don’t think he ever retired but Syd has been doing Sydney to Hobart at nearly 90 years of age and that is just outrageous. So, it’s a sport you can do your entire life and you talk fitness levels, you are right. You choose the level of the sport that suits you. If you are a gung ho, super fit person and you want to get into that style go for it. But if you a person you are just of average fitness and you just want to go out there and enjoy your sailing well, there are areas for that as well. I know people that have done the Hobart that probably couldn’t run 100 meters but they were good at what they had to do on the boat. 

OSP: And there’s boats and cultures for everyone in the sense you have high performance crews on one level and then you have the cruising boats that do social sailing they are not that serious about racing but more serious about having a good time and so you can pick your boat, pick your crew, find your spot and you will see  how seriously or not you want to take it.

Ray McMahon: And that is exactly right I couldn’t have put it better myself, its exactly right.

OSP: Two years ago I was at my neighbourhood barbecue and one of my neighbours said “I have always wanted to do the Sydney Hobart” and I said “that’s fantastic, how much sailing have you done?” He said “none”. I just like watching it in TV and he is now racing with me as a brand new sailor that started only two years ago. He is a great sailor already and started from nothing, so it’s a sport you can learn as quickly as you want in terms of the people around you and resources and courses and books that are available and it’s a sport no matter how much you learn you never stop learning.

Ray McMahon: It’s great. Will he get to do that Sydney to Hobart?

OSP: This year.

Ray McMahon: So he is good enough, he has learned enough.

OSP: Yes.

Lasers racing out of Southport Yacht Club Hollywell on the Gold Coast

Ray McMahon: Fantastic and that is great. And that is the sort of the story I would love to hear as well.

OSP: It’s a great outcome.

Ray McMahon: 3 years is a great outcome. It’s a good story and I would love to hear that sort of thing and really how simple it is. It’s one of those sports where you get started you enjoy it, hook into it because the sky is the limit. There are so many interesting things and we have mentioned Hobart a few different times. The Hobart race is great but these days there are so many things around the world that you can be involved in with the America’s Cup etcetera. There is all this fantastic racing all over the world these days that you can be involved in.

OSP: And you can make a living out of it too, right?

Ray McMahon: Indeed so.

OSP: I remember 30 years ago, Brad Butterworth sailing in the Citizen Match Racing Cup on Auckland Harbour with Russell Coutts in as amateurs and didn’t earn a bean from that you think about 30 years later, how the world has changed. So it’s a career path as well.

Ray McMahon: You are absolutely right. I think take Matthew Belcher, hasn’t worked for several years now, he just sails.

OSP: An interesting stat from the 2007 Americas cup. The average age of the winning team was 53 years.

Ray McMahon: And what is it today?

OSP: Its probably 33 I would say you look at those high speed soiling cats and it shows there is plenty of brain power required not just out and out braun.

Ray McMahon: Absolutely right but the good part us old guys (and I am over that 53 mark) but us old guys are still useful because it’s a kind of sport where experience does count for so much as well. You need a good mixture of youth and enthusiasm and experience.

OSP: Yes. absolutely. It’s a good analogy for lots of part of life I think. So our premier event at the
Southport Yacht Club is Sail Paradise and it attracts  40-50 entries and if you look around the country events like Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach and Geelong Race weeks, they attract some really big fleets. So when you look at the location here at the famous Gold Coast, where there is 50,000 to 100,000 tourists every week and it’s got this beautiful year round climate. What do you think we need to do differently or more of to grow Sail Paradise into a more significant event on the national calendar from a keel point of view? 

The Gold Coast, Queensland makes a great backdrop for Southport Yacht Club offshore racing

Ray McMahon: Good question. One of the great things like the one you mentioned earlier is that events like Hammo have been running for a number of years. So they have obviously got that time factor on their side and they are great with regattas and they run very well and I enjoy going to them all. The Sail Paradise regatta is only new and its been running now for about 5 years and I think and we really used the first 4 years as a bit of trial and error.
We learnt a lot in the first 4 years and this year in the most recent event we have just held, in January a few months ago, I really believe we got it right. And I hope I viewed that correctly as an organiser in watching it. The previous year I was one of the organisers as well and we got it wrong in so many areas. So we learnt from that and we had the same organising team working on it for a bit over 12 months, which makes it handy to get a second crack at it and we got it right this year. So, from this we will build. I am convinced our 40 to 50 this year would turn in 60 to 70 next year and again not wishing to be complacent, I will do my darnedest to make sure we get it right next year, so that 60 to 70 turns in 80 to 90 the year after.

So, that’s what I believe we have to do to improve Sail Paradise. Its one thing to get it up and running and build it, but you have to make sure that every year we are not complacent. If we have a good year let’s not sit back and pat ourselves in the back, lets have 10 second pat on the back and then go right back out and ask what can we do better next year? So that is the big one I think and lack of complacency is very important and I know we don’t have the complacency problem. 

So we will just spend time and keep building and listening to what they want, listen to the skippers. Skippers and crews always have different requirements, crew are a little bit easier, but skippers are the ones footing the bill and they have to get the boat there, get the boat home and so on, so listening to the skippers and the crews requirements and catering to them in the best possible way is super important, but again we are looking into the future I really believe that  one day we will be talking about Sail Paradise in the same sentence as the Hamilton Island, Airlie and Geelong Race weeks, because we would have had time and hopefully we will have the same organisers in that period of time as well, to make sure we keep building it and I look forward to where it’s going.

OSP: Well that’s exciting and when you look at the fact that there is a couple of thousand yachts spread across a number of marinas up on Moreton Bay, just 5 to 6 hours motoring from here if you can make it down here through the Broadwater or probably twice as long if you come down the outside, but there is a reasonably large pool of boats that have the potential to compete so it’s not like we need them to come from Sydney, they are not that far away.

Sail Paradise the premier regatta that the Southport Yacht hosts every January

Ray McMahon: Its true and we were lucky to have boats from many clubs competing this year, so it wasn’t the case of just one club supporting the event. This year we had a good spread across many clubs and I was quite excited to hear that they were all going home to tell their club mates what a great event it was and how we will access those couple of thousands of boats that are within a few hours north and south of us, is by someone from their club coming here, experiencing our regatta, experiencing the hospitality of Southport Yacht Club and then going back to their club and saying to their other members “hey guys we are good for next year, you want to go there too”. 
What we don’t want is people going back to their clubs and saying, “don’t waste your time, it was terrible.” That is what we don’t want and we hope we never ever have that and if we do well, we have got to fix it. But this year we were fortunate to get it right and some people have gone back to their clubs and actually said exactly that and I reckon several other club members will be here next year and if we can convert those additional next year in going back as well, that is exactly how we get all those boats up the road on Moreton Bay to come down for it.

OSP: That is exciting. There is nothing more exciting, whether you are a keelboat crew who do a little bit of racing or a serious sort of keel boat racer in having 20 or 30 or 50 or 70 boats on the start line. It’s a real buzz as opposed to 5 or 10. So as if those things start to build more too, it builds that buzz and that kind of atmosphere. 

Ray McMahon: With the thousand of races I have done, I still love it when I am on the start line and there is 100 plus boats and it doesn’t matter if its literally a twilight afternoon race which is potentially low key in the racing ladder. But when there is 100 boats on the start line the adrenaline the excitement level for that is off the planet and that is where your competitive side kicks in as well. If there are 100 boats beside you, you don’t want to be boat 100, you are getting up there as far as you can. If there is three boats beside you, you can always say you ran in third but when there is 100 boats around you, you want to make sure you are up in single figures.

OSP: You have got you eyes in the back of your sails when there is 100 boats beside you.

Ray McMahon: Oh yes absolutely.

A great atmosphere at the Sail Paradise prize giving in 2016

OSP: So at Southport Yacht Club the birth of yacht racing happened almost 10 years ago and you are basically the face (whether you want to be or not) of our twilight keel boat racing and a resident MC when it comes to sailing presentations and bits and pieces and awards nights and now a director on the board at Southport Yacht Club. What is your vision for the club if you fast forward 10 years from now, when you look at the amount of change from small beginnings on the sailing side over the last 10 years, what do you see in 10 years time when you look back? What does it look like?

Ray McMahon: Well on the face of the club I too agree I have a great face for podcasting, but I don’t see myself as a face of the club. We are a club, we have got a bunch of great people here and we all do a great job. Potentially I am the guy with the mic, I am often the MC so yes I appreciate I am often the face because I am the guy with the mic so people come to me with questions and that’s fine. Where do I see the club in 10 years time? I will wear a couple of different hats. First of all I will wear my board hat. As a board member the club will continue to grow, will continue to be a premier yacht club in Australia and will also continue to be a premier venue on the Gold Coast. We have plans at the moment on how we are going to expand the business and the building where possible and again we are not being

In our board meetings every month we make sure we look at what’s happened, how we can improve on it and where we want to go forward. So, the club itself will keep going forward in a wonderful way. On the sailing side, I also believe the next 10 years could be the most exciting. We are now at a point where we have gone from very little to having quite a good series for both twilights and offshore, so therefore great for being both social and competitive. So, the social racing is competitive, and so is your offshore. We have got a good race series; we have got 76 races this year as I said earlier and I will do everything I can in my power to keep being positive and motivated to ensure that arm of the club builds and builds. So, when we go to regattas around the country we can really gauge how we are going and we want out boats to be competitive at every regatta. We are not going to win every regatta, nice goal but it’s not
going to happen, but if we go there and we can be competitive and if we have got 10 or 15 boats at a regatta, if they are all competitive in their divisions then I think that’s a success, that’s a win and that’s where I want to be in 10 years time.

OSP: Ok. That’s great. And when you look at the location here at the southern end of the Broadwater, Main Beach, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, its a magic  destination but what comes with that is this area called the split, which if you read some of the history was largely fishing trawler based and then out of that in the 1960s came the sea world theme park and now there is talk of hotels, a casino and a cruise ship terminal, so what do you think that could mean for Southport Yacht Club if even half of those things start to materialise in the next 10 years and the pressure it will place on infrastructure, water, traffic, marine permits and all of those little things that suddenly become bigger challenges?

Crews preparing for tough racing as they head out for day 1 of Sail Paradise 2016

Ray McMahon: Is that a landmine question I am about to hit or not?

OSP: Given the re-election of the popular very development focused mayor recently…

Ray McMahon: Mayor Tom Tate does a good job. He does a good job so I don’t have a problem with Tom. Look, from a yacht club perspective we would be affected in a number of ways. Obviously if all of these big plans go ahead financially it can only help us bring more people to this part of the Gold Coast and in particular here to the Broadwater and we have an absolutely sensational fine building that is great for coming and having dinner and having a quite drink. 

So we would obviously get a significant benefit out of that financially which is wonderful. On the water it would be varied, there would be a bit of a mixture with  benefits and losses as well. So the jury is still out on that part and I say that because there are so many different proposals in place and every proposal has its own features and benefits and possibly its own negative points as well. So it’s a hard question to answer because it depends on which of the proposals we really are referring to.

I have see one that suggests that we will bring these big ocean liners right into the middle of
Broadwater. Now let’s not be silly; if there is a big ocean liner coming in here, there is not going to be a racing course in its way. so that would affect the racing side of the club. Obviously that wouldn’t impress me too much, but there are other proposals that don’t bring the ocean liners into the middle of the Broadwater which wouldn’t affect our on the water activities, so I don’t have a problem with those. But I have got to say though that those are just my own personal opinions, and as a board member here at the club the board’s policy has been similar to what I have just said; that we really can’t focus one way or the other until there is a definite proposal in place. 

Once the definite proposal are in place then we can look at it and decide what could be the best for the majority of the members of the Southport Yacht Club and that is always what we have to do. There is always going to be one person that wouldn’t be happy but we are going to look at what the benefit is for the yacht club and the majority of yacht club members and we would go from there.

OSP: Yes and if you go back 50 or 60 years and you look at where it is today, you would say that by and large the development of infrastructure and everything around here has enhanced the opportunity for the club not taken it backwards. I am probably sure 50 years ago there were people that were pro-development and people that had all sorts of concerns about the evolution and growth of the Gold Coast.

Ray McMahon: I am sure 70 years ago, there were people who were saying they don’t want a yacht club here and if you look now 70 years later at what it has done for the area of the yacht club, so of course that is always going to happen with development. So again it’s just going to come down to which proposal is the one that would appear to get a green light and if there is a green light we can formulate an opinion of what is best for the members.

Cyclone the carbon hull, Frers 50 competing in Sail Paradise 2016

OSP: Ok. And as an aside, we have recently had one of our members; Andy Lamont talking about his plans to sail single handedly round the world later this year on a non-stop voyage on a S&S 34 yacht. Would do you think about that a club member doing that, is that something you would have pictured 10 or 20 years ago?

Ray McMahon: I think he is nuts. I have got to give him 10 out of 10 for bravery, crikey around the
world solo nonstop. And Sailing 22,00s nautical miles in 9-10 months at sea on your own, I promise you he will get one or two storms in amongst that. So he is a brave man. It’s not really something I plan on doing. I think it’s absolutely fantastic for the club and that he is a member here at the club and a member that participates in all of our events here. 

I think it’s fantastic for the Gold Coast that somebody wants to leave on an around the world journey from the Gold Coast and return from their around the world journey to the Gold Coast. I was talking to Andy a little bit earlier and I said “I think you are crazy” but give me one liner so we can work out how unique this is and he said “Ray, more people have gone to space than have sailed around the world solo” and that put it into perspective for me. Very few of us get to go into space. So its amazing this guy is going to do this, I wish him all the best but I think it’s fantastic for the club and fantastic for the region, for the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast can literary say hey, he is ours and more importantly I will look up and say he is actually more ours. So it’s good.

OSP: Well, Ray thanks for catching up today. It’s been really interesting to talk to you and find out more about the background of the Southport Yacht Club. I am sure our members will learn a lot out of that and anybody thinking about sailing in any club around the country might think about stepping inside their local yacht club and asking how they can go up for a sail and dip their toe in the water, so to say and check out sailing for the first time and who knows where that might lead?

Ray McMahon: Well, it’s been a pleasure David. Thanks for asking me. I have enjoyed every second of it and you are 100% correct if you are listening to this and you have got a friend that’s ever said I would like to sail, then just tell him how easy it is. Just walk into your local yacht club and tell them your level of fitness and what you really want to do and even if you don’t know, just say “I don’t know what I am going to do” you’ll get the experience, so get on a boat, it’s not that hard and it’s a hell a lot of fun for the rest of your life.

OSP: And on that subject we have got to wrap this up because in about 10 minutes we are actually going to do exactly that. You are about 10 minutes away from a whole lot of people walking in the front door saying “I want to go sailing today” as you are coordinating which of the 20 boats they are going to end up on.

Ray McMahon on the water with John Ashton, one of Southport Yacht Clubs boat owners

Ray McMahon: That’s exactly right and again I love every second of that. I love seeing the new faces that walk in, because you never know who is going to walk in and it’s always interesting having people walk in saying they want to go for a sail. So looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great afternoon, the suns shining out there, its about 15 knots, we are going to have a blast.

OSP: Excellent. Thanks Ray.

Ray McMahon: Cheers mate.

Interviewer: David Hows

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