Governor of Victoria officially opens new Sandringham Yacht Club


The stunning new Sandringham Yacht Club, Melbourne, has officially opened its doors in an all-day and evening extravaganza attended by an overwhelming 3000-plus members and their guests last weekend.

Television personality Glenn Ridge hosted the official opening, with members and guests treated to refreshments and entertainment, as they listened to strains of music from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Band.

The RAN played a major role in Sandringham Yacht Club’s (SYC) opening, but it was the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser who had the honour of declaring the new Sandringham YC open.

Prior to handing over to the Governor, SYC Commodore Philip Burn commented: “This is a most significant day. I feel fortunate to be Commodore at such a time.

Commodore Burn spoke of the Club’s Commodore in Chief, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who accepted the position on a second visit to the Club in 1980.

“We were first honoured by a visit from the then Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 when the Club hosted the Finn sailing event at the 1956 Olympic Games. This week, we received a letter of congratulations from His Royal Highness,” said Burn.

Commodore Burn said the facilities of the Club had been transformed over the last 16 years; the first major milestone being the 1993 construction of a 326-berth marina, a first in Victoria.

“Then in 2002, construction of a marina facility including showers, café and a training room, and an environmentally-friendly boatyard and retail premises were built,” Burn said.

“Who could have known this would be realised 10 years on. The challenges are now before us,” he said, referring to making the Club a viable proposition.

The Commodore went on to thank previous Commodores, Kevin Wood, Geoff Henderson, Phil Coombs and Bruce Eddington, and CEO Richard Hewett, among others who saw this project through to fruition.

SYC member, Ian Whitbread was also thanked for co-ordinating the official opening day.

In declaring the new SYC open, the Governor said: “Commodore Burn’s comments demonstrate the hard work over a long period of time. The views are fantastic and this will be a fantastic facility for the Club, which has a long tradition in sailing, and is a focal point for entertaining and training.

“Sailing is an excellent sport for mental and physical wellbeing and teamwork. Congratulations to the Club and its members on their vision,” he said.

Sandringham YC chaplain, Graeme Disney, officially blessed the new clubhouse. “Today’s theme,” he announced, “is ‘Sailing into the Future’.

“The most important component of the Club is the members and the most important facet is our Junior’s program.
Juniors benefit immeasurably through training and learning new skills,” he said.

“This Club was originally nicknamed the ‘Fishing and Fighting Club’, but now it will be known as the ‘Fast and Forward Club’, the Commodore said, before assembled guests joined in singing the Sailor’s Hymn.

Governor de Kretser then declared the sailing season open.

The Parade of Sail was unforgettable. Navy training yacht, Charlotte of Cerberus, along with Club’s Boating Academy’s Beneteau 7.5 One Design keelboats, dinghies, skiffs and yachts saluted officials aboard the MV Mandalay — some cheekily throwing water bombs amidst much laughter, cheering and waving, before heading off to the racecourse.

Captain Sheldon Williams, Commanding Officer of HMAS Cerberus in Melbourne, headed up 61 Navy personnel in attendance. The Navy provided some of the day’s entertainment and demonstrations, including divers in high-speed RIBS, who demonstrated fast-water pickups.

The Navy focus was large, because at the new SYC training facility, into which the former Government injected $437,500. Maritime careers, including training for the Navy, are among the opportunities available.

It was colourful, loud and fun. Each vessel sailed past the Mandalay with officials and guests aboard, waving — and in some cases throwing water bombs — as they sailed by.

For everyone else, it was back to the new Clubhouse to enjoy the continuing celebrations and entertainment. Members and guests were treated to a feast of fresh Tasmanian oysters, seafood paella, fish and chips, and sushi and sashimi, prepared by the Club’s Japanese chefs.

Children were not left out either, jumping castles, the Carlton Clydesdales and face painting was some of the distractions that kept them happy.

Later in the evening, it was on to the aptly named Harbour View Restaurant for a sumptuous dinner and drinks while the Roger Clark Quartet played on.

A member for more than 50 years, Australian yachting legend Lou Abrahams said: “I love the new Club. Its lines curve to fit in with the landscape — and it’s still our Club.”

Now in his eighties and still racing, Abrahams, who has represented the SYC and Australia internationally on numerous occasions and brought home many trophies, added: “Just after I became a member, the Club burned down. Since its rebuild, it hasn’t changed much, just some renovations here and there.”

The Club, which was formed in 1911 and will celebrate its centenary in 2011, features many photos of Abrahams and his famous Challenge yachts. At the top of the Gone with the Wind style sweeping staircase (although more modern in its construction) to the second floor, holding pride of place, is a painting of Abrahams at the wheel of his yacht, reminding members this is still ‘Sandy’.

It is still ‘Sandy’; from the original flagstaff on approach to the Club, the clothing shop, which is back in place next to the new administration offices on the ground floor. A member’s library/meeting room, now located on the second floor, bears a strong resemblance to that older one on the old building’s ground floor, while the Ken King Centre remains in place at the water’s edge leading out to the marina.

The Clubhouse’s floor to ceiling glass walls draw in the uninterrupted views of Port Phillip Bay. Members can now enjoy lunch, dinner, or just drinks and watch racing from the second level.

The second floor also features a variety of rooms, including two restaurants, a huge wraparound deck and numerous other functions rooms; all beautifully decorated

Abrahams commented, too, on how, the “members were pretty worried when discussions came up about demolishing and building a new clubhouse; particularly in regards to the cost and the ongoing financial viability of such an undertaking.

“Fortunately, it was10 years of solid planning by Club management and it’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. The Club has done a great job,” he said.

CEO Richard Hewett said membership had increased and bookings for the various rooms had already exceeded expectations.

Photos: The Governor of victoria, Professor David de Kretser declares the new SYC open; Part of the 3000-plus crowd that gathered for opening day; The Navy band; The new SYC