In an incredible response to the call to 'Let's Get The Kids Into Sailing', near 200 of Sydney's sailing elite and their associates have contributed more than AUS$30,000 to the launch of the Newport Foundation.
There was a capacity crowd at the launch, a lunch hosted by Bob Oatley and Colin O'Neil, which was organised to raise funds for the Foundation's program designed to make sailing more easily accessible to primary school students across NSW and Australia. Parents of children attending Newport Public School, on Sydney's northern beaches, initiated the project after a pilot program last summer brought a remarkable response.
The concept obviously met with the approval of sailing enthusiasts from across Sydney as a large contingent from south of the Harbour Bridge, including members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, made the pilgrimage north to Newport to attend the function and offer support.
Guests were enthralled by a talk by Australian Nick Moloney where he detailed his incredible achievements in recent years, including sailing a Windsurfer non-stop across Bass Strait, winning the gruelling Route du Rhum solo Trans Atlantic race, and being the only non-French crewman aboard the 110ft catamaran, Orange, when it set a new time for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the world.
Moloney was followed by another famous Australian sailor, Grant Simmer, who gave an enlightening insight into his role as design coordinator for Team Alinghi in the America's Cup victory over Team New Zealand earlier this year. He also provided an interesting insight into the future of the event and suggested that a reason for New Zealand losing the trophy was over confidence.
One of the highlights of the day was the inaugural race for the new, purpose-built PJ dinghies, which will be the backbone of the Foundation's sailing fleet. Well known sailors Mark Richards, Rob Brown, Andrew Buckland, Garry Gietz, Jim King and Steve McConaghy were auctioned off to the crowd, the person bidding the highest price for the eventual race winner being set to collect a dozen bottles of wine. The race, which raised an additional $3500 for the cause, saw Mark Richards as the winner and, somewhat appropriately, host Colin O'Neil taking the wine.
Young Newport Public School student, Jessie Grosser, won every heart in the room when she outlined what the Newport Foundation and the school's learn-to-sail program meant to her, and the opportunity it presented to all children. It was a faultless speech that drew an emotional response from everyone present, a response that certainly helped guests open their pockets for the fund-raising auction that followed. Among the supporters for the auction were Fiji's Musket Cove Resort, Cypress Lakes Golf Resort in the Hunter Valley and Alfa Romeo.
Newport Public School and supporting parents recently purchased 20 two-metre long PJ dinghies, and these are now available through the Foundation for the use of all other public schools. Already more than 10 schools in NSW have sought information about accessing the program. The Foundation will now concentrate on further developing its charter to expand the program next summer.