About 20 members and the manager and staff that run the café attended the meeting, the first planning session that had been held since 2012. The facilitator, Louise Meyrick presented participants an overview of the current state of play, which provided the basis for them to discuss and determine the desirable future direction and goals for the club for the next five years. The following is a summary of the key elements that participants discussed and goals that they set.
Current state of play
- there are 85 members
- More women are participating
Yachts and participation
In 2012 WYC’s goals were:
- To increase yacht numbers to 42
- Double race participation (10 yachts per race)
- Increase skills
- Strengthen social participation
- Six top ranking types of events were considered important to pursue in order to increase race and social participation
The situation in 2017:
- 22 yachts
- More destination races scheduled as a way of increasing variety
- Signature sailing events have run at a loss
- Training events held but sporadically
- Need more moorings and to encourage use of dormant yachts on moorings
- Harbour is too shallow - request for dredge to 3.5m rejected twice – not a govt priority
- No dedicated training boat but potential funding from RMS and Dept of Sport and Recreation
- Joint events with other clubs not a winner
- 25% fall in racing in last 3 years
- Social events also not well attended
- Club constitution updated; management committee working well
- Procedure for welcoming and engaging with newbies in place
- Club rather than crew organises after-race catering
- Race course booklet with set courses of known distance in place
- Purchased club tender to ferry club members
- Set up cafe
- Obtained out first ever government grant
- WYC’s own licensed clubhouse in a prime location
- Fledgling pop-up café showing promise - scope for outdoor expansion?
- An allocated club berth in Belmore Basin – and working on pontoon
- Negotiating taking over slipway for boat maintenance – perhaps Govt funding support
- Need more moorings and to encourage use of dormant yachts on moorings
- Harbour is too shallow - request for dredge to 3.5m rejected twice – not a govt priority
- No dedicated training boat but potential funding from RMS and Dept of Sport & Rec.
Governance and Operations
Presence in the community
In 2012 …
- No profile in the community – most didn’t know WYC exists
- No community focus or connection with the community. Isolated
- Perceived to be unwelcoming – intimidating
- Elitist perception “rich yachties”
- Little or no brand
The situation in 2017
- Yachties café increasing club’s presence but it is still difficult for the club house to be seen by visitors to Wollongong Harbour or Brighton Beach
- Attracting interest even though still not converting into membership
- Good relations with all Authorities
- Participating in Wollongong Harbour Master Plan consultation process
- Strong emphasis on promotion in 2012 plan ….
- Promotions person for media presence appointed
- WYC participates in harbour redevelopment discussions
- Active website and Facebook page
- Promotion of Australia Day Regatta including to other clubs hasn’t really happened
- No signage yet at Belmore Basin; Brighton Beach; Levendi
- A suggested logo competition didn’t occur.
- Financially stable: $6300 profit after 3 years of losses including from Seafood & Sail
- Money in the bank
- $10,000 NSW Government Community Building Partnerships grant, 2014, for upgrade of clubhouse
- Corporate sponsorship has been difficult to achieve (Lewis Boatyard, $1500)
- Potential funding sources via RMS and Sport & Rec
Future direction: 2017-2022
There was strong desire among participants for the club to ensure that it is a vital part of a vibrant Wollongong Harbour – on both the water and land, with an increasing number of yachts moored in the harbour and a growing number of members regularly attending a variety of sailing and social events. It was also agreed that the Yachties café should be a thriving part of the yacht club’s future presence in Wollongong Harbour.
Priorities in realising WYC’s future direction
Design sailing activities to suit real needs
Considerable discussion focused on the fact that participation in sailing events had fallen over the last few years. While the goal in 2012 was to increase the number of yachts that participate in sailing events to 10 per event, the number hovers on about five. Consistent with this, patronage of sailing events has fallen by 25% over the last three years.
Various reasons were offered to explain the trend. For example, for members, potential members, and others that might want to sail in Wollongong:
- Yacht owners and other sailors that are trying to manage work and family commitments – probably in the 30-50 age bracket – may find sailing for a whole day too great a commitment
- Experienced older sailors may find a whole day arduous
- People that are inexperienced in sailing in open waters may find being on a yacht for a whole day beyond their skill level and too physically challenging – especially if they become sea sick
- Some people, including young sailors may find the events boring
- Some people may simply need more variety, including leisurely events of longer than a day or sailing events that take place at different times including mid-week.
To meet these and other potential needs, participants agreed that a short-term goal is to:
- 1. Identify the needs of full and casual members/visitors - by asking them - and use the findings to develop an appropriately attractive variety of sailing events.
The number of members that WYC can attract and retain is predominantly a function of the ongoing attractiveness of the sailing and social activities that the club offers.
- While memberships have grown since the last planning session in 2012, there was a strong realisation that many members are getting old, and if the club is to survive it is important to attract younger people.
- A few participants at the planning meeting pointed out that they no longer sail but are purely social members of the club. One participant suggested that paying $5.00 to attend each race event – on top of annual membership fees - may be resented by some.
- A few participants questioned whether there was a need to assess the range of membership options on offer in the interests of attracting more members and higher participation in yacht club events. It was noted that in 2012 a suggestion to introduce family memberships did not proceed.
- One option suggested for attracting children as future members of WYC is to partner with Port Kembla Yacht Club in training them on the safe waters of Lake Illawarra. How this could operate to the mutual advantage of both clubs would need to be established.
- The point was made that as well as sitting in one of the most attractive tourism areas of Wollongong, an area with just under 200,000 residents, the club is also located at the doorstep of a cluster of new residential apartment complexes which are estimated to increase the city-based population by about 150% in the next year or so.
To meet these and other potential needs and opportunities, participants agreed to the following short-term goals:
- 2. Assess and if appropriate modify membership options in light of the findings of the member survey
- 3. Use the findings of the member survey to develop an appropriately attractive variety of social activities and events.
- 4. Assess in more detail and report on the feasibility of partnering with PKSC in the interests of training kids as future members of WYC.
There was general agreement that there are too few moorings available to yacht owners in Wollongong Harbour.
Yachts bang against each other probably contributing to the unattractiveness of the location as a place to moor yachts
Yet, a couple of yachts being moored in the harbour are dormant. There is little incentive for these yachts to be moved out because of the low annual mooring cost charged by RMS.
There was also a suggestion that some of the moorings may need to be repaired.
To address the availability and attractiveness of moorings, participants agreed to the following short-term to mid-term goals:
- 5. Encourage dormant yachts on private moorings to move out (if their owners are not interested in participating in sailing with WYC), including by offering assist passive owners to move their yachts
- 6. Make sure communication with yacht owners about mooring availability is timely (LM: not sure about this )
- 7. Acquire one new club mooring in the next 3 years,
- 8. Continue to take over moorings as they become vacant.
As well as having enough moorings, an essential factor in the future sustainability of WYC is the presence of a critical number of yachts in the harbour associated with the club. This is not only important in ensuring enough yachts for enjoyable sailing events. The presence of lots of yachts in the harbour and out on the waterfront also has an attractive visual impact, promoting the club as a vibrant active player on the Wollongong waterfront.
Attracting a higher number of yachts to Wollongong Harbour depends on a range of factors. The most important of these are the availability and suitability of moorings, and the desirability of club sailing events, which have been addressed in this strategic plan. Other factors including the attractiveness of the club room facilities and the capacity of the club to broaden its reach to potential new members through promotion are discussed below.
Participants agreed to the following goals in relation to yachts numbers:
- 9. A core of the same 8 yachts in 1 year
10.A core of the same 12 yachts in 3 years
11.A core of the same 15 yachts in 5 years.
While the general view about the café was that it is a positive addition to WYC, there were some questions about it.
- In answer to the question about what it is achieving for the club, participants were informed that it is returning a net income to the club, and attracting positive enquiries about the club.
- Concern was expressed about the clutter that the café generates on the ground floor of the club. The key response to this concern was the presentation of a proposal to rent a container - at affordable rates - that is fitted out as a pop-up café, and located on club land next to the club building. There was strong support for the proposal.
- Some members were worried that in selling to the general public the café may contravene the club’s lease conditions. It was confirmed that as long as these sales are in addition to servicing the club’s needs, there is no contravention of lease conditions.
- Some members were concerned that there has already been a complaint from one of the cafes that the café is taking some of its trade. However, it was pointed out that competition is not reasonable grounds for removing the café.
Participants agreed to the following goals in relation to the café:
12.Proceed with the proposal to install a rented container café.
It was acknowledged that WYC’s website and Facebook page are essential and successful components of a marketing strategy. And, there was broad agreement that the club needs to continue to pursue a range of tactics to promote itself in order to attract new members and retain existing members. These measures need to be carefully staged in keeping with the club’s capacity to support growing patronage, and it was suggested that they form a specific allocation in the club’s annual budget.
Participants agreed to the following 1 to 3 year goals in relation to promoting WYC:
13.Delegate a dedicated publicist to:
keep information on the website and Facebook page current (it would seem that WYC’s Facebook page is primarily managed by Commodore Phillips)
provide the Illawarra Mercury with race results, newsy stories and pictures
talk on local ABC and other local radio programs
provide information about upcoming events to Destination Wollongong’s Whats on in Wollongong website.
14.Install new club signs that are clearly visible from Brighton Beach and the road/walkway that is adjacent to the southern side of the fishing harbour
15.Place the phone number in a visible place
16.Install banners and or flags advertising the club
- 17. Expanding the presence of the club by having tables and chairs and umbrellas near the club and the container café.
Communication with members
A view was expressed that the committee does not adequately communicate with members about decisions including those that involve significant expenditure. One such example was a decision to negotiate taking over the slipway for boat maintenance. Also, this participant suggested that social meetings used to be held monthly but are now held too infrequently.
In response to these views, it was made it clear that members are welcome to attend committee meetings. Others expressed the view that the management committee’s role is to make decisions on behalf of members and to then report these to members in a timely way.
18.Participants agreed that management committee meeting minutes will be made available to members in a timely and most practicable way.
Managing relationships with external stakeholders
Wollongong Yacht Club’s stakeholders include other marine users and land based residents of Wollongong Harbour, particularly the Fishing Coop (but also swimmers and canoeists), nearby cafes and restaurants, state government agencies, Wollongong City Council and community members and other visitors to the waterfront.
Although the planning session did not give a lot of attention to WYC’s relationships with these stakeholders, one group deserves particular attention, in relation to the sustainability of the club’s future. It was noted in the presentation to the planning meeting that Stephen Phillips and Maxine Lacey are participating in the Wollongong Harbour Master Plan consultation process.
In early November last year, at the announcement that the state government had agreed to join Wollongong City Council to create the Master Plan, Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery made clear his vision for the harbour.
“Off the top of my head, I think out there in the centre, which at the present time is just vacant – you need facilities for the yachties yes – but also what about a market located there; like at Salamanca place in Hobart?” Cr Bradbery asked.
“This is an old port it’s got heritage values. It’s got a lot going for it, it’s the focal point for a lot of tourism activity in the region and recreational use as well.”
Cr Bradbery floated the possibility of a market at an announcement that the state government had agreed to join with Wollongong City Council to create a Wollongong Harbour Master Plan.
“The harbour at the present time is looking pretty dismal,” Cr Bradbery said.
“We’ve got to get our head around how we can bring all the uses together – tourism, commercial fishers, recreational aspects – bringing all that together and making better use of the harbour.
“Council’s put in millions in term of the facilities around it, which is our land and our responsibility but now the state got have finally come to the party.” (Glen Humphries, Illawarra Mercury, 8 Nov, 2016, http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4278510/wollongong-harbour-could-come-to-resemble-this/, .)
Two very important points emerge from the Lord Mayor’s comments. The first is that he thinks that the harbour is ‘the focal point for a lot of tourism activity in the region and recreational use as well’ but that ‘at the present time is looking pretty dismal ‘.
The Lord Mayor’s comment about how the harbour currently looks is important because it plays into the challenges that Wollongong Yacht Club faces in attracting new members. It also emphasises the critical importance of WYC participating as contributors to the Harbour Master Plan to ensure that yachting and the yacht club truly do occupy a key place and a vital role of its own design in the future of the harbour.
To avoid WYC’s interests being subverted by the planning process, an essential prerequisite is that it has a clear vision of how it can best support not just the recreational uses of its members but also the tourism activity – including Salamanca type markets - that the Lord Mayor envisages for the area.