Chairman’s Address – 2024 RTYF Awards

Thursday 9th May at 6.00pm

The Dinghy Club, RFBYC

Hi All and welcome! Great to see you all here tonight!

As you know, we move this event around the metropolitan sailing Clubs, and I thought that this year was a wonderful opportunity to showcase this magnificent new Dinghy Club facility at RFBYC. So, a big ‘Thank You’ to Freshie for hosting us this year.

Secondly, thank you to the Governors and Board of the Ron Tough Yachting Foundation. Great job, great fun, and a great ‘feel good factor’ for each of us personally knowing that we are doing so much to help you, the sailing community of Western Australia. This year RTYF is giving out $85,000 in total, to support and encourage you to go sailing, participate in coaching programmes to improve your sailing skills, and assist some of the smaller Clubs with items to keep their sailors safe on the water.

We are delighted to welcome one new Board Director and two new Governors this year – so I will ask them to stand so you can all met them.

RTYF’s Governors are:

  • Cliff Lawrence – SoPYC
  • Greg Moore – Maylands YC & Perth Dinghy SC,
  • John McKechnie – Nedlands YC & RFBYC
  • Greg O’Neill – Immediate past Commodore of RPYC

These, by-the-way, are the most important people in the room as they are the custodians of the RTYF Fund! and I think you will agree, are very representative of several of the metropolitan Yacht Clubs.

And our RTYF Board now comprises: Paul Green, Dr Brien Hennessey, Vikki Baldwin, Dean McAullay, Rob Rooke, myself and our newest Director: Rob Parker (immediate past Commodore of RFBYC). We do the day-to-day management of the Ron Tough Yachting Foundation.

The work we do is completely voluntary as we are all passionate about sailing and supporting you all to get involved in the sport of sailing, in whatever form you enjoy most.

Once again, I have based my Chairman’s Speech on three words – and this year they are Support, Sustainability and Perseverance.


(Short video from WAIS sailors in Brisbane)

This year is an Olympic year, which is why RTYF is awarding a higher than usual $ amount of grants. Just a smidge under $85,000 with $72,000 going to 34 individual sailors, aged from 9 to 51 (so they are not all Olympians!) but they are all going overseas to compete and will bring that expertise and learned knowledge back to WA to improve the standard of fleets here.

I believe that this goal of Ron Tough, Syd Corser and our other founders, is a major contributing factor to the very high standards of high-performance sailing here in WA today. I am blown away that WA has produced 4 out of a possible 12 sailors that will represent Australia in the 8 events that Australia has qualified for, at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Matt Wearn, Zoe Thompson, Nia Jerwood, and Conor Nicholas. So proud of them.  So delighted for them! And RTYF has been supporting them all for many years!

And for these results, we certainly must pay tribute to the sailing division of the WA Institute of Sport. Started by Belinda Stowell, and now run by Matt Jerwood, all the coaches at WAIS are doing an extra-ordinary job preparing these athletes and bringing out the best in them, to a standard that leads them to success and selection for the Australian Sailing Team or the Australian Sailing Squad, and hopefully followed by potential Olympic glory. Well done~ And from all of us here – ‘Thank you”. You are doing a terrific job!

Looking to the future, we should also be extremely happy to see the depth of emerging talent that exists in WA. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for them, several of them are not present tonight as they are away in Brisbane training at an ASS Futures Camp. An important condition of these RTYF grants is that these high-performance sailors will mentor and ‘give back’ to the next generation of sailors by passing on their knowledge and learned skills – and I am sure they will!

Also, a second big ‘Thank you’ to RFBYC for hosting the RTYF Pacer Racer Challenge each year. This regatta is the one opportunity WAIS sailors have to compete against each other… As one of the most exciting and keenly fought regattas on the river each year, RTYF is very grateful for the use of the 30 Pacer dinghies owned by RFBYC and Christchurch and Scotch Schools that you can see outside. Seeing all 30 boats out in Freshwater Bay, sailing hard and giving younger sailors the hands-on opportunity to sail with their ‘sailing heroes’, is fantastic and a sensational mentoring opportunity for the youngsters.

RTYF will be supporting this Regatta again this year.

Also, the RTYF Coaching Clinics. We are very grateful to the Mums & Dads of the various Class Associations that work so hard to organise these RTYF coaching weekends because it benefits not only their little darlings, but also the coaches, and the sailing community as a whole, through better results. A win-win situation for all. RTYF supported 12 Class Associations last year and so far, there have been 4 Classes that have applied for a grant for this season. They are awarded for the period between 1st July to 30th June, as most clinics are run over the summer school holiday period. Applications are open until early July this year and will be considered at our end-July Board meeting, so there is still an opportunity for you to apply on our website,


The Ron Tough Yachting Foundation has been operating since 1980. Our Mission Statement is our inspiration, to “encourage participation and excellence in the WA Sailing community, with a focus on youth”– and it is working! I think you will agree that we do encourage, we support increased participation (through the local coaching clinics), we encourage overseas travel resulting in greater skill development, improved knowledge, and the resulting ‘excellence’ which is huge inspiration for the next generation. We can prove it by just looking around this room – and congratulating our recent Olympians!

The Board is also looking for and planning long-term strategies. We want this independent Foundation to continue doing what it is doing for the benefit of Western Australian sailors and the sailing community – in perpetuity. Because it is working!

Our main strategic plan for the future, is to be able to double the size of the fund invested and so be able to double the amount we can pay out to sailors each year.  Our funds come from Club donations, some individual donations (thank you to those who have donated while registering for this event – much appreciated!) and income from selective investments. 

I promised some good friends sitting here tonight, that this event was not going to be a ‘wallet extraction event’! The good news…. is that it isn’t, as most of you here tonight will have already donated through your yacht clubs. The bad news…. is that I would like it to be much more!

If you think we are doing a good job, (and we think we are!) please:

  • continue to pay or increase your voluntary donation that is already added to your yacht club membership subscription,
  • encourage (strongly!) your Club to make a larger member donation to RTYF.
  • or Please donate personally through our website especially as we are now officially registered with the Australian Sports Foundation DGR scheme. Once finalised, the link will be live on our website and all donations made through it will be tax deductible!

I am not asking for huge amounts, but lots of little ones add up very quickly, and they are All gratefully received and put to good use! I am also offering my services to come to your club and give a presentation about the Ron Tough Yachting Foundation, if you would like?

We are also looking as far ahead as 2032 and the Brisbane Olympics, most particularly to address the issue of Race Management, Judges and jury (and perhaps executioners!) and on-water Race Officials. At the moment we have some terrific volunteers that run your races in WA, but they are all getting older. The bigger Clubs do not have such a major problem, but we are concerned that the reality is, that that in 5 to 10 years’ time, the WA sailing community may not have the people-power with the right experience and qualifications to be able to run World Championships or large-scale high-performance yacht racing leading up to the Olympics. This needs urgent attention and must not be ignored until it is too late.

If you have any good suggestions, please do get in touch!

Speaking to the sailors now, as you are our future. You are which makes us sustainable!

But I will remind you that if you are fortunate enough to be a beneficiary of an RTYF grant, (and it is not a sure thing!) you are now a Representative and an Ambassador for the Ron Tough Yachting Foundation. We want you to sail hard, improve your skills, and follow the example set by the amazing coaches, mentors and Olympians we have here in WA. We expect results!

But, you don’t ever get something for nothing now-a-days, and saying Thank You to RTYF for your grant can be achieved very easily –

  • by acknowledging us on your social media and promoting RTYF when you can, – as you have promised to do!
  • by helping out at your own yacht club and coaching your fellow sailors. You will be surprised how much it helps your own sailing skills having to clearly explain to another how to do it!  (and we will find out how much you do ‘put back’!)
  • by sending the reports and photos from your regattas for us to upload onto the RTYF website – as you have promised to do.
  •  Also, please don’t forget that the T&C’s state clearly that your award must be paid back in full if you do not travel overseas to your declared regatta.

That is not too much to ask, is it?

And that brings me on to our guest speaker, our local hero who really does ‘help out’ as, mentor, sailor, coach and source of great inspiration – Luke Elliott, known to most as ‘Swifto’, being interviewed by Matt Jerwood, the WAIS head coach.


One of his personal mottos is “Victory belongs to the most persevering” said byNapoleon Bonaparte – whichI didn’t realise until I started researching him!

Quoting from his Blog (Writes an incredible blog – Highly Recommended, if you are interested!)

“Being an Olympian has been a dream I have chased for most of my life. I love sailing and I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The lifestyle, people and places I get to meet and see, make the journey all the more enjoyable and I hope to be competing in this sport for a very long time. Without sailing I think I would be a very different person.”

And “I had no idea at the time, sailing would take me so far and introduce to me to so many new people”.

His Olympic journey started as a 12-year-old in a small rural town called Esperance. There is a terrific but small yacht club, to which his dad signed him up one school holidays for a ‘learn-to-sail’ course. It changed his life and he say it ‘has been the greatest privilege and joy of my life to do what I love – for so long’. He has sailed in 12 Laser/ILCA 7 World Championships, been a part of the National Team for 10 years and competed in three Olympic campaigns, The first was spent helping his teammate Tom Burton for the Rio Olympics where Tom won Gold. The second, he tried his best but fell short to his teammate Matt Wearn who also went on to win Gold. As it was with the third campaign. Swifto has been Matt’s training partner, pushing him on through close competition and good-natured rivalry. Some could say, always the bridesmaid….! (So unfair!)

However, he is still smiling, he still absolutely loves sailing and he loves competing. He is now a highly sought-after coach for all abilities, from learn-to-sail (bit of a waste!) to the current AST Futures ILCA 7 Squad and recent Grand Master World Championship, coaching sailors from America and Australia – and he hasn’t given up on his ambition to continue sailing competitively himself! He is also the current winner of the RTYF Pacer Racer Challenge with Nick Cooper – the most competitive regatta on the river and a big ambition of his to win – along with the bragging rights that come with it!

I will now hand over to Matt Jerwood who is going to interview Swifto for us and get the full story of how he has done it, how he has persevered for so long in (as he said) “huge Laser fleets of 150+ red-hot mega-standard competitive boats, particularly in Olympic years” and how, by comparison, he is still able to go for a quiet windsurf and love it!

Thank you so much.