Access Class World Championships Opening Ceremony
Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony
Photograph:Andrea Francolini www.afrancolini.com
Last evening at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club, host of the Macquarie 2012 Access World Championships, Commodore Julie Hodder invited Tony Abbott, Federal Member for Warringah and Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. Graham Annesley MP, the NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, to declare the event open.
Over 300 sailors and guests attended the Opening Ceremony, ahead of racing, which starts today at Middle Harbour. Among those who spoke at the event were Patron, Sir James Hardy and Macquarie Group Foundation board member, Nigel Smyth.
The night opened with Guringai tribe representatives, who conducted a smoking and cleansing ceremony, while a didgeridoo was played in the background. Neil Evers gave an account of aboriginal history in Middle Harbour, as “Uncle Max” did the duties and blessed and welcomed everyone to the Worlds. An Aboriginal singer and dancer then performed.
With nine nations to be represented at the Macquarie 2012 Access Worlds, young flag bearers took to the stage representing Australia, Hungary, France, USA, Netherlands, Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand and Great Britain, as the Sydney Harmony Choir sang the national anthem.
Sir James Hardy was called on to speak. He has a special affinity with this event and Club, explaining: “When I was sent to Sydney in 1962 to head up the family business (Hardys Wines) here, I sailed at Middle Harbour Yacht Club and it‘s where my elder son David learned to sail.
“My younger son Richard had a cerebral haemorrhage at one, so I understand all about disability and it’s why I’m honoured to be patron of this event and it gives me a special feeling for this regatta.”
Sir James went on to wish everyone a good and ‘skilled’ regatta.
Nigel Smyth was next to the podium. “Macquarie started supporting Sailability in 2008, so we are delighted to be involved with these Worlds,” said Smyth, who said Macquarie donated around $25 million to the community each year.
“I would especially like to thank all the volunteers (270) who have so far got us to this stage. I wish all competitors the very best for the Championship,” he said.
Competitor Liesl Tesch also had some words for attendees. Although yet to be officially announced, the NSW Central Coast resident is set to represent Australia in the SKUD class at the Paralympic Games in London this year with skipper, Dan Fitzgibbon. She has already represented Australia five times in Wheelchair Basketball and made the switch just last year with some amazing results.
Tesch opened with: “I was living life to the full and fell off my trail bike. Straight away I knew something was very wrong, I couldn’t feel from my waist down.” While initially she was thought to have suffered paraplegia, later on she regained some feeling in her legs and is able to walk for short periods.
“I got the opportunity to try sailing with Sailors With Disabilities and ended up being selected to do the Hobart race. ABC made a documentary and Dan (Fitzgibbon) saw it. He rang and invited me to go sailing in the SKUD and I jumped at it – and the rest is history,” the bubbly 42 year-old said.
“Dan and I are going to the London Games to win Gold and I’d like to thank Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason (fellow competitors at these World’s) for being such great competition for us in the lead-up,” she said.
Tesch went on to thank NSW Sport and Recreation, the Macquarie Group Foundation, Middle Harbour Yacht Club, “and all the volunteers. We feel at home already,” she said. “May the best sailors win – but let’s share the love and have a great week,” she ended.
Principal Race Officer Mark Pryke said the Access boats “were designed as an equal playing field – they are sailed by able-bodied and disabled sailors – they truly are equal boats.”
The Hon. Graham Annesley MP, the NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, said: “Sailing is an Olympic and Paralympic sport. It takes on a greater significance this year with the London Games taking place.
“Having able-bodied and disabled sailors makes this sport almost unique. I welcome all international competitors and visitors to our wonderful country and wish all competitors great sailing.”
Tony Abbott, Federal Member for Warringah and Leader of the Opposition spoke next. “To be in the company of such great competitors is special,” he said.
“I was thrashed by Michael Milton (he has one leg) on a bike ride last week. It makes you realise what people can do. It’s a festival of the human spirit and it’s about everyone having a go,” he said.
“This Worlds is a tribute to yachting and people's spirits in this beautiful part of the world.”
Finally, MHYC Commodore, Julie Hodder, commented: “I can’t believe this day has actually come; it will be a significant moment in sailing.”
With that, the Macquarie Access World Championships were declared open and the fireworks erupted.
Racing starts from 11.00am off Middle Harbour Yacht Club today and continues through until Friday afternoon.
To follow the Macquarie 2012 Access Worlds, go to the official website: www.2012accessworlds.mhyc.com.au