Commodore’s Report to the Annual General Meeting 2022

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12 months ago the Challenge for the committee was “to make Gresford SC Thrive again in 2021 and beyond” particularly after all the trauma of 2020.

Covid has been ever present and the necessary restrictions impacted on many of our activities last year, however, so far as we are aware, we have avoided any infections arising from The Club and its activities. Thank you to Pete as our Covid Officer for all your work and guidance keeping us safe.

  • We started the year in lockdown, reviewing the Club’s Development Plan
  • Early projects as lockdown restrictions allowed included
    • Completing the boat shelter, Nick, Simon and Tim.
    • Cleaning out and painting the toilet block. Thank you, Gordon, for getting this long overdue project underway.
    • The second phase of the Toilet block refurbishment, replacing the windows and rendering the block work was completed in the spring. Thank you, Bill, for organising that.
    • Bill and Pete also led the clearing and redecorating of the Club Room with new storage units, a cooker and fridge.

Model Boats, the backbone of the club through the lean years, has continued to grow and draw in new members. The racing events are as keenly fought as ever. We also opened our doors to Ellesmere Port Model Boat Club who are currently struggling to find a suitable venue. Some Ellesmere members are now looking to join us at Gresford.

Our first major recruitment drive came with our Reg Gibbs Discover Boating week in May. With help from Paula at Mindful SUP we introduced Stand Up Paddle Boarding to the club and trained over 120 people how to use a board safely and recruiting new members along the way.  I am sorry Pete that we did not have the systems you needed to deal with the amazing popularity of this event. You achieved marvels.

Friday Juniors took off on the back of the Reg Gibbs week, and has regularly attracted more than 30 Juniors throughout the season, the highest sustained numbers for many years. Initially this put a huge strain on our Volunteer Dinghy Instructors and training organisation; however, three new Dinghy Instructors have now qualified, David, Lucia and Zoe. We have also inducted a new corps of Assistant Instructors and taken them through RYA First Aid Training and Power Boat 2 Training. We will be looking to support their continuing development as Dinghy Instructors over the next few years. We also need to recruit more willing Volunteers and Assistant Instructors to follow on over the coming years.

Covid Restrictions made it difficult to run the usual RYA Adult Training Courses in 2021, though we did run one small course.   

In September we tried something different. On Saturday Mornings we started informally introducing parents of Juniors to sailing, following the RYA Method and including training for Children. As a result, many who would not otherwise have had the chance, learned to sail. Many of this Saturday Group then went on to compete in the Frostbite Series.  A big thank you to Zoe, for your infectious enthusiasm drawing this group together and helping to train them.

Dinghy Racing had a slow but sustained start largely through the Wednesday Evening racing. We postponed the Arthur Jones Classic from May initially due to Covid Restrictions, then built it into our Regatta Weekend in September. The Classic was keenly fought with new racers giving the old hands great competition. At least one old hand tried too hard and should have known better.   Moving swiftly on…  As I have mentioned the Frostbite series was a great success with new sailors joining old hands and enjoying the thrills (and spills) of racing on the Flash.

Chaos before the start of Bart’s Bash Rac

2021 also saw the return of Schools and Youth Groups to Gresford SC. Two Scout groups came for Taster sessions on Thursday evenings in September. We have also been approached by other Scout and Guide groups for sessions in 2022.

The big step was with the help of the “All Afloat” Charity introducing three Wrexham Junior schools to sailing on Thursdays. Seeing these children grow and thrive over their 6 week session in June and July, then 6 more weeks in September and October was a real joy. Many of the children who came, would not otherwise have had the opportunity to try out our wonderful sport. We are looking to repeat and grow all these sessions again in 2022.

Working with “All Afloat” we have also been able to set up a structure to receive payment for the use of our facilities and qualified Instructors, opening up new income streams for the club.

Talking of finance, As Nick will explain the Club has been in the fortunate position of continuing to receive Covid grants. Our target was to reach year end with £10k in the bank, Our finishing point with £16k in the bank was a combination of prudent investment, increased membership and opening up new income streams.

We were able to invest in:-

  • Underwriting our Reg Gibbs “Discover Sailing Week” and membership drive bringing in new members, especially families.
  • Refurbishing the toilet block, now going into phase 3 refurbishing the interior led by Chris from the Model Boat section.
  • Re-decorating the Club Room and replacing the rusty steel furniture has made a big difference. We still have budget in hand to replace the flooring. 
  • Replacing the old white dory with the centre steered Dell Quay Dory, which also allows us to continue to provide Powerboat training as well as a stable platform instructing and a great Safety Boat.
  • Replacing the tippy small dory with another O Boat for the Model Boaters to use as a recovery boat, and as an additional safety boat. This puts our safety fleet is a great state for many years to come.
  • Collecting the new pontoons.
  • Support Dinghy Instructor training, First Aid course and PB2 training.
  • Growing the Club Fleet by one Topper and starting to tackle a backlog of maintenance on all the boats. This will continue in 2022
  • Underwrite restarting our Social calendar including Fireworks night.

The Social Side of the Club has been in the doldrums for several years. Covid restrictions did not help. But at last, in September, we were able to restart our Social programme and did we have a ball? Regatta Weekend started on the Thursday with the “All Afloat” Schools sailing, then a scout group came in the evening for a taster session. The Last Night of the Juniors was great fun with sailing, paddling, cakes and certificates. Saturday Morning was the Arthur Jones Classic Regatta with Elin sailing a Solo for the first time taking both Solo Trophy and the overall trophy. Least said about the performance of the other Solo skipper the better. The Model boaters held their exhibition of amazing models. Quiz and Chips was back with a vengeance, including the sale of Children to each team for the hard-fought Paper Boat Championship. Well done to Gareth winning the top prize.  It was a pity you scoffed all the chocolates at once and were too sick to join in Pirate Day. Pirate Day, what can I say? Absolute chaos in fancy dress: Barts Bash drag race, then the Pirate Games. Thanks to the ghost of “Pirate Pete” for the Treasure Hunt, also to the mums for the catering.

Regatta Weekend brought together our new band of cake makers and socially inclined volunteers led by Zoe, and how they have grown from this flying start.

For many years GSC Bonfire Night was a long-standing community event, but was also a huge risk that had often lost money for the club until it was stopped a few years ago. Creating space for and building the bonfire always caused a lot of work.

So we redesigned the event as Fireworks Night, without the Bonfire (but with Bill’s pig) and hit the publicity hard via social media. Nick managed to negotiate an excellent deal with Waterways Garden Centre for the fireworks and our insurers were reasonable in their demands. On the night we were up against the much bigger Fireworks event at Gresford Football Club. It was a real joy that people the football club was having to turn away were able to join our event. We welcomed over 150 people to the event all of whom were really appreciative of the club and the event. Even the free loaders who parked along the road willingly paid up (thank you John for shaking the bucket) With sales of Hot dogs and soup the event made a margin of over £800 which we have set aside to underwrite our next Fireworks night.  The “Big” Fireworks display at Gresford football club fizzled out after about 10 minutes, we were still going after 30. Most of all we are now back in our community. 

As I have mentioned before, with the Saturday Group growing into the Frostbite Series and the growth of Sunday Social Sailing (and paddle boarding) you have reignited the dinghy side of the club. Thank you to all who have taken part and made this possible. 

Our Final Frostbite race followed by Mince pies, Carols and prizegiving was a good old traditional end to our season. Who knew that the words of Jingle Bells were so risqué?

It has not all been plain sailing. Our old membership register has shown its limitations. Pete and Brian have started moving it from sheets of paper and disconnected spread sheets to a proper Data Base. Our parchment and quill based financial systems also needs to be moved into the 21st century. Nick and Mark are now working to put the Membership renewal and applications on-line. More of that later.

Our Training Centre Procedures are being reviewed and updated rwady for a new Training Principal to take over from Nick.

Chris from the Model Boat section is leading the toilet block refurbishment with Simon sorting out the electrics and input from Nick.  Simon is leading on a new boat store and widening of the Car Park with Tim. Our Social Team has also started making exciting plans.

So, there is work for the new committee to do. And with the new season will come more opportunities to have fun on the water.

Talking of the Committee we are also seeing several changes.

  • Nick is standing down from the Training Principal role after over 30years involvement in the club’s training, and as Club Treasurer for the last year.
  • Bill has decided it is time for somebody else to look after the club’s grounds so is stepping down after 5 years as Club Captain. 
  • Gordon, Ray and Keith stepped in when things got tough in 2020 and have all played a quiet but essential role in stabilising the club and helping us get 2021 going.

On behalf of you all I thank them all for their efforts and contributions to the Club.

It has been a privilege to serve as your Commodore for the last year and a half. I trust that you will support the future committee and Commodore as much as you have supported the Committee it has been my honour to lead.

As I said at the start; 12 months ago though Gresford SC had survived 2020, the Challenge was “to make Gresford SC Thrive again in 2021 and beyond”. I think we have made a good start. Thank you all for making this happen.

Chris Jones

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