I admire people who are big enough to apologise when they mess up. Which is why when I read the letter from the SAS President, Philip Baum, regarding the Rule 69 Investigation I hoped for something positive, but was sadly disappointed.
While the letter tenders an apology, it has skirted around many of the issues which have made local sailors hot under the collar, and quite simply does not rectify anything. In fact, it has made even more people more angry and more distrusting of SAS. (The letter is on page 22).
Plus, and even more alarming, is the fact that all the ‘bad and negative stuff' about SAS and its operations has begun to surface. Had this matter been handled in a seamanlike manner from the outset, there would have been no reason for anyone to ‘dig up dirt' - but angry people can, and do, become vindictive.
There are accusations of empires being built, of egos getting in the way of progress in our sport, and much more - including talk that the current hierarchy should all stand down at the next AGM. A matter that has been allowed to rest until now is the appointment by the SAS Council of a Vice President - even though the constitution does not allow one. Unless of course there is an obscure clause which has been manipulated to justify this?
An area of concern raised by a number of people, and an issue that has vexed me for some years now, is the fact that ocean and offshore sailing yachties, as opposed to those who sail keelboats around the cans, are simply completely ignored by SAS - unless it is to tax them!
I have personally expressed my concern about the fact that all the good work done by the old CASA (Cruising Association of South Africa) ‘back in the day' is to a large degree ignored as there is no councillor at SAS for this.
Our Safety at Sea and Sailtraining committees appear to be left to get on with the job and simply do what they think is best. This is simply not right as it is a huge part of the sport in this country.
I firmly believe that a strong national body (ie SAS) makes a strong sport. I have written about this on numerous occasions, and feel strongly about it as our sport is so fragile locally that it does not need the simple bad handling of a single matter to turn things on their head and against those administering the sport on our behalf. We need a strong SAS - and strong effective people to steer it.
SAS now needs to get itself firmly back on an even keel quickly so as to regain the trust of its members - and to put its actions in regard to the Rule 69 Investigation behind it in a seamanlike manner.
I sincerely hope that this matter has not put potential new blood and good administrators off making themselves available for election when nominations are called for.
On a more pleasant note is the report on page 51 Entitled ‘Engagement on the High Seas' at the top mark.
During the LTC Admiral's Regatta in Hout Bay Phil Eltringham proposed to Gina Gibson with a large sign on his gennicker which simply said: Gina will you marry me? This was revealed the first time the gennicker was unfurled - and yes, she did accept his proposal, sealing her commitment with a kiss, even though they were racing.
I have sailed with Gina before. She is a wonderfully enthusiastic person who is passionate about our sport and giving back to it in many different ways, and a big asset to our sport who is not afraid to air her views.
Well done Phil for being creative and public in your proposal - and long may the romance and magic last.