A night to remember

SOLAS raises close to $30,000 at Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron dinner.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Trusts raised just under $30,000 at a dinner held at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (RSYS) on Friday evening.

Among those attending were Sir James and Lady Joan Hardy, SOLAS Trusts Chairman David Kellett and wife Kendi, Australian Sailing president Matt Allen, CYCA Commodore Paul Billingham and wife Jude accompanied by some CYCA directors and CEO, RSYS Commodore David Ward and treble Olympian, Karyn Gojnich with husband John.

Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club fielded a team of 20, including Commodore Steve Rae, Vice Commodore Valda Johnston, Rear Commodore Barry Kelly, Club Captain Adrian Kiely and CEO Paul O’Rourke. The latter announced their Club would host a SOLAS dinner. They also put their hands in their pockets in the silent auctions. 

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Guest speaker for the night was Commander Marc Pavillard RAN, who was accompanied on the night by his wife Sarah.

Commander Pavillard was an instrumental figure in the rescue of sailors in the 1998 Sydney Hobart, saving many lives as the winch coordinator in the Royal Australian Navy helicopter.  In particular, the lives of the Sword of Orion crew, who sadly lost a British crew member, Glynn Charles, when his safety harness failed.

Charles was among six who tragically lost their lives in the race that year, resulting in the CYCA SOLAS Trusts being established and is governed by a board of Trustees. 

Having Commander Pavillard as guest speaker reminded us of how fragile life can be, particularly as some of the Sword of Orion crew also attended the night. “We try to get a table together every year,” said crew member Adam Brown, who was joined by Andrew Parkes, Sam Hunt and Nigel Russell on the eve of their 20 year reunion of that fateful race. 

Martin James, a past commodore of the CYCA and fellow competitor in the race with his Team Jaguar Infinity, also attended with crew.

And while it was sobering to hear Pavillard recount some of what occurred, as vision of the race and rescues was shown, he also told of some funny moments. 

 “On December 27, 1998, I was in Sydney when I got the call that changed everything…,” he said. 

“Before I knew it, I was kissing the family goodbye and heading to Nowra. By midnight, I was flying (a helicopter) at maximum speed to Merimbula. We re-fuelled at 2.30am and then launched into the unknown…

“Within minutes, we were swallowed by the storm – the turbulence was terrible. We knew several yachts were in trouble. It was distressing – I felt full fear in the pit of my stomach. Just flying with other aircraft around – it was chaos. 

“Conditions were horrendous – 80 knot winds – big seas,” Commander Pavillard told the story, remembering all the details.

He’s done it all, but, the Commander said, “This was by far the most harrowing – being part of the Sword of Orion guys’ rescues.” 

David Kellett, who MC’d the evening, thanked Commander and Sarah Pavillard for attending. “Tonight was a great result and adds to the $185,000 already raised this year,” he said.

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