Photography by Beth Morley/Sports Sailing Photography
The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club has featured heavily in the launch of the 2018 Invictus Games as part of a sailing demonstration showcasing the sport in front of an iconic Sydney back drop with Prince Harry, senior Invictus organisers, RPAYC Members and many other distinguished guests watching on.
The RPAYC was asked to conduct the sailing demonstration on the back of their successful sailing program with veterans and the Soldier On Australia charity.
Prince Harry, Founder and Patron of the Invictus Games Foundation officially launched the countdown to the fourth Invictus Games at Admiralty House marking 500 days until the opening ceremony.
Speaking in front of athletes and distinguished guests Prince Harry said “Sydney will soon be the custodian of the Invictus spirit and the focus for hundreds of men and women using the Invictus Games to motivate their recovery from physical and mental injuries.”
“I know that people across the country – from Perth to Sydney, from Darwin to Adelaide – will embrace the Invictus Games and show their support for competitors from their local towns and right across the country. I have no doubt that the Sydney public will make these games their own.”
“The Invictus Games are coming to Australia – game on down under!”
RPAYC Club Coach Tom Spithill, along with Commodore Ian Audsley and Integrated disAbled Sailing Board of Governors representative Norm Weaver co-ordinated an excellent display of sailing which cemented the earlier decision announcing the inclusion of sailing in the 2018 Games for the first time.
Chair of the Sydney 2018 Invictus Games, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, earlier revealed that the sport of sailing will debut on the 2018 competition schedule. “Sailing will be contested on Sydney Harbour and what a wonderful backdrop it will provide.”
The RPAYC will also be the organising authority for the 2018 Games.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull added “The Invictus Games are another great opportunity for the whole community to show our veterans, and those who serve today, that their nation and their community is behind them and will support them every step of the way as they recover from the injuries of war and as they go on to lead and succeed in civilian life.”
Under grey skies the sails of the RPAYC’s fleet of Elliott 7 performance keelboats lit up Sydney Harbour just after 12:30pm. Veterans crewed the boats with plenty of passion with some exciting racing in Farm Cove providing an excellent preview of what’s to come for 2018.
Unfazed by the pelting rain Prince Harry took to the water to personally greet the teams and discussed the benefits the participants had received through the club and the Soldier On sailing program.
Looking very cold and wet, Tom Spithill couldn’t remove the smile from his face when asked about the sailing demonstration he had just coordinated, not to mention his chance to personally meet Prince Harry.
“It’s just amazing, the people, the volunteers, the veterans. It’s been an epic day, no amount of rain could dampen the spirits of everyone here and I just can’t wait until October next year! Prince Harry seemed like a really nice bloke, he has a military background and founded the Invictus Games so I have a lot of respect for that,” said Tom Spithill.
Tom was announced as a technical sailing advisor to the 2018 Games, along with his brother James Spithill who will be an ambassador to the 2018 Games. James unfortunately couldn’t attend the launch as he is busy in Bermuda defending his America’s Cup title as the skipper on Team Oracle USA.
The club’s partnership with Soldier On Australia has become a central part of the club’s award winning Integrated disAbled Sailing initiative which has seen many veterans excel in their new pathways through sailing.
Commodore Ian Audsley who has been a big part of this initiative couldn’t be happier with the progression and today was reflecting on the success of the program.
“In my three years as RPAYC Commodore I’ve seen this partnership with Soldier On grow from strength to strength and today was a great example of the resulting success from the hard work of many RPAYC members who help our veterans find so many positives from the sport of sailing,” said Ian Audsley.
More than 500 competitors from 18 nations will compete in 10 different adaptive sports in Sydney from 20 to 27 October in 2018. The RPAYC, CYCA, and RSYS will play a key part in hosting the sailing component of the games. The events will be staged across Greater Sydney, including Sydney Olympic Park and on and around Sydney Harbour.