St Johns Rotary Youth Yachting Scholarship
Rotary Youth Yachting Scholarship – providing ‘home grown’ sailors with their international start
When Jo pulled back the curtains on the morning of the competition, she saw howling winds and white capped waves and could not help but smile.  By day’s end the Kiwi yachtie and her teammate and finished their two races with a win and a second place.
Picture left: George Gaultry
New Zealanders are passionate about the sport of yachting.  There have been many achievements in the world of yachting by New Zealanders over the centuries that started in humble yet sturdy yachts like the P-class on the harbours, lakes and rivers of New Zealand. 
St Johns Rotary member Mark Patterson had been an Olympic sailor and was very familiar with the ingenuity, dedication and endless hours of training both on and off the water to achieve peak performance.  Sailing is a test against yourself, your peers and against the power of nature.  As such it can be a very individual sport where single-handed sailing is about self-discipline, self-reliance, self-belief, self-appraisal, self-improvement through the endless hours of training so that you can be first across the line.  It is also about teamwork as shown by the success of America’s Cup crews for example.
But getting that first break from sailing in a local sailing club and being able to gain that first international experience is a daunting challenge even for the most motivated sailor.  This was recognised through experience by Mark and together with fellow members Alan Reid, Gary Key and Mick Ashcroft who in 1994 were discussing how St Johns Rotary may possible find a way to do something positive to help New Zealand’s best young sailors gain top-class experience overseas.
A Scholarship was quickly set up which then gained a huge boost in 1995 when New Zealand make the America’s Cup, New Zealand’s Cup.  The first hurdle was to fundraise enough to be able to send the first sailor to the Youth Festival of the CORK Regatta in Kingston, Canada and the first fundraiser was the sale of plaques.  No mercy was shown to any club member, friend or visitor in the sale of these and $20,000 was raised which for the time enabled enough capital from which the interest would fund the scholarship which was a contribution to costs for the CORK regatta.  So, the Rotary Club of St Johns Sailing Scholarship was born and ran with the generous support of an association with the organisers of the CORK Regatta.
Picture left: Jason Saunders competing in the Nacra class at Rio 2016
As the Scholarship progressed it became apparent that more funds were needed to take the scholarship beyond the modest goals that were initially set and to “future proof” the capital base of the scholarship fund.  These fundraisers were:
Whitbread Dinner:  Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, 29 January 1998
This capitalised on the arrival to Auckland of the Round-the-world Whitbread race.  The evening comprised a ticketed dinner with a Whitbread sailor at each table, a raffle and auction and the guest speaker was renowned international ocean racing sailor Erle Williams.  The event raised $24,000
Placemakers Louis Vuitton Cup Dinner Auction:  Ellerslie Racecourse, 28 October 1999
Following the success of the Whitbread Dinner the opportunity arose to again utilise the interest of an international event to attract sponsors and supporters with a much larger event; the 1999 Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland which was the qualifying event for the America’s Cup. 
The support for this was immense and demonstrates the backing this Yachting Scholarship received: Not only was there tangible help from Rotarians and the massive support of AC skippers, crew, shore crew (Russell Coutts, Peter Blake, Dennis Connor etc.) but also from dignitaries such as Paul Henderson Pres. of World Yachting Federation, Bruno Trouble of Louis Vuitton challenger series and of course Peter Montgomerie, commentator extraordinaire as well as local yachting icons too many to name
The guest speaker was renowned sailor Bruno Trouble, media chief for the Louis Vuitton Cup series and driving force behind Louis Vuitton’s support for international yachting.  The auction leveraged off the success of the previous Guruve stone art auctions with 50 pieces included. The event raised $55,000
The above were closely supported by Yachting New Zealand and Yachting NZ high performance coach Peter Lester.  In the first three years of the Foundation the awardees were all youth Laser Radial sailors but later broadened into other sailing classes such as boardsailing and 420’s.  All of the awardees over the years have continued to excel in intense international competition often among the best sailors in the world with some such as Jo Aleh (scholarship awardee 2002) becoming Olympic competitors.  At the CORK Regatta they sail with a Rotary wheel emblem on their sail.  Local support of Awardees in Kingston for the CORK was provided by Rotarian families along with encouragement and oversight. 
The CORK Regatta, Kingston, Canada was the priority even to which a candidate each year were sponsored in the Youth and Open Classes but in 2001 a suitable candidate could not be found so funds were directed to support the NZ Youth World Team in that year. There were no suitable candidates in 2012 or 2013 and since 2014 the scholarship has supported two young, talented New Zealand sailors to attend their class youth world championship regattas.
In 2003 the Rotary St Johns Yachting Foundation was wound up and surplus funds were transferred to Yachting New Zealand to directly administer the “Rotary Club of St Johns Youth Yachting Scholarship”.  The agreement was to continue the original principle objective of the Foundation; “to provide financial support for youth sailors who are New Zealand citizens or who have permanent residence in New Zealand and are domicile in New Zealand with the primary focus of international competition.” 
The St Johns Rotary connection remained strong with two club members (or their agreed representatives) appointed each year along with representatives from Yachting New Zealand to select the recipient or recipients of the award each year.  The awardees maintain a close communication with the club representatives throughout their CORK experience and speak to the club after their return to Auckland.
Youth Awardees Summary
33 Scholarship winners 1996-2018
Event                                                  Name                                   Yacht Club                                          Results
1996 CORK Regatta                           Jayson Herbert                   Murrays Bay Boating Club     3rd Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                          15th Open Laser
1997 CORK Regatta                           Elliot Cree                            Titahi Bay Yacht Club            1st Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         17th Open Laser
1998 CORK Regatta                           Alistair Gair                         Murrays Bay Boating Club    8th Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         14th Open Laser
1999 CORK Regatta                           James Wells                        Buck.Beach Yacht Club          6th Youthfest Mistral
2000 CORK Regatta                           Chris Kitchen                       Murrays Bay Boating Club    2nd Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         11th Open Laser
2001 ISAF/Volvo Youth Worlds, France         NZ Youth Worlds Team – Kate O’Brien, Laser Radial;
                                             Michael Bullot, Laser; Anna Eason, Mistral; Thomas Ashley, Mistral;
                                             Michelle Bassett & Karen Lambert, 420; Chris Kitchen & Mark Overington,
                                             Hobie 16.
                                                                                                                                                          2nd overall to France
2002 CORK Regatta                           Jo Aleh                                 Kohimarama Yacht Club        1st Youthfest Byte
                                                                                                                                                          1st Open Byte
2003 CORK Regatta                           Jane Macky                         Kohimarama Yacht Club        1st Youthfest Laser Radial                                                                                                                                                                12th Laser Radial Open
2004 CORK Regatta                           Aaron Hume-Merry           Evans Bay Yacht BC                1st Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         22nd Open Laser
2005 CORK Regatta                           Matt Coutts                        Murrays Bay BC                     1st Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         10th Laser Gold Fleet
2006 CORK Regatta                           Josh Junior                          Worser Bay BC                       1st Youthfest Laser   
                                                                                                                                                         3rd Laser Gold Fleet
2007 CORK Regatta                           Matthew Steven                 Worser Bay Boating Club      1st Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         27th Laser Gold Fleet
2008 CORK Regatta                           Jason Saunders                   Tauranga YPBC                       1st Youthfest Laser
                                                                                                                                                         5th Laser Gold Fleet
2009 CORK Regatta                           George Lane                        MBBC Auckland                     5th Youthfest Radial
                                                                                                                                                         3rd Radial Gold Fleet
2010 CORK Regatta                           Nic Croft               MSC Auckland                                      1st Youthfest Radial
                                                                                                                                                         6th Radial Gold Fleet
2011 CORK Regatta                           Andrew McKenzie              Kohi YC Auckland               1st Youthfest Radial
                                                                                                                                                      2nd Open Radial
2012-13  No Awardees
Since 2014 the scholarship has supported two young, talented New Zealand sailors to attend their class youth world championship regattas.
2014   Kate Stewart (420) and Taylor Balogh (420)
2015   Finn Croft (RS:X) and George Gautrey (Laser Radial)
2016   Francesco Kayrouz and Oscar Gunn (29er)
2017   Sebastian Lardies and Scott McKenzie (29er)
2018   Lloyd Perratt (RSX) and Albert Stanley (Laser Radial)
    Past Recipients...
    2018   Lloyd Perratt (RSX) and Albert Stanley (Laser Radial)
    2017   Sebastian Lardies and Scott McKenzie (29er)
    2016   Francesco Kayrouz and Oscar Gunn (29er)
    2015   Finn Croft (RS:X) and George Gautrey (Laser Radial)
    2014   Kate Stewart (420) and Taylor Balogh (420)
    2011   Andrew McKenzie (Laser Radial)
    2010   Nic Croft (Laser Radial)
    2009   George Lane (Laser Radial)
    2008   Jason Saunders (Laser)
    2007   Matt Steven (Laser)
    2006   Josh Junior (Laser)
    2005   Matt Coutts (Laser)
    2004   Aaron Hume-Merry (Laser) 
    2003   Jane Macky (Laser Radial) 
    2002   Jo Aleh (Laser Radial) 
    2001   New Zealand Youth Team (Laser, Radial, 420, Mistral, Hobie) 
    2000   Chris Kitchen (Laser) 
    1999   James Wells (Board) 
    1998   Alistair Gair (Laser) 
    1997   Elliot Cree (Board) 
    1996   Jayson Herbert (Laser)
As an aside to the above story, St Johns Rotary continues close involvement with the Scholarship but has extended the passion of members in yachting to a project that sponsors children from 20 local primary schools to the Yachting New Zealand “Volvo Sailing … Have a Go!” sailing programme with St Johns Rotary members helping on the sailing days.