It is with much sadness that we write to inform you of the passing of a stalwart of the sport - Graeme Ainley.
Graeme joined Sandringham Yacht Club in 1985 and filled many roles, culminating in Club Commodore in 1995.
Known universally as ‘GA’ he, in association with John Williams (Willo), became a sailing legend with their jointly-owned Bacardi, fondly known as ‘The Bus’. Together they had a great sailing career, competing in many club and state events over more than 30 years including 25 Sydney to Hobarts. They were very competitive, winning an impressive range and number of club trophies and championships, culminating in second overall in the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Their successes include the AD Mackenzie Trophy (3 times), First Division Trophy (3 times), J J Jarrold Trophy (twice), Jisuma Trophy (3 times), Katoura Salver (3 times), SYC Cup (twice), and Tam O’Shanter and Wyvern Cup, Commodore’s Trophy (4 times), Commodore-in-Chief’s Trophy (5 times), and were Club Champions (Summer Series) six times, between 1991/92 and 2006/07. They were part of the team with the late Lou Abrahams (Ultimate Challenge) and Rob Green (Jacobina of Shenval) that won the Association Cup in 1992.
They were also SYC Club Champions in Georgia in 2008/09, however, she was lost off Bateman’s Bay in the subsequent Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Graeme made an outstanding contribution to the SYC. He joined the Yard & Mooring Committee and went on to become Rear Commodore, Vice Commodore and then served as Commodore in 1995 and 1996. Former Commodore Les Black observed that amongst his happiest memories in the club were meeting and working with ‘lots of good people, particularly Bruce Edmunds and Graeme Ainley, who worked together on the wavescreen project.‘ Graeme headed the Sandringham Harbour & Foreshore Master Plan Committee and also assisted then Commodore Bruce Edmunds in negotiations with the State Government to secure a longer lease – the first 50-year lease granted to any yacht club. Bruce said that ‘He made a mammoth contribution to the club, and we will always be indebted to him for his input over past years’.
As well as his sailing skills, Graeme will be remembered for his boisterous enthusiasm and great sense of purpose, coupled with a broad sense of humour. He and Willo willingly passed on their sailing skills to many young sailors and the camaraderie of the Bacardi crews and associates is widespread and strong. A reunion a year ago attracted well over a hundred of these, some from interstate and overseas, many reminiscing that GA and Willo were known as the ‘Scourge of the Foredeckie’s Union’ and great disrupters of the QLD.
Graeme was President of Yachting Victoria and later President of Yachting Australia. He was awarded Life Membership of Sandringham Yacht Club and also Yachting Victoria. Perhaps the most interesting (and well deserved) of his awards was ‘Club Stirrer of the Year’ in 2004. Many members wondered why it took so long, observing that he had qualified for much of his sailing career.
Graeme will be remembered as a great sailor, mentor and encourager of many, a dedicated club member who leaves his contribution to the marina and wavescreen as his legacy.
Trying to find a cure for cancer was important to Graeme. If you were thinking of sending flowers, the family have requested you please instead consider making a donation, in memory of Graeme, to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation (click here)
Acknowledgement courtesy of SYC Historian Graeme Disney