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Q&A: Cruising Yacht Club Of Australia CEO, Mark Woolf

Q&A: Cruising Yacht Club Of Australia CEO, Mark Woolf

CXO talks with Mark Woolf, the CEO of the Cruising Yacht Club Of Australia prior to the Sydney to Hobart race.

What is the two-minute pitch on the Cruising yacht club of Australia?

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) is Australia’s premier yacht club and home to what is considered yachting’s ‘Everest’ – the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Nestled along the beautiful Rushcutters Bay foreshore, just 10 minutes drive from Sydney’s CBD, the club enjoys stunning harbour views and world-class facilities and offers its 2,800 members and many visitors plenty of excuses to visit regularly.

The CYCA was established in 1944 and over the years has become Australia’s leading exponent of ocean racing and sea safety. Its race management expertise is often called upon for other international sailing events such as world championships and round-the-world races.

The CYCA caters for the most passionate ocean racer to the social sailor with a full calendar of mid-week summer twilight and weekend offshore racing and Sunday winter racing.

While the pinnacle for the most adventurous is to take on mother nature in the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, others enjoy the competitiveness and camaraderie of the shorter ocean races that are run year-round.

How did you get involved in the industry?

I came from the tourism and hospitality industry, working 10 years in the Airline industry and 13 years in the Hotel Industry, prior to taking on the role of CEO in September 2004.

Having grown up on Sydney Harbour I learnt to sail at a very early age and continued competitive sailing until my late twenty’s. Nowadays with family and work commitments I don’t do much sailing at the moment.

What kind of pressures does the Sydney to Hobart place on the organisation?

As you can imagine, being a national iconic sporting event the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race takes a lot of planning. We begin planning for the race in February each year (after giving ourselves a short break). Being a registered club the CYCA is fortunate to be able to rely on a large pool of volunteers who freely give their time in assisting in the organisation of the race. Together with a small group of professional full time staff we work off a well established event management plan that includes working alongside our fabulous sponsor Rolex, a number of Government agencies (both in NSW and Tasmania), our race finishing partner the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, our broadcaster the Seven Network and many other organisations the club relies on to manage the race.

Add to all this the seasonal demands placed on the hospitality side of the business from October until the end of March, the club runs at capacity.

With proper planning, combined with an experience team of staff and volunteers, the pressures are manageable and extremely satisfying.

What are the new initiatives you are rolling out this year?

We try and introduce a new initiative to the race website each year. This year the main initiatives include a migration of our servers over to Blue Central who are providing us with a scalable web server solution for our expected demands. Through Blue Central Mobility we have also introduced an SMS subscription alert service allowing our Australian and New Zealand audience the opportunity to receive SMS Alerts based on the division they want to follow and the interval they wish to receive the alerts

What is your favourite aspect of the job?

I’m very fortunate to have a job that provides so many different aspects to oversee. From the management of the club and all the regulatory items that come with that, to sports administration, marina management, event planning, hospitality, member relations and working closely with the board of directors. I would say the favourite aspect of my job is the challenge it continues to provide after 5 years.

Yacht clubs sometimes have an aura of exclusivity, how do you try and overcome this?

The CYCA is widely known as an open, friendly club. That means in accordance with the Registered Club Act of NSW, provided you live outside a 5km radius of the club you may sign in as a temporary visitor and enjoy the hospitality the club offers. Further we organise many event, particularly sailing events, and encourage wide levels of participation. Although we encourage people who visit the club regularly to join (membership has many privileges), we welcome non members and guests of members.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Remember you were born with two ears and one month – that means do double the listening and half the talking – if found that to be quite profound, and very good advice.

Where to from here for you?

There are a number of goals that exist on the five year plan I presented to the board of directors in 2005. The biggest one being an ambitious development plan currently being assessed by Woollahra Council. I am keen to see that project through once approvals and funding has been approved.

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