Well, it’s been a big year. It started with a bang, as we delivered the largest Australian Wooden Boat Festival to date, welcoming 550 registered boats and some 220,000 visitors over four days. We had an extraordinary response to the International Wooden Boat Symposium, with Her Excellency the Governor of Tasmania opening the program and legendary designer and engineer Meade Gougeon as the keynote speaker. We also recorded a record number of registered volunteers, 435 in all, who made it possible to produce a world-beating event with a smile on everyone’s face. We saw many community organisations pitch in to give a hand, including the Tasmanian Scouts, who were brilliantly organised and absolutely tireless in delivering the cleanest festival site we’ve ever seen and the best environmental result ever. No wonder that sponsor Dick Smith gave them a big thumb’s up – they did a fantastic job. So did everyone else, from the skilled boat handling crews from the Australian Antarctic Division and Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, to the delightfully calm and patient ‘Call Girls’ answering the phones on the festival switchboard. The best thing about managing this festival is amazing competence of so many volunteers who give up their time for almost no reward (OK, we do throw a pretty good barbecue at the end) and bring their skills to the event for the community good. We try never to take our eye off the main aim – this is a festival of wooden boats – but it’s rewarding to see so many Tasmanians come along simply because it’s fun!
Once we had returned all the equipment and paid off the bills, it was time to start work on raising the funds for the next festival. Our operating budget will go close to 1.4 million dollars this time around and while the Tasmanian Government recognises the value of this great festival and supports it generously, we still have to find many hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship to keep the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival free to the public. We’re pleased that our naming rights sponsor, MyState will be with us again in 2017, as will major sponsors TasPorts, Hobart City Council, Southern Cross, Blundstones and Wrest Point.
We were sad to bid farewell to two long-serving and invaluable team members. Technical Director Michael Bullock was veteran of two Wooden Boat Festivals, the Tall Ships Festival and scores of other public events in Tasmania. Michael decided to make a ‘snow change’ with his Japanese wife Tamami, setting up a professional ski lodge in Japan. We hear he’s working just as hard and that his spoken Japanese is coming along slowly. Site Manager John Aalders decided to take on a mature-age PhD course in environmental science at UTAS (as you do) and will be devoting his full-time attention to that. John was probably the hardest-working man on the whole festival site and we’ll miss him badly, but we are pleased to see some younger hands going up to bear the load.
A reward shared by all the AWBF board, members, volunteers and friends came our way in November, when we won ‘Best Major Event or Festival’ in the Tasmanian Tourism Awards. The prestigious award recognises the huge contribution that the festival makes to the inbound tourism industry in Tasmania. Tens of thousands of people travel from mainland Australia and overseas to attend the largest wooden boat festival in the Southern Hemisphere, including hundreds of boat owners who make the time and effort to attend. All of those visitors spend money in shops, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, contributing to an industry increasingly important in creating real jobs and supporting new careers for Tasmanians.
The next twelve months are going to be challenging. To help offset our overheads and sharpen our skills, we’ll be helping the Mawson’s Huts Foundation to produce the Australian Antarctic Festival from 8-11 September, 2016. This four-day event will bring to the public eye the largely invisible, but important role that Hobart plays in the Antarctic science programs run by Australia, France and China. Just four months after that, we’ll be laying out the chalk marks for the 2017 MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival. We hope that you’ll come along for the ride, and enjoy it just as much as we do!
Have a very Happy Christmas, a safe holiday and a great start to the New Year.