Most members will have seen some great footage of their Club conducting the Invictus Games Launch on Sydney Harbour yesterday.
The day started with the Official Launch at Admiralty House, 500 days ahead of the opening of the 2018 Sydney Invictus Games and 108 days until competition begins for the 2017 Toronto Games. In attendance was the 2017 Australian Invictus Games Squad, their friends, family and other supporters. RPAYC General Manager Suzanne Davies was invited to represent the RPAYC at this event in recognition of the Club’s contributions to the day. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, Chairman of the Invictus Games and he introduced the speakers, the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, His Royal Highness Prince Harry, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
The heavy rain often obscured the spectacular harbour views from the marquee on the lawn where the ceremony was conducted, but a fortunate break in the weather allowed the speakers to be clearly heard over the faint, protective buzz of choppers in the sky. All speakers referenced the terror attacks both in the UK and Melbourne in the week prior which underlined the importance of the roles and sacrifices of many of those in the room.
Prince Harry’s speech was heartfelt and moving. He spoke of the catalyst for the Games being the moment he was forced to leave his fellow soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan in 2008 after his presence there was leaked. While he realised that to remain would have endangered his company, the guilt he felt was overwhelming. The flight he departed Afghanistan on carried the body of a Danish soldier and other badly injured soldiers and he reported that this was the moment he knew he had to do something for these people to help them and thus the Invictus Games were born.
On launching the Games, 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.”
Prince Harry concluded “The Invictus Games are coming to Australia – game on down under!"
It was Gladys Berejiklian who announced that sailing would be included in the Invictus Games for the first time in Sydney! As the event broke for a morning tea with the Prince, the dock of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron was a buzz with RPAYC and RSYS representatives and veterans preparing to head out in the wet and blustery conditions to conduct the sailing demonstration.
The event was executed by RPAYC Club Coach Tom Spithill who had worked tirelessly in recent weeks ensuring plans were in place, the boats were ready, volunteers engaged and veterans prepared to race. With everything in check it was game on! RPAYC Race Officer and Vietnam Veteran Ted Anderson was in charge of the day’s racing and with the assistance of David West and Sue Anderson they trained up a number of veterans who, while they were unable to participate by sailing, enjoyed learning to participate in the race management activities.
Bill Ebsary’s Le Billet and Andy McKillop’s Winifred were out on water supporting the fleet and providing spectators with a great viewing platform, not to mention a handy refuge for those on support ribs to take a moment to warm up.
One of the Club’s Elliott 7s was proudly displayed at the Overseas Passenger Terminal for visitors to view, conveying to those on land that sailing would be the new sport for Invictus 2018. The other six were all part of the sailing demonstration, crewed by veterans and each accompanied by an RPAYC Member which included; Commodore Ian Audsley, IdS Board of Governors representative Norm Weaver, William Sherman, Nial Powers and Rod Walton. Also in support ribs were Members Simon Grosser, Jim Bullough and Geoff Sherman.
The fleet racing kicked off just after 12.30pm and there was plenty of wind, plenty of Sydney icons and plenty of passion with some close racing in Farm Cove. Prince Harry made his way out to greet the fleet at around 1.30pm as thunder rolled through as though announcing his arrival on water. He made his way to Tommy Spithill’s rib first where he spoke with Tommy and veteran David Savage (Soldier On Ambassador) inquiring about the program that RPAYC has run for veterans. Unfazed by the now pelting rain, The Prince then made his way over to talk to crews on other boats who happily took a moment out of racing to fill him in on the benefits they have received from participating in the RPAYC and Soldier On sailing program. After 15-20 mins out on water, Prince Harry made his way back to shore. Soon after Prince Harry left, racing was abandoned due to the threat of lightning strikes.
The welcome from the RSYS was outstanding – a warm cosy bar and a sausage sizzle for all who made the event possible, the competitors, their families and friends. Tommy Spithill conducted the prize giving taking time to thank the RSYS and the CYCA for their assistance and hospitality. The CYCA had arranged a ferry for the family and friends of those racing to watch from.
Back in the bar Tom Spithill couldn’t remove the smile from his face when asked about the demonstration match race he had just coordinated, not to mention his chance to 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, who was also announced as a technical sailing advisor to the 2018 Games.
While the weather continued to show its presence, the spirit and meaning of Invictus shone through as everyone talked through what a great day they had had. Veterans and their families conveyed their gratitude for all the club has done to assist the veterans with one veteran’s wife commenting to the Commodore, “this program has helped him heal, the only time his mind is quiet is when he is sailing”.
We now look forward to the preparations ahead for the 2018 Invictus Games which is sure to be another proud moment in RPAYC history.
More than 500 competitors from 18 nations will compete in 10 different adaptive sports in Sydney from 20-27 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.
For further information, please visit: www.invictusgames2018.org