Warming up for the Winter Sailing Program at RPAYC

The honour and task of lighting the fire at the Alfred’s this year was undertaken by Bruce Ritchie, long time RPAYC member and life-time sailor.

RPAYC Vice Commodore, Julia Hornsby introduced Bruce to those in attendance, providing a brief insight into his life and career as an accomplished sailor.  Everyone who was in the room could not deny that Bruce has an incredibly interesting story to share and that Julia shared some really interesting life achievements as far as Bruce’s sailing is concerned. 

I would like to welcome, Bruce Ritchie, distinguished sailor, and long-term RPAYC club member of 46 ½ years.  And even longer member of MHYC (70 years)

Bruce could you be described as a sailing tragic?

Bruce has owned (restored, or designed and built) 18 boats, nine of which are called Jan after his beloved wife, and one Union after the partnership with his son, Michael. Clearly family is very important to Bruce.

Bruce’s first boat, called Penelope was bought in the mid 1940s , helped paid for by £10 from sale of a restored derelict dinghy. BRUCE: a challenging boat later sold to Ken Moxham’s father.

This was followed by a 12 foot racing skiff, then a 16 footer, and then an 18 footer bought from Col Beashel’s grandfather and christened by his beloved wife-to-be, Jan.  Bruce won every race at his club, MHYC and was subsequently banned under a special rule which outlawed centreboard yachts from racing. You can, it seems win too many races. Not to be deterred, the boat was converted to a keel boat.  Part of which was done in his Balgowlah flat.  This was the start of Bruce’s life long love to boat innovation and design.

Sailing a 30 foot Keel boat, which had an aluminium mast and which planed, Bruce raced and raced.  He was instrumental in starting the Diamond Class boat and had success at State and National Championships.

Bruce raced with Bob Oatley, Keith Tierney.

Bruce then moved to the Etchells 22. Owning 4, Bruce raced for years, unsurprisingly very, very successfully.  In 1976, on a scholarship from Modern Boating Magazine, Bruce was able to compete in the Etchells World Championship in Newport Rhode Island USA in 1976, getting 3rd place.  His boat was winning until race 7 when a complete ‘glass out’ meant they were unable to finish within the time limit.

Bruce’s yacht designs included a winged keel in 1980s

After Etchells, in 1984, Bruce moved to the 5.5m. And more JAN names. This time Jan VI

Bruce won State and National titles and the coveted and very valuable 58th Scandinavian Gold Cup. Afterwards Bruce, Jan and his crew invited by the king of Norway, King Olaf V to celebrate his 82nd birthday onboard the Royal Yacht.

Bruce was asked to be do a live commentary of the 1987 America’s Cup in Fremantle. Bruce and Jan just managed to ‘make do’ with the First Class Suite with all meals and drinks on the Italian cruise ship. Amazingly the cruise ship was always in the best position for each day’s racing.

This probably inspired Bruce to start his own luxury speed boat business, called Cabriolet Royal.  Think Riva looking movie star like boats, and James Bond.  Kerry Packer bought one.

Enough of the power boats. It was back to the Etchells and then an old RPAYC 6 metre.  According to Bruce, not such a fab boat.

Bruce, in the early 2000s won the Port Stephens regatta two years in a row on a Bavaria Match 42, called Union, jointly owed by Bruce and his son, Michael.

We all know the beautiful Gentleman’s racer Revolver, designed by Bruce and Michael and built by Noaks it was launched in 2015.  A hugely fun project for the Ritchies and for Sean Langman.

Bruce, it is an honour to have you like the fire tonight, to signify the start of our winter sailing season. 

 – Julia Hornsby, Vice Commodore, RPAYC