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A belated Happy New Year to you all! And here we are nearly at Easter with the Scotland Cruise only four weeks away. Life, as ever, is hectic so my planned newsletter to report on the AGM and January Committee meeting comes, as ever, late – March not January. Apologies. But there is lots of news to pass on!

Firstly, the AGM and ceilidh. We had a good turn-out for the AGM in a flag dressed hall with a projectorful of penguin photos that was also useful for illustrating the cruise reports. We heard about the year’s activities from Richard Gatley with the Scotland Easter cruise, Paul Rose in lieu of an absent Lyn Ballard for the Brittany escapade, and had a full report on the Faroes with fantastic photographs from Simon Hamilton. Three very different cruises but all very successful. We heard that the three cruises for 2009 were well subscribed to and are now full, with presentations from Carol Pearce, David Newman, and Quentin Hayes for Easter Scotland, The Aeolian Islands, and the East Coast cruises respectively.

This year there were quite significant committee changes – not least with our long-standing (for ever) Company Secretary Paul Fray stepping down. Paul has done such a fantastic job that we found two people were needed to replace him; Marion Keall has taken over the Company Secretary role, and Paul Rose the Membership Secretary aspect. Paul Rose, Marian Keall, and David Newman had all completed their 3 year terms of committee membership; their replacements are Paul Fray (staying on as an ordinary committee member to give continuity and the benefit of his experience), Graham Room, and Julie Ward. Paul Rose was seconded to the committee as a co-opted member.

As a recognition of Paul Fray’s dedication and work a presentation was made of an engraved tankard and Penguin glass plaque. Simon Hamilton also received a glass Penguin plaque as thanks for his five years as Club Commodore.

Still on presentations and awards, Simon Hamilton accepted the Dodo award for his work correcting the genoa halyard lead at the mast top in the Faroes, and Paul Rose was the recipient of the Golden Gaffe for some complicated unwinding of a mooring buoy from the keel with a kedge anchor (!) in Brittany.

The Ceilidh following the AGM was again a great get-together, with food ably organised by Ruth Walton and Freda Ballard – thanks again. Old and new friends met, plans were discussed, dances were danced and the only official social event of the Penguin year was topped off by our very own Quentin Hayes demonstrating morris dancing.

As usual the Committee meeting followed on the Sunday morning following its usual pattern but with one notable item – a New Cruise! My summary follows:

The club has long worried that our membership is getting longer in the tooth despite the Penguin ‘chicks’ that have been produced over the years. We do seem to have a paucity of members of the 20 – 30 year old group. The Committee have discussed this on and off, and as you may remember from some of my newsletters, it had been suggested that we contact the University Sailing Clubs to try to offer Penguin Sailing to students about to leave their existing University facilities who might otherwise be at a loose nautical end.

This I plan to do, but on discussion it became evident that with all the cruises we have organised booking up quickly, we might have little to offer them. As a result we decided to take the plunge and organise a specific ‘Student Cruise’ so that when I email out the Club Brochure and covering letter to the Universities at the end of March (timed so that they can think about it before they leave University either for the summer or for good) we can also include a booking form.

Graham Room has taken this up and has done the legwork to book 2 boats for the 19th-26th September 2009 from Alba at Dunstaffnage – a Moody 31 and a Westerly Corsair (36’). The cost is £260 for those under 25 and £285 for those older – an attempt to keep prices down to attract younger people. We have paid the deposit – if this turns out to be a disaster we will have to lose it, though I think the venture is worth the risk.

If we have failed to attract enough new members with this approach we will open the cruise up to the club members via my newsletters from 1st June.

I do hope that this 4th Penguin Cruise of the year will be successful in broadening our horizons in more ways than one.

I am contacting potential skippers – Graham and I felt it wise to seek a balance of male/female officers of preferably younger age – this reveals the initial problem of having less club members with these specifications! We will. Of course, be grateful for any help in making this new venture a success.

Keep in touch, and happy sailing!

Jonty Pearce