Living right on Auckland’s magnificent harbour’s and beaches means our water-based sporting clubs have truly magnificent sites from where they conduct their activities. One of the very best spots is the home of Milford Cruising Club, on Milford Reserve overlooking Milford Beach and Milford Marina. The Channel Mag team love highlighting the special roles that our sporting clubs play in our community and very few are doing it better right now than the Milford Cruising Club, a club that has been around for almost 100 years.
As can be seen with the historic photograph accompanying this article, the original Milford Cruising Club was established in 1923 and a clubhouse opened in 1924. So it is a club steeped in history; a history they’re proud of – that clubhouse opening photo takes pride of place in the foyer as you walk in.
As a regular in Milford Reserve I had seen the improvements being made at the club and had heard about their recent growth, so in early April I went along to chat with current club Commodore Tony Sparks and club manager Christine Robertson. It was late in the day on a Thursday and the large first floor function area was set up for a sit down dinner for 80 people. I discovered that this happens every Thursday (it’s club night) and is very popular – with bookings essential. I could see why when I had a look at the menu on one of the tables. Three entrees, four mains and two desserts to choose from – Thai Mussel Pot, Pan Fried Hapuka and Apple and Feijoa Crumble would have been my order! Yum. ‘Anise’ do all of the club catering for their functions and are apparently top notch.
It didn’t take too long to discover that the passion, enthusiasm and organisation of those leading the club is at the core of their success. Both Tony and Christine were keen to accentuate that while this is a boating club their focus is on performing a strong community function.
“As a club we obviously have a big commitment to boaties and our junior sailing programme,” explained Tony Sparks, who is getting towards the end of his two year stint as Commodore. “These are funded by the overall activity in the clubhouse which makes doing it well very important.”
Milford Cruising Club has over 500 members with significant growth over the past 12 months. A large portion of the membership (around two thirds) are social members. Christine Robertson says locals see the club as a great place in Milford to have a meal or socialise over a drink or two.
You can see the membership attraction. Very affordable prices and when you sit down on their stunning new deck with views to Rangitoto (as I did for my chat with Christine and Tony), you don’t want to leave!
Tony says junior sailing is a strong focus of Milford Cruising Club. “We see our prime role as introducing young people to sailing in a non-competitive and family orientated environment. The club owns a good fleet of boats (Optimists and RS Fevas) and these are made available to the youngsters in our grass roots learn to sail programme which is every Friday and Sunday. We make learning to sail affordable for families so that parents are not faced with the expensive costs of acquiring competitive sailing dinghies for their children. We run school holiday programmes as well.”
The coordinator running the junior sailing programme at the Milford Cruising Club is Brianna Reynolds-Smith. Brianna is a professional sailor in the 470 class and placed 15th at the 2019 470 World Championship in Enoshima in Japan, seventh at the Enoshima World Cup and first female team at the 2020 470 New Zealand Championships along with partner Susannah Pyatt. Brianna will represent New Zealand at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics later this year.
Friday afternoons at the club are for junior sailing and as a result Friday evenings are real family nights with parents and members enjoying the hospitality on the clubhouse deck while there are kids and boats all over the place down below on the reserve.
“Friday can be chaos but we love it,” says Christine Robertson. “The place is buzzing with the kids, parents and often grandparents as well, having fun and enjoying the hospitality, with many staying for dinner. Saturday is also a busy day for sailing with the bar open from 4pm for members. We have fleet racing throughout the year and sometimes a barbecue at the club afterwards. For Sunday sailing we are open for barrista coffee and muffins.”
As club manager Christine runs the staff of 10 and ensures they are getting maximum revenue from the facility. In the two and a half years she has been in the role she has changed staffing away from the volunteer model to having paid staff. With good results.
“This is a fantastic venue,” says Christine. “We offer a full service, not just hall hire, for those organising an event. We plan your event with you from start to finish and arrange the seating to your requirements. We have a main function room upstairs that suits small and large groups for all types of celebrations from birthdays to weddings as well as corporate events and team building sessions. We also have a Community Room downstairs that seats up to 20. We offer a discounted rate for not-for-profit community groups.”
The club has had a close association with Takapuna North Rotary who use the club for their meetings on a Monday. There is also yoga on a Monday. Tuesday is ‘Handle Club’ for members, with many of the members enjoying this for 40-50 years. On Wednesday it is the base for the very popular Takapuna Harriers Rat Race.
The club also hosts many special events during the year. This month a Mother’s Day Brunch takes place on Sunday May 9th from 10am-2pm.
Well done Milford Cruising Club for the part you are playing in the community. If you are interested in becoming a member (social or sailing), or having your event at the club, then contact club manager Christine Robertson. All details are on their very comprehensive website that has been developed over the past 12 months.