Story & picture by Debra Douglas, extracted from the Autumn Breeze magazine – read the online version here.

Sailing Office Volunteer Race Management member Samantha (Sam) Knights and her family came to New Zealand from the UK in 2019 to stay for just a little while. That stay has now become permanent.

“We wanted a better life for our children, Freddie (14) and Millie (12),” said Sam. “We knew New Zealand was great for sailing and, as we have a passion for horses, we knew New Zealanders were also great riders, so it ticked all the boxes. We have now fallen in love with the place.”

Sam’s sailing experience includes racing Sigma 33s in national and European championships in England, Ireland and Scotland. She has competed in one of the largest yacht races in the world, the annual Round the Island Race (around the Isle of Wight) and cruised the south coast of England in her father’s Hallberg- Rassy blue water yacht.

It was this sailing background that provided the right qualifications for Sam to join the Squadron’s 2021 America’s Cup Volunteers Team.

Sam: “The AC training was phenomenal. We had great trainers for handling the 9m Rayglass Protectors. We learned all the nuances of the Hauraki Gulf and, as I was not familiar with the Gulf at that point, it was a huge learning curve. It was cool to be selected and great for the self-confidence.

“It was a fantastic experience, becoming a full-time job for several months. But when the Cup was over, well, it was over. That was it. I was at a loss to know what to do next. The Squadron then said because of our experience and skills, we would be welcome to volunteer for the Race Management team.

“We were thoroughly welcomed and I’m working with very talented, kind and patient individuals, some of whom have been involved for a long time.”

Now training to be a Race Officer, Sam says she is again learning new skills, for example, flag sequences, starting and finishing races, reading the weather, laying marks and driving the Squadron boats Tiri and Pembles.

“I love working with Principal Race Officer Megan Kensington. There is so much to learn from her. She is so calm, with a great sense of humour. We can have some very long days, but it can still be really good fun out on the water. There’s great banter. Ever yone is professional, but at the same time everyone is still enjoying themselves. And if you are not having fun as a volunteer, then you have to question why you are doing it.”

Sam, whose day job with the NZ Sailing Trust involves organising sailing opportunities and challenges for teenagers, would like to see more young people join the club’s volunteer team and receive the formal training to become active, proficient participants.

“It’s a chance to learn a new skill set and become passionate about doing things to a professional standard.

“It is also important Squadron volunteers are recognised. The racing can’t go ahead without us.”

• Volunteers are essential for running all of our events and are the lifeblood of the club.Without our volunteers it wouldn’t be viable to run all the races we do.We are looking for people who are keen to get involved with mark laying, umpiring, boat drivers, time keepers and race officers. If this sounds like you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Zak Merton (zmerton@rnzys.org.nz). We can offer all the training required.