With the announcement last week that the Longreach community is to host an Outback Yacht Club, many could be forgiven for thinking that seeing their dams filled for the first time in years has made the locals a little over-excited.
If you were to have driven over the bank of a turkey’s nest at Camden Park, east of Longreach, last Thursday evening and spotted some red sails in the sunset belonging to a tiny boat hitched to the bore water outlet, you might be forgiven for thinking it was a mirage.
It was all fair dinkum though and all in aid of building bridges between city and country, according to “commodore” James Walker, who conceived the idea along with his brother Dan and some urban mates in the depths of last year’s drought.
“We wanted to engage with city friends and we thought, what better way to go about it.
“It’s absolutely exploded – we’ve had tourist groups, yacht clubs and politicians all asking how they can be a part of it.
“This is the real deal – we’re launching it with a gala ball on October 1, and there’ll be a regatta, which we hope will be an annual event.”
James, who freely admits he’s never set foot in a yacht, says there’s no reason the fledgling club couldn’t aim for the America’s Cup.
“Landlocked countries have done it before – just look at Switzerland,” he teased.
One enthusiastic backer is John Clinton, founder and drummer of country rock band, the Wolverines, who is also the owner and skipper of Holy Cow, a Sydney-based racing yacht.
He has joined the Walker brothers in challenging other yacht clubs to come out and take in the view that racing in the outback offers.
“Who knows, by the end of this year the La Nina might have kicked in and we could have a lot of water to play with,” James said.
They are also searching for the perfect cocktail to serve at the October launch, to christen the Outback Yacht Club with and to set the tone for future events.
“We’re open to all suggestions,” said James, giving rise to plenty of offers of Georgina gin slings, Thomson River twisters, Barcoo brandy sours, and even Diamantina daquiris.
In all seriousness though, the idea is aimed at building linkages and understanding, and to help build resilience to adversity next time a drought kicks in.
Outback plus quirky equals tourism gold
Outback Queensland Tourism Authority general manager Peter Homan gave the Outback Yacht Club idea his seal of approval, saying it was a watertight idea.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s great for tourism, which is always looking for quirky ideas, and this is good for locals to get into too.”
He said tourism was rewarding in that it was giving people options for income in hard times.
“It caters for all age groups and there’s not many businesses that don’t get something from it.
“It’s important to be innovative though. There’s a lot of product out there so you have to be at the front of the game to get in front of people.”
Once established, the club will join the Lake Eyre Yacht Club on the circuit. After being in remission since 2013 due to the lack of water, the club’s membership of 220 from around Australia, the UK, US and Germany conducted a race day near Mungeranie on the Birdsville Track in April.