Sailing on....at 90.
When John Cameron turned 80, he thought to himself he may get another 5 years of sailing in.
Ten years have past since that though occurred and in his 90th year, John is still taking the helm of his Jubilee One Class Design yacht, Manana II and sailing on Lake Wendouree, not just competently but competitively. Often working the main sail as well as the tiller, his boat skills and tactical abilities are well known and respected at the Ballarat Yacht Club.
The Cameron brothers belong to generations of beef, wool and grain farming in the Meredith district, where the brothers are still running successful farming operations. Neil’s family has diversified and built a well know goats cheese production facility. The farming heritage, has given the Cameron brothers true grit and sharp minds and the skills to always take on a challenge.
Innovation and progressive agricultural and farming practice has also been a hallmark in the family since the late 19th Century. Their Grandfather on their mothers’ side, Victorian born, John Gordon Browne was a successful Queensland grazier, before he unfortunately was left paraplegic through a farm accident.
Their father Neil Wilson Cameron, owner of Glenspead, a beef and wool property near Meredith, married John Gordon Browne’s daughter Kathleen in April 1925. The Cameron’s became active members of their community and were well know for their generous spirit and hospitality. Kathleen Cameron was greatly involved in Country Women’s Association of the World, conservation and land management, environmental organisations and the CWA in regional Victoria and was appointed OBE in 1970 for services to the community.
John recalls, like many families in that era, the difficult times brought on by the world wars, the depression, the downturn in wool prices and difficult financial markets and the need for families to be self sufficient to ride the waves of uncertainty. “ The milk, vegetables, eggs and meat came off the land and a bit of tea or sugar is all that could be afforded from time to time.”
John Cameron and his younger brother (by two years) Neil started sailing in a ‘Cadet dinghy’ in 1946 at Sorrento. In 1950 the brothers purchased their first Jubilee, ‘Manana I’. The boat was crashed in a collision on the bay, not until it had served them 50 years of irregular weekend sailing, including many long races such as Sorrento to Mornington and the South Channel race. They would sometimes, just fish for flathead.
Farming is not always smooth sailing, Neil Cameron once had to navigate a 70 knot blow up on the bay with big waves and strong tides, the Jubilee handled it well. They are designed for sailing on the Bay. You need to have your wits about you to deal with any sudden challenges than can occur.
It has been said that sailing can be similar to farm management, you need to think ahead, assess the prevailing weather conditions and minimise any mistakes when putting into action, whatever plan you decide is required to improve your outcome.
The Cameron brothers have been irregular sailing members of the Sorrento and Ballarat Yacht Clubs for many years.
John Cameron believes “to be good at sailing you need to concentrate on the job at hand, stay in tune with the sudden and variable changes of wind direction and velocity, trimming the sails and adjusting the boat direction to maintain the boat speed is critical …if you are at the back of the fleet you can plan an attack on the boats in front, it is a good challenge.”
“ When I come to the yacht club, I leave diverse agricultural worries behind and I have one thing in front of mind, I can isolate and focus and do the one thing well, sailing. Being at the club is also a good way to meet folk outside of your own sphere, the people at the club are friendly, inviting and spirited we always look forward to getting out under sail, mostly on Lake Wendouree nowadays.”