Geoff Boettcher is a legend, not only to those that know him personally but amongst the South Australian yachting community, dedicating a large part of his time to the sport he loves. He’s a Foundation Member, ex Commodore and Board member of the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, with a sailing obsession spanning close to six decades.
The early years were spent sailing dinghies starting with Holdfast Trainers (Sabot with Jib) that were built by Geoff’s father in the back shed before moving into Gwen 12’s. It wasn’t long after Geoff began sailing, that surfing came into vogue, and with the call of South Australian beaches too hard to ignore, his sailing took a backseat for several years.
After a lengthy hiatus from the sport, which included time with the Australian Army, serving with 9 Battalion for 12 months in the jungles of Vietnam, Geoff came back to sailing with a vengeance and hasn’t stopped since.
At the age of 30, Geoff’s interests turned to keelboat racing and with that an opportunity to crew onboard ‘Adria’ a 48-footer in the 1975 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It was the first of many Sydney Hobarts for Geoff, where he went on to sail in the race 24 times, of which 15 were on board his own yachts.
From 1975 Geoff became a regular fixture on the keelboat scene, campaigning Etchell’s both in Australia and worldwide, particularly in the USA and UK, before purchasing a Davidson 40 called ‘Sundance’ at the age of 48, where he entered the Hobart for the first time with his own yacht and crew.
Enter the Secret Mens Business campaign – a programme known not only for their successful results, but as a group of people connected by their passion for sailing, and for having fun while they’re at it. It seems Geoff’s never been one to do anything by halves, and this campaign is nothing short of a world-class project that continues to evolve.
The first ‘Secret Mens Business’ was built in Port Adelaide in 1996, a 42-foot Murray Burns Dovell design and after successfully racing the first ‘SMB’, as they are affectionately known to those that race for or against the team, the next few yachts became progressively more advanced. The focus shifted entirely to performance, choosing to build these yachts at Mal Hart’s factory in Mornington, Victoria.
As the yachts became more competitive, it was then Geoff realised that it was time to step the calibre up and look outside South Australia for the crew – this meant his crew became a mixture of friends and a selection of ‘professionals’ – this was new to Geoff, but he knew that if he wanted to win, he had to have the best people on board.
The Sydney Hobart win in 2010 onboard Secret Men’s Business 3.5, a Reichel Pugh 51, reinforced to Geoff that having the right boat and sails coupled with experienced crew leads to the success of the programme overall.
Geoff says ‘As a career highlight and testament to our long standing crew, SMB 3.5 was shipped to UK in 2013 for the Fastnet race. The experience of competing in such an event added yet another sailing milestone to this long-running journey.’
Geoff credits the success of his current boat, Secret Mens Business 6, in particular to pushing the boundaries with existing sail supplier, Doyle Sails, and the inclusion of several professional sailors, ‘ I’ve found you must be on top of any new innovations that arise and having the right crew who are at the top of their game will lift the rest of the crew’s performance, resulting in an efficiently run yacht that gets results’.
Having Justin Ferris from Doyle Sails on board brings a wealth of experience, especially in racing TP52s. This gave me the opportunity to have my sails tailored to my boat entirely. He’s also at the forefront of evolving technology and is part of the proactive design team – we can maximise our boat speed without ‘breaking the bank’.
With the Australian sailing circuit becoming more competitive every year and the increase of TP52s in particular sailing on Australian waters, the development and innovation must continue for Geoff and his team if they want to keep up. Geoff originally wanted to purchase a newer TP52 but soon realised that he was sitting on a quality boat and with a few modifications she had a few more successful years in her.
Carbon Rigging and significant keel modifications were the first projects, with weight reductions in the rig, hull and keel bringing them close to the specifications of the latest TPs racing in Europe and in the Super Series.
Geoff matched this with some of the latest technology from Doyle Sails & Justin’s sought after coaching skills, where regulars were given the opportunity to learn, Geoff has been successful in matching the ‘pro yachts’ currently on the Australian circuit.
Right from the outset, SMB 6 was not an offshore boat, with the highlights of the racing calendar being regatta’s out of Geelong, Port Lincoln, Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach. Geoff remains hopeful that a TP52 regatta might also be on the cards towards the end of the year, once restrictions around sailing lift.
What draws Geoff to sailing, gets him out on the water time and time again and drives him to win? The love of sailing and everything it brings with it.
‘I truly am thankful I chose sailing as my sport. The comradery, physical challenges & pleasure I have received over these long years is second to none. I believe sailing also enhances your business or working life. The challenges of competitive sailing assist in your day to day lateral thinking in your chosen career. It definitely helped me assimilate back to a normal life after my active service in Vietnam’.
His passion and sense of humour always prevalent ‘I trust I can line up for a few more starts before the final finishing gun’.
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