The history of the Milnerton Aquatic Club
Rietvlei is the largest wetland in the South Western Cape and is home of the Milnerton Aquatic Club which, after the inaugural meeting on 20th October 1976 was ‘afloat’. Rietvlei was declared a nature conservation area in 1984. In the lee of the mountain and with the backdrop of Table Mountain and situated in the surrounds of the mother city, Cape Town, MAC is splendidly sited.
The objective of the club is to encourage aquatic sports in all its activities with a strong accent on conservation. The area is a haven for many types of waterfowl and is especially renowned for its Pelicans. Hence the logo of the club is a white pelican on a green burgee. The original entrance to the club and launch area was from Otto Du Plessis Drive and the ground that the clubhouse is now situated on used to be a cattle kraal, which at first made walking barefoot a ‘dodge the dung’ exercise. The original members firmly believed in the growth of aquatic sports and strived, often against trying bureaucracy opinions and under difficult circumstances and lack of funds to build the club for the enjoyment of the present club members who are maintaining the spirit of aquatic sport today.
Milnerton Aquatic Club originally had two disciplines, sailors and power boaters. It is usual practise for yacht clubs to have only a Commodore and a Vice Commodore, but with two disciplines the club felt that it would be suitable to have a Vice Commodore from each section plus a Rear Commodore from each section. Once board sailing became a popular sport in 1981 and their numbers grew, the club found themselves with three disciplines in 1987 and ‘top heavy’ with Flag officers so the number of flag officers were reduced and the club reverted to having a Commodore and only one Vice Commodore and then a Rear Commodore from each section.
Milnerton Estates owned the Rietvlei along the west coast of Milnerton. In 1970 the South African Railways and Harbours purchased some seventy hectares (most of which was vlei). This was for the purpose of removing sand to reclaim areas surrounding what is now the Ben Schoeman harbour in Cape Town. Pump stations were built along the coast between Reitvlei and the docks and in 1973 and 1974, seawater was pumped into the area and the resulting slurry pumped back into the harbour. This left an excavation of approximately seventy hectares with an average depth of nine meters. The area being vlei, flooded each year with the commencement of the winter rains. This with the seawater pumped into the area, gave what was at first a saline lake, but annual floodwaters made it brackish.
The club has steadily grown from the original membership of thirty-three to fluctuate between 600 to 650 members to date. The club has become well known among the board sailors from Europe and during the summer months the club gains another 40 to 50 members each year. Until 1986 the club controlled the entry of boaters at the gate and maintained the safety on the water, thereafter the then Milnerton Municipality took over the control of the public entering the area and the safety on the water and they still maintain the control.
The club members have throughout the years been active competitively and the club can boast of having nineteen members with South African Colours and fortysix members with Provincial Colours to date. The club can even boast at having had Cliff Richard ski at Rietvlei. Peter Howarth while skiing at MAC had the opportunity to offer the club’s facilities to Cliff who after donning his skis and life-jacket shouted “I’m going on a summer holiday” and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the afternoon along with Peter and his friends. On departing Cliff said that this was one of the best venues he had had the opportunity to ski at.
Junior sail training commenced in 1984 when MAC purchased five Optimist dinghies and presently the Sail Training courses are so popular that there is a waiting list, not only for the juniors but also adults wishing to learn to sail. The Power and Board Sailing sections also hold training courses and the Ski Clinic is ever popular with the teenagers while the Board training attracts older pupils. Throughout the years various classes of dinghies have been sailed at MAC, some classes have survived the test of time while others have fallen away. However, the club has now become the home of the annual MACS Shipping 24 Hour Challenge Sail.
MAC can also boast of a number of firsts:
1984 – The official S.A.Record of Endurance sailing of 30 hours nonstop in a Laser was established.
1985 – The first B.A.S.A. Boardsailing Instructors Course held in S.A. was at MAC
1987 – Deidre Killian 16 years, a club member, became the youngest off shore pilot in S.A. in the grueling Granger Bay to Hout Bay and back to Granger Bay power boat race.
1990 – A postal stone dating back to 1524 was unearthed at MAC (replica and story is on show at the Table Bay Nature Reserve Rietvlei Buliding).
1993 – MAC was the first club in the Western Province to host an Inter-Provincial Power Boat race meeting. MAC also hosted a Formula One Power Boat Race.
1996 – The Board Sailing Speed Record was broken and a new record set at 32.85 knots.
The clubhouse itself brings members together for meals on a Wednesday and Friday evening and over the weekends and if the Wetstart Pub had ears, it could tell many a yarn. The swimming pool and playground keeps the youngsters occupied when not boating. For many years Volley Ball teams were the order of the day on a Sunday afternoon at 16h00 when spectators lined up on the steps of the verandah to cheer their favourite team. Henry’s Heroes were then the unbeaten team of the moment (playing to their own rules!). I wonder if Ian Henry’s team members are still around and if they could still maintain their victory?
The history of the first 21 years of MAC has been recorded in detail, in brochure form and is available from the club secretary, Dawn, for reading for those who are interested in wanting to know more about the club’s growth.
9 Sep 2008