Wind in North Harbour Club’s sails

Wind in North Harbour Club’s sails

That the North Harbour Club’s boundaries exist as they do can be attributed, in part, to long-standing member Ralph Roberts MBE.

The three-time Olympic sailor and former Chef de Mission was a visionary voice in the creation of Sport North Harbour and its regional remit, from which discussions with Club founder Ross Finlayson developed on establishing the boundaries of the embryonic North Harbour Club.

“I remember some heated debates taking place on Ross and Joan’s balcony overlooking Lake Pupuke,” recalls Ralph. “We were discussing where the Harbour region should start and finish. We decided to include the up-and-coming area of Albany, go up to Warkworth and include Helensville. There was even talk of including the other side of the Harbour Bridge at one point… but I think, in hindsight, it’s been more than likely a Godsend that we didn’t!”

With his wealth of sporting and Olympic team management experience, as well as community connections through family business Roberts Electrical, Ralph was a key influence in the Club’s creation, sharing ideas and knowledge he’d acquired from overseas and offering a wide lens perspective to local matters.

“My background was obviously in sport and that was where my expertise lay. I enjoyed sharing ideas and bringing back what I’d seen and learned; what was working well overseas. I think sometimes people thought my ideas were ‘a bit leftfield’ but it’s important to look at things with a wide vision.”

And he is full of praise for the founding vision that guided the North Harbour Club and its work. “Ross and Joan Finlayson were both very clear on wanting young people to benefit from the work of the Club across the many different fields we now see as part of the AIMES Awards. I thought that was wonderful.”

To see local young people now achieving such success in various disciplines through these prestigious awards is the ultimate highlight of 87 year-old Ralph’s long-standing club membership. His emotion is audible and visible as he describes attending the AIMES Awards gala events over the years.

“I most enjoy going to listen to the finalists of the AIMES Awards. The benefit this Club has given to our AIMES kids is wonderful. These young people are incredible. To be able to help them further their ambitions and achieve their dreams is… well, it’s marvellous.”

A devoted family man as a father of six, and adoring husband to Penny, a strong sense of belonging and a service to supporting others are integral to who Ralph is. His eyes sparkle when he also expresses the importance of having fun – and dreaming big.

To illustrate his values, Ralph shares Takapuna Boating Club’s motto: ‘To strive mightily and to eat and drink as friends.’ These words, he feels, align perfectly with the North Harbour Club and, indeed, with life itself.

Counting Sir Peter Blake and Sir Russell Coutts among his protégés, the North Harbour Business Hall of Fame Laureate, who has a Takapuna Grammar School building named in his honour to add to his MBE and Olympic glory, as well as being past President of both Yachting NZ and Takapuna Business Association, and Commodore of Takapuna Boating Club, Ralph has won not only the respect and admiration of a region, but a nation. He is a rare treasure – someone who has achieved a greatness worthy of his regal regard across the seas from Long Beach, California to Takapuna.

By Heather Barker Vermeer