Jovin Rausi
Sports Official

Thinker, sailor, husband, parent, grandparent.

Jovin rounded up this description of himself in these five words. He did not mention that he has also been working in insurance for 46 years mainly, he says, because he considers that the issue here is really about his sailing life, and describing his work life would take too long anyway!

Asked how this fixation with sailing came about he explained that at a very young age he used to accompany a carpenter friend of the family, who was commissioned to do repair work on the many wooden boats stored in a huge shed belonging to the navy, in exactly the same location where there is the Valletta Waterfront today. Young Jovin was allowed to roam freely amongst the boats stored in this shed and he gave free rein to his imagination that the entire contents of the shed were his own fleet and the thrill he enjoyed in ‘helming’ each and every boat was something which he remembers to this day. Perhaps too it was this experience which first implanted a lifelong love of boats and the sea, and which was willingly well and truly nurtured over the years to come.

Jovin’s father was a keen fisherman and of course Jovin did not miss the opportunity to go fishing too. It certainly beats having to do home-work, he says with a chuckle, because in those days, teachers used to give their students homework to do over the long Summer holidays, and, even though school was closed for three months the massive volume of homework was enough to (supposedly) keep students occupied and out of mischief. It did not work, he says.

Brought up in Sliema (in Stella Maris Street), he was just one minute away from Fond Ghadir, where he learned to swim fast after ‘falling’ in at the end deep from the edge of the rocks. Until that time he was only allowed to swim in the rock-hewn ‘bath’ and he was allowed to tread in four inches of water (very deep in those days) out to sea, right up to ‘Treasure Island’, which at that time seemed so very far away from the safety of the sea shore. He says that later, after many years absent from the area, he revisited this favourite site of his childhood, only to find that ‘Treasure Island’ is really only a metre away from the rocks and the bath was no longer than a foot deep. They are all still there today, and they are not an inch deeper either, except perhaps to other four year olds who have still to be promoted to the ‘deeper’ baths, until such time that they accidentally ‘fall’ into the deep end that is.

He remembers that his very first experience with sailing boats was sometime in the sixties when he was asked if he would help launch a friend’s new sailing dinghy for the first time. Jovin says that he was probably more excited that the owner of the boat and when he was invited to hop on board for his first sail ever, he was close to tears with excitement and pledged himself to buy himself a sailing boat.

Naturally enough, in bringing up his three kids, the sea was very much a part of the family, suffice it to say that his first sailing boat, a GP 14, provided a new thrill, not only for himself but also for his wife Rosalind, and their three children. They too were eventually all severely infected with the love of the sea, and which they all enjoy to this day, grandchildren included!

In the very same week that he bought the GP 14, he read in the papers that that weekend there was to be a dinghy sailing championships in Mellieha bay, at that time organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club and which was then the senior sailing club in Malta. Jovin was determined to participate because, he said, that in spite of only an afternoon’s lesson in sailing by the owner of the GP 14, he felt confident enough to participate. Leaving St Paul’s Bay from tal-Ghazzenin he launched the boat, aptly named “By Jove”, and sailed it single handed for the first time, in a force 6 ‘Gregale’, all the way to Mellieha. A distance which seemed so much longer in those days, while any thoughts of turning back were soon dispelled by an uncertainly on how to tack! Well, he made it to Mellieha without capsizing, much to his relief, but after the experience he decided that sailing was for him, and if he could do that feat on his first sailing experience, and single handed, nothing can possibly be any worse!

Dinghy sailing after that was at its zenith on the island, and soon there were Clubs organizing dinghy Regattas every weekend in Summer, and the introduction of do-it-yourself dinghy kits (Mirror Tens and Miracles) did much to raise the temperature of boat mania until in one dinghy Championship alone there were more than 120 boats on the water! That’s a great number for boats for Malta at that time. One must add that this was a time when the British services still has a presence in Malta and their keen sailors brought up, in tow by sea from Birzebbugia, their fleets of sturdy Albacores and Bosuns, to mix and compete with the ‘local’ Enterprises, Mirrors, Miracles, Lasers, Streakers, Moths, Swordfish and Marauders, each in their own class, but also on handicap against a hotchpotch of other boats such as Toppers, catamarans and many others. By this time other sailing clubs had flourished as well with sailors coming to the Championship from the Birzebbugia Sailing Club, Stelmar, Phoenicians, the Yacht Club. Now, that was a sailing bonanza!

A new Dinghy Club, the Ghadira Sailing Club, was spawned in Mellieha Bay in friendly rivalry with the historic and long established Birzebbugia Sailing Club and, by this time, the Malta Yachting Federation - now the Malta Sailing Federation - also came into the sailing arena as the anointed National Authority. This title was previously the domain of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and which purportedly was established as far back as 1835! In 1873 the Admiralty issued a warrant authorizing it to use the Blue Ensign, and we in Malta are proud to boast of such a Club, and which nobody can deny.

The Ghadira Sailing Club, he recalls, soon grew enough to become one of the largest dinghy sailing clubs on the Island and it fast became known to be have a reputation of being the ideal venue for all the family and where everyone could participate, wives included.

So much so, that in some cases wives were ‘swapped’ during racing! It was not the first time that in a husband/wife skipper/crew situation some angry words were heard being transmitted over the water (especially in calm seas!) during racing …… ’pull harder I said!’…..’let go the jib!…..’ the rope in cracking my fingernails!’….. ‘do not shout at me!’….Naturally enough some of these crews stormed off the boat at the end of racing, some even jumped overboard to swim ashore and others ended up in tears with the men muttering….’bah, women’!

Seeing that, when ashore, everyone was so courteous to each other a solution was suggested. Why not swap crews when racing and ask them to crew for someone else other than their own husbands!

To everybody’s amazement, it worked.!

Silence ensued during racing after that, men asked their ‘new’ crews if they were comfortable on the hard wooden bench, if their hands were hurting them, and .. “can you please let go a few inches on the jib” and they even helped them get off the boat after the race had ended! Marital bliss was soon reinstated, so very much to everyone’s satisfaction, and, most importantly, perhaps even amazingly, the crew was no longer being blamed for having lost the race!

Jovin was a founder member of the Ghadira Sailing Club, which was founded in 1975, and eventually staying on its Committee for 20 years, and as its Commodore for five years. He ended up also in the Malta Yachting Federation throughout those same 20 years, and besides other posts on its Committee he was also its President for some time. Walter Camilleri and George Busuttil were instrumental in staring in the setting up of the MYF way back in 1975.

On one occasion he was asked by Bennie Grech, who was acting on behalf of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and organizing the National Dinghy Championships, to help with the organization of a dinghy championship, and he stepped on board the committee boat to ‘assist’. He was immediately hooked to the organization of racing and he spent the rest of his days (and still to date) being involved in Regattas, but, as put it, he never stopped sailing.

The association with Bennie in organizing sailing events became a lasting one. Together they organised many events and they were a formidable team on the water. Bennie, together with Jenny Camilleri, did the ‘bridging’, and Jovin did the Rules and the Regatta organization. Jovin says that considering that he and Bennie were really rival officials from rival clubs, nevertheless they both worked well together and did so tirelessly for the sailing community and they took great satisfaction from having done all the major sailing events in Malta over a span of 25 years. They were both members of the Malta Sailing Federation and, as National Championship events were organised by the MSF, they had to work together!

Bennie gave a lot to sailing, he was totally dedicated to its development on the Island and his efforts are still appreciated by the sailing community to this day.

Jovin was for a time the MYF’s representative on the Malta Olympic Committee and also went abroad on several occasions to International events such as the Olympics in Los Angeles and many others, mainly accompanying Maltese sailors. Jovin was always, and still is, a great fan of the racing Rules and for many years he used to organize races and at the same time it was his job to adjudicate and hearing the ensuing protests between the racers (there was no one else at that time) as they clashed on the water. His first attempt at International Jurying as a National Judge, came unexpectedly at a 1983 (Martini) Middle Sea Race event, run by the RMYC, in 1983 after having been invited by John Ripard to form part of the International Jury. Jovin jumped at the chance to work alongside John Ripard. He says that he has learned much from such an experienced and internationally respected International Judge. Jovin was subsequently appointed National Judge by the MSF, whilst Peter Valentino was appointed International Judge by the International Sailing Federation and who is today carving for himself a well-earned reputation as a very efficient and hard-working member of the International sailing community.

Jovin was made responsible by the MOC and MSF to organize the Small Nations Games in 1993, and yet again in 2003. He was Chairman of the organizing committee for the Euromed International Championships for five years, and also Chairman of the Middle Sea Organizing Committee for 1998. He was awarded the National Sports Official of the Year in 1984, and when asked as to how many events he has organised over the years, he said that he had long since stopped counting after notching up two hundred events!

But, all good things come to an end. Dinghy racing waned for a time, and gone were those 120 boats on the water at Championship time. Where were all those hundred of home-built kits? The world of dinghy sailing world was evolving. The young sailors had grown up from boys to men, men had, well, grown, girl sailors has become women with jobs and with boyfriends who did not necessarily like sailing, and for a while it looked as though the red sails had really sailed off into the sunset.

In the meantime, windsurfing was quietly hitting the Island.

From that very first day in Mellieha Bay, sometime in the late 70’s when swimmers and boaters alike observed a man in the middle of the bay, seemingly standing on a plank of some sorts, and trying to hold upright a sail at the same time (they say that it was Paul Ripard), windsurfing hit the Island with a vengeance. It was once again boom time (pardon the pun) for sailing and everybody had a windsurfer after that. Agents imported them by the container load, windsurfing was first admitted to the Olympics as an ‘exhibition’ but soon became the centre of attraction (and to many a bone of contention) and windsurfers streaked across the globe, Malta no less, while dinghy sailing could hear its death tolls being rung and, for a long time after that , there was hardly any major dinghy racing at all although some traditional clubs valiantly hung on to what was describes as the ‘real sailing’.

It was a fresh new breeze which did not do dinghies any good. Some still even today blame Jovin for this, he says, as he immediately threw himself into organizing windsurfing races practically every weekend for many years. Everyone wanted to windsurf, and the agents did everything they could to do to promote this new craze and Jovin, and the Ghadira Sailing Club (of which he was the Commodore), were in great demand as sailors wanted them to organize their racing regattas, especially in view of the very keen rivalry existing then between the various stables of the competing agents, who all wanted to commercially promote their own brand of windsurfer on the Island. Windsurfing was as successful as anyone wished it to be. Our sailors, mostly ex-dinghy sailors, also did very well for themselves abroad. Peter Bonello became a legend in his known right, having finished in ninth place at the Los Angeles Olympics. Local regattas abounded as did International windsurfing events held in Malta, promoted no less than by Wilfred Sultana through the first of many editions of the Wishbone Championships, which started off in 1991.

Wilfred had a special knack and a great talent in attracting sponsors, and the problem was in trying to accommodate all the sponsors who wanted to promote their wares through a windsurfing Regatta! Wilfred is still at it, ‘inventing’ sailing events, the latest being yet another windsurfing racing event from Malta to Sicily and he gathered around him his own team of organizers, all experts in their respective field, and the events they organised together left nothing to desire. Roland Darmanin Kissaun was the escort fleet commander, Jeff Poulton was the navigation officer, Victor Calleja the appointed harbour master in Pozzallo (!), while Jovin did all the writing of the event Rules and the organizing of the racing event.

There were many other helpers of course, too numerous to mention. Such an event attracted the interest of many boat’s skippers who, although they knew precious little about sailing (in the case of Motor Yacht skippers), their escorted sailor to Pozzallo became their precious property and the enthusiasm generated in this event was something only matched by football and politics on the Island!

Eddie Woods however is the man really accredited with organizing the first real International Windsurfing event in Malta. This happened in January 1979 during the Mid-Winter regatta and held in the South Comino Channel, and organized by Jovin. And the Ghadira Sailing Club. “Naturally enough we were becalmed for four days” , he says! In a subsequent windsurfing event in the same venue in the following August they had a gregale - force 8!

Obviously there are many others who, over the years in those early days helped in this development, and, Jovin insists, he did not do it all alone. Names such as Chris Scott Taggart, David Caruana, Pat Iles, Jenny Scicluna, Sheila Calascione and Kate Formosa were all instrumental in fanning the flames of enthusiasm in this regard.

Now (in 2007), windsurfing has evolved too. There still is racing nowadays, perhaps not to the same extent as in the past - or so it seems, but it still attracts a great number of brave souls who can be seen at Mellieha, or along the coast road, and in Gozo, skimming (and now flying over) the waves in strong winds.

Dinghy racing is also picking up again thanks mainly to three dedicated clubs on the Island. This month (May 2007) saw several dinghy events, consisting mainly of Optimists (that cradle of sailing) and Lasers in its three different sized boats. These are the future sailors who will no doubt be the future Olympians. But his sailing activities are not restricted to being afloat. Some time ago when there was a real threat to Marina users, a few boat owners got together and formed the Malta Boating Association, which was meant to form a pressure group to look after the interest of the marina users. Jovin was of course not only roped in but he was also elected President for two years. He eventually handed over to a new Committee but once the crisis was over the Association became dormant.

Yet once again, a few years later he was recalled to deal with another problem. Together with other dedicated sailors they resuscitated the MBA for a year, solved the threat of the pontoons’ auction by the Ministry responsible, but the Association never got off the ground again, and the funds collected for legal fees (“we were never sent a bill”, he says, and he hopes the lawyer does not read this!) are languishing in a bank account in the name of the Association, until it is once again resurrected and the funds needed for the next battle-cry for Marina users. Jovin wonders whether a donation to charity will be in order here.

There were other funds left over from the first MBA too, he says.

He is also a founder member of the (now very powerful) European Boating Association. This was set up in 1991 with the purpose to create a powerful lobby to be made within the European Union to influence legislation on Maritime regulations and to have these standardized across the European ‘borders’. At that time it was not unusual to have varying safety regulation requirements changing from border to border for the poor boat-owner sailing from Italy to France, to Germany to Spain etc., and, this quite apart from many other issues such as VAT, duty free fuel, Certificates of Competence and many, many other matters, common to sailors across Europe, but not to their respective governments.

He says that he is very proud to have represented Malta in those first talks and many meetings abroad on the setting up of the EBA. Once the EBA was founded, the number of countries, now all EU members, increased considerably, as indeed did later the fees required to be a member of the EBA.

Obviously the Malta Sailing Federation did not have the money to spare for this, preferring instead, and perhaps rightly so, to utilize any precious funds on local sailors and their training for competition abroad, so Malta, one of the founder members of the EBA had to give up its seat on that prestigious forum. Pity.

Jovin’s boats had in the meantime grown up too! From a GP 14, to a Miracle (Mirror 12), to a 30 foot Phantom, to a 35 Benetteau and now an Oceanis Clipper 411 – I need the space, he says with a wistful smile, and with three grandchildren who seemingly already all have salt in their blood, he needs it too.

He laments that every time he invites some friends to sail with him on a regular basis, they enjoy it so much that they end up buying their own boat, and he has to start again nurturing and tutoring a new regular crew from scratch!

Syracuse is his favorite haunt in Summer and he says, “every time I go there planning to go further up the coast, I end up spending a week in Syracuse, even more so now that Syracuse is a much safer harbour and with much better mooring facilities”.

Asked about his racing successes he just said, - ask me another! For whilst he was an avid, and successful, racer in dinghies, the larger boats he bought were better suited for wining and dining rather than racing round the cans. If one wants to race today he must have a proper racing boat, and an even better and regular crew, he says. Unhappily, gone are the days when we used to race and fish at the same time. He still clearly remembers with a smile crossing the finish line under the Yacht Club and throwing tuna they caught during the race on the shore for the bridge crew to enjoy for their supper!

Jovin feels that there is a great future for sailing in Malta. The increase in fuel costs has encouraged some sailors to convert from power to sailing. The yacht racing scene is indeed very healthy and well served, promoted as it is by the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Other clubs such as the Vikings Club and the many other yacht events organised by the Malta Cruising Club do much to keep the sport alive. The new marinas at Manoel Island and at Vittoriosa also do much to promote the sport, but, it is not enough. Malta is constantly being discovered by the bigger boats and the trade in yachting has much to contribute towards the Island’s economy. Jovin says that what he really enjoys most in reminiscence of those days is to see those ‘young’ boys and girls today, now adults and parents themselves, pushing pushchairs and trudging along a family and to see their own older children taking up sailing, and these youngsters are now in turn at the same age as their parents were when Jovin first started organizing racing. And you know what, he says, at the last event at which he was jurying and judging earlier this month in a Birzebbugia Regatta, most of these young kids were actually there, and calling him by his name (and perhaps a few other names too) - just as their parents did 25 years ago!

People sometimes do not understand that there can be fun in organizing. The challenges, the responsibility, the teamwork, and the final thrill of a successful event and the smiles at presentation ceremony are sensations which only a dedicated organizer can really enjoy. Jovin says that he has seen many a good man, or woman organizer, give up in exasperation after not only not receiving any thanks, but some prefer to complain and blame the organization for their own shortcomings. Seemingly this can be the same in many other sports. Pity, he says. There is no money to be had in organizing, only personal expenses. Organizing is a different world where one mostly still has to pay his own way. If one is paid to do the job, somehow the fun goes out of it, at least that is what he feels. But he also strongly feels that organization for a race needs a strong leader and one who will give every event the same importance it deserves, irrespective of the size and number of competitors.

Still involved in the organization of the larger events, but now mostly judging and jurying, Jovin says that he is pleased to see a younger and new generation take charge. He just hopes that they will endure, and enjoy it just as much as he did.

Retirement? – Jovin replies with a wide smile to that question, saying,…perhaps!

 
Aaron Ciantar P1 World Champion
Craig Farrugia Vella Sailor
Dr. Adriana Vella, Ph.D (Cambridge) Conservation Biologist
Dr. Alan Deidun University Lecturer and Marine Biologist
Francesca Vincenti Sailor
Joseph Schembri (Bahhar) Circumnavigator
Jovin Rausi Sports Official
Mario Aquilina Sailor
Peter Valentino Sailor, Sport Official and International Judge
Roland Darmanin Kissaun As a yachting entrepreneur
Wilfred Sultana Journalist, Publisher and Events Organiser