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Jack Gale, a sailing administrator who was greatly admired
and respected throughout the world, died quietly at Mona
Vale on July 8, just three-months shy of his 91st birthday.
Universally known as Mr. Prince Alfred, Jack enjoyed the
unique distinction of rising through the ranks of the Royal
Prince Alfred Yacht Club where he started as caretaker and
eventually become Secretary Manager. In the 35 years between
1956 and 1991, his name became synonymous with the club. He
personified, in the best possible way, the affable, enthusiastic,
can-do approach to sailing that has always been central to the
Jack was a life-long sailor who wisely insisted that yacht
racing should not be an all-consuming passion but an enjoyable
pastime underpinned by the sheer pleasure and indeed the
considerable privilege that he always felt in being afloat in a
breeze on Pittwater, one of the world’s most beautiful waterways.
His extraordinary contribution to the club cannot be over-
estimated. He was a newly married 30-year-old when he started
work as the live-in caretaker at Green Point in February, 1956.
Although the job came with a modest annual salary of £350,
he and his wife, Joan, were also given the use of a newly-built
three-bedroom timber cottage attached to the Boat Shed.
Caretaking was but one of the many jobs he took on and
handled with boundless energy and professional skill. Jack
was personally involved in everything: running the day-to-day
affairs of the club, slipping boats, organising catering and fuel
sales, driving the tender and manning and maintaining the
And as if that were not enough, cleaning and maintenance
were also listed among his general duties. It was a 24/7 job and
fortunately for the club, Jack loved each and every moment of it.
He became Secretary of RPAYC’s Pittwater Division in 1957
and super visor of the Club’s undertakings at Green Point in the
same year. In 1958 he was appointed House Manager and in
1970 Yachting Secretary. In 1972 he became General Manager
of RPAYC’s Pittwater Division and in 1978 Secretary Manager, a
position he held until his retirement in 1989 when her became
In recognition of his extraordinary service, the club awarded
him a well-deserved Life Membership in 1994 and named the
Jack Gale Sailing Centre in his honour.
Born in Berala in western Sydney in 1926, he was the
youngest of three sons in a family of six children brought up
in a tiny weatherboard cottage perched on the edge of the
main south railway line. He and his brothers walked barefoot
to school and scavenged the tracks for lumps of coal for the
cast-iron stove in the kitchen that also served as their only
source of heat in the winter.
In 1936 the family moved to Narrabeen and what must
have seemed like the far side of the moon to the Gale siblings.
There, in a rented fibro cottage, they saw out the hard-scrabble,
hand-to-mouth years of the Great Depression. Jack and his
Jack Gale on board Alfred’s 1 for the 2017 Old Timers Race.
elder brothers, Colin and Keith, slept three to a bed “two-up
From a very early age, each of the Gale children was expected
to take on whatever odd-jobs they could find to help supplement
the family’s meagre income.
“ We had very little,” Jack recalled, “but our parents did all
they could to make sure that we were clothed and clean and
never went hungry. I had plenty of mates who were much less
fortunate. In primary school, kids who had nothing to eat,
would crowd around to cadge the crusts from my lunchtime
“Others begged for my apple cores and scoffed them down,
pips and all. You tend not to forget those formative experiences.
In my case they coloured my entire life. I learned early just how
hard money was to come by, with the result that throughout
my life I never squandered a penny.”
On October 24, last year, Jack hosted a memorable 90th
birthday party in the Alfreds’ Edinburgh Room. Over 100 close
friends and family came to celebrate with him and to pay their
respects. Jack was asked to reflect on his life both at the club
and afloat. What was the secret of his success?
“I can sum it up in just two words,” he said. “ Don’t argue!
“I was able to get on ver y well with most people and
whether it was in the tight confines of a racing boat’s cockpit
or around a boardroom table, I found my ability to stay calm
and never, ever argue, was one of my greatest assets. I’ve raced
with some very talented helmsmen who were also notoriously
“I invariably found it best to focus on my job and not to
become embroiled in any silly tit-for-tat with the blokes in the
back of the boat. You can go through it all in the bar after the
race if you like, but out on the water I found it best to just let
it go. In one ear and out the other.
“Life is not a dress rehearsal. Each of us is on-stage for
one performance only.
“ The best advice I can offer anyone, either at sea or ashore,
is simply to do your best, make the most of every opportunity
and enjoy every moment while you can.”
Jack Gale is survived by two devoted sons, Geoff and Robert.
He will be deeply missed by ever yone with an interest in boats.
h Bruce Stannard
MR. PRINCE ALFRED
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