13/03/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Leeuwin II raffle sales strong

13/03/2007 - 22:00

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Sailing on the Leeuwin II has provided many high school students in Western Australia with a fairly inexpensive adventure over the years, principally due to the generosity of the ship’s sponsors.

Sailing on the Leeuwin II has provided many high school students in Western Australia with a fairly inexpensive adventure over the years, principally due to the generosity of the ship’s sponsors.

 

However, after 21 years of service, WA’s tall ship is due for a half-life refit, at a cost of about $2 million to its parent organisation, the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation.

 

Provided the foundation secures funding soon, the refit could take place next year, although that may change to early 2009 if state and federal grants fail to arrive in time.

 

In order to bridge the funding gap, the foundation recently launched a $500-a-ticket ‘Master and Commander’ raffle, to be drawn in early May.

 

The winner of the raffle will receive six hours of fully catered sailing on the Leeuwin II, for 100 people, at a date later this year.

 

Ticket sales are currently strong, with one individual having purchased 10 tickets.

 

Other sources of revenue for the refit will be the Leeuwin’s eco-voyages, offered five times a year, consisting of adults-only sailing trips to the Ningaloo region, the Kimberley and the top end, around Darwin.

 

While the organisation’s mission is youth development, 30 per cent of the Leeuwin’s services are catered to adults, with a profit structure to help subsidise younger sailors.

 

Eco-voyages have generated $200,000 in profit for the foundation since April last year.

 

The majority of funding for the Leeuwin II is derived from fundraising, corporate sponsorship, internal funds and private donors.

 

Like other not-for-profit organisations, the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation is not only missing out on the wealth created by the resources boom, but is adversely affected by the cost pressures the boom has created.

 

According to newly appointed chief executive officer David Biddles, part of his reason for joining the organisation was to investigate ways to tighten the fiscal belt.

 

“Like a lot of not-for-profits, we’ve got a cost-price squeeze,” he said.

 

“We’ve struggled a bit and our costs have gone up, our margins are getting tighter. It’s fair to say we’re feeling the pressure on this, but we’re not alone there.”

 

The former director of real estate agency Knight Frank came out of retirement to take on the CEO’s role, having sailed to Darwin on the Leeuwin and deciding to become a volunteer.

 

Mr Biddles said that, while the organisation was strong financially, its cash position was becoming more difficult, partly due to increases in the cost of food and fuel in the past year. 

 

The Leeuwin II uses about $80,000 worth of fuel a year, and incurs considerable expense for spare parts and maintenance.

 

Staffing is another issue, with the foundation competing against commercial operators, both locally and overseas, to recruit its permanent crew.

 

With salaries of $150,000 being offered for some fly-in fly-out workers in the mining industry, Mr Biddles said it was difficult to attract candidates for roles such as chief mate, which receives a salary of $50,000.

 

The Leeuwin II’s current captain was recruited from Ireland, as the foundation was unable to source a qualified operator in Australia, and is currently transferring his master’s ticket, which incurs a cost.

 

Mr Biddles said it would be impossible to run the ship without the organisation’s 800 volunteers.

 

The New Zealand-based sail training organisation, Spirit of Adventure Trust, is being considered as a guide for a business model, according to Mr Biddles, although the foundation needs to ensure there is a market fit for WA.

 

He said there was a global trend by organisations to offer shorter voyages in order to reduce costs, although shorter legs were more expensive to operate. 

 

“The impact is cheaper for participants, but your own costs go up, so whether it’s practical, it’s too early to tell,” he said.

 

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