As for a first major national mission, this was not more important for John Parrish.
Parrish was Race Officer for the 1982 470 Nationals at Lake Taupo, when David Barnes, Hamish Willcox, Murray Jones and Leslie Egnot lined up.
“It was the who’s who of New Zealand yachting at the time,” Parrish recalled. “As a rookie race officer, they took care of me.”
He is no longer a rookie and last month Parrish received a World Sailing Service Award medal in recognition of his contribution to the sport. In many ways, it was a joint award, as his wife Linda had been in the game since John’s first regatta in 1976 at his local club at the time, the Lake Taupo Yacht Club.
Parrish has competed in six Olympics, including last year’s in Enoshima when he was responsible for everything on the water outside of racing, around 15 world championships, various World Cup events, countless national championships and events like the Asian Games and South Pacific Games.
“It’s nice to be recognized for doing something that we really love,” he said. “We do race management because we value it and the large group of friends and colleagues we have in New Zealand and around the world.
“Any volunteer is there because of the social interaction with their colleagues. We have met and will continue to meet wonderful people and that is what this is all about.
One of Parrish’s greatest contributions has been training in race management, both nationally and internationally. Both John and Linda began delivering Yachting New Zealand’s Race Management Seminars in 2003 and in 2006 John became a World Sailing Instructor, training many local officials ahead of the Olympics.
He is also on various World Sailing committees and is Chairman of Yachting New Zealand’s Race Officials Committee.
After many years of organizing their lives around the sailing calendar, which proved difficult when John was a teacher, John and Linda will begin to take a step back from international refereeing. John’s declined an invitation to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics, believing it is time for others to
“I don’t think anyone in their 60s can assign a starting line to professional sailors in their 20s and 30s,” he said. “You have to know your own limits.
“We don’t want to burden anyone but we hope to continue doing race management in New Zealand, if the people want us, because it gives us a lot of fun.”
It will mean more time sailing on their yacht, Toyshop, which has also been integral to their racing management career. In fact, the pair spoke to Yachting New Zealand from Kawau Island, having been away since Boxing Day.
Yacht clubs are constantly looking for volunteers to become race officials and John and Linda encourage anyone to give it a try, largely because of the people they have met and the experiences they have had.
They would have no idea where it would have taken them when they started 45 years ago and the World Sailing Service Medal is a fitting recognition of their contribution.
Yachting New Zealand’s Introductory Courses – Introductory Race Umpiring Course and Club Race Officer Course – are now online so aspiring Race Officials can take them at the time and speed that suit them. You can find more information about it here.
You can find more general information about race officials here.