Graham Raspass

Graham Raspass

DIRECTOR

What makes a proper English gentleman with a highly successful corporate career hang up his suit and tie for the life of a sailor?

For Graham Raspass, Director of Flagstaff Marine, the answer is the magnificent Sydney Harbour.

It was seeing our stunning waterways that made Graham realise it was time to get serious about his lifelong passion for sailing.

With his characteristic tenacity and drive, it wasn’t long before Graham turned his hobby into the flourishing business that is now Flagstaff Marine.

“After all,” Graham points out, “what could be better than spending all day, every day, as they say, messing about in boats?”

Passion and drive

Passion and drive

The first thing you realise when you meet Graham is his great ability to get stuff done.

So it comes as no surprise that he names Sir Frances Chichester, the first person to sail around the world using the Clipper route, as his hero.

Graham’s passion for sailing is met by his drive to succeed and an unceasing desire to keep learning and experiencing the water.

These traits explain how he turned his love of sailing into a full-time career.

“I thought, if I’m going to take this seriously, I need to learn how to sail,” says Graham. “So in 2003 I took myself off for some sailing lessons and then I got totally hooked. I quickly got myself a little East Coast 31 and spent all my spare time on Pittwater.”

It wasn’t long before the student became the teacher. “I qualified as a Yachting Australia Instructor and started teaching other people to sail. I just got completely consumed by the idea of sailing.”

Caught by the racing bug

Caught by the racing bug

Graham loves to race. He cut his teeth crewing during twilight racing on Pittwater. “At first I just sat on the boat and listened to the crew who seemed to be speaking a different language all around me.”

It didn’t take long before Graham was fluent in the language of sailing and stepped up to off-shore racing. He’s competed in a list of events as long as your arm, including multiple Hamilton Island Race Weeks, and Coffs Harbour and Lord Howe Island races.

Then of course there’s the ultimate event for any sailor – the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race – he ticked that one off the bucket list in 2013.

“My favourite regatta is Hamilton Island race week. It’s a wonderful week in a superb location and I love a long event. I like that you have more control over the outcome.”

Despite his impressive racing credits, Graham is modest about his abilities. “I consider myself an average sailor … but I was eager to learn and I was fortunate to meet highly accomplished and successful sailors along the way. They got me involved and let me make mistakes and there were plenty of those – there still are!” he laughs.

Dedicated to Beneteau

Certainly, it’s Graham’s drive and dedication that have enabled him to transition from novice sailor to the director of Flagstaff Marine – the exclusive Australian importer of the iconic boating brand, Beneteau.

For Graham, the association with Beneteau is one that stretches back to his early experiences on the water.

“As the owner of three Beneteau yachts, I have experienced first-hand what brilliantly designed, well built and high performance boats they are to sail,” says Graham.

It was this positive experience that led Graham to make Beneteau the boat of choice for SailTime, the shared economy business he founded in 2009, allowing sailors a membership alternative to ownership syndicates.

As Graham explains, “I chose Beneteau because I knew they were the best in the market and I wanted our members to have the best possible on-water experience.”

Like all good sailors, Graham knows how and when to take a calculated risk. In 2014 the golden opportunity to become Beneteau’s exclusive distributor presented itself and Graham didn’t hesitate to act.

“I ended up liking the brand so much … I bought the company with distribution rights in Australia,” he quips.

Giving back

Giving back

Graham has always made giving back part of his business and personal life.

“I am very aware that we are incredibly fortunate to be in the industry we’re in and we always try to find ways to give back to the community,” says Graham.

Before Flagstaff became a full-time commitment, Graham volunteered for Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol operating out of Broken Bay.

It’s an experience he credits for introducing him to the joys of power boats. “We had the single engine outboard rapid response boats and the huge sea going rescue boat, so we had the whole gamut of experience.”

Flagstaff hosts the annual Beneteau Cup Regatta where the proceeds of the silent auction go to Mercy Ships – the charity that runs mobile hospital ships around Africa.

Graham and his team also actively support Sailors with disABILITES, providing boats and crews and helping to promote their regattas.

Love for the water

Love for the water

Graham’s face lights up when he talks about being out on the water. For him every moment is special.

From the simple pleasures: One of the most magical times is to wake up on the boat,” he says. “I love that time when you come up the companionway, up on the deck, and the water is totally serene and placid.”

To unforgettable memories: “It’s just happened that we’ve arrived at Lord Howe at sunrise and it is really a magical experience. Lord Howe Island just appears out of nowhere in the open ocean and slowly materialises before you as the sun rises. It’s amazing.”

Or the thrill of sailing: “I absolutely love sailing on a moonlit night across a dark sea,” says Graham. “Your senses are heightened – you can’t see the sails in the traditional sense, so you have to feel the boat. Often you can’t see another boat – it’s just you and the ocean. I just love it.”

Where to next?

 

“To be honest,” says Graham, “I don’t think I’ve been to all the places I want to go.”

Right now his focus is on Flagstaff and developing his relationship with the Beneteau owners.

“It’s the people who make a difference,” he says, “the wonderful owners who I’ve become friends with. I love to hear the stories of their travels and their adventures. I love that so many Flagstaff owners make the trip north for winter … it’s great to see our clients out on the water living the dream.”

The water may be the reason Graham swapped his suit and tie for a polo shirt and cap. But it’s the opportunity to do what he loves each and every day, with people who share his passion, that keeps him messing about with boats.

With Flagstaff Marine, Graham has created a business that is a real time reflection of his passion and tenacity as a sailor.