An artist's impression of the dining space on the western deck of the refurbed Sorrento Couta Sailing Club.

The historic and prestigious Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club’s new multi-million-dollar home is set to open on Boxing Day in time for the start of the sailing season. While the final cost is yet to be determined, the initial $6m budget has been well exceeded because of significant increases in building, material and labour costs and substantial design changes, club CEO Henry Dyer told Club Management.

But in the three years since work on the redevelopment began, membership of the private club on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has jumped from 3000 members to its cap of 4500 members, most of those being young families, Dyer said.

“Thirty per cent of the new members are children or young adults, the rest are adult members,” he said. “Covid has been good to us. As soon as we reopen, we will 100 per cent have people wanting to join the waitlist.”

With a joining fee of $2288, annual standard membership at $915 and a building levy of $140, the new premises have been funded by members, alongside a fundraising campaign, which has raised about $350,000 of a $1 million goal. The club is also issuing Member Bonds to fund the capital works. 

“The demographic is quite well off. It’s a very popular club, most members are paying subs that are comparatively expensive compared to other clubs,” said Dyer, adding that the new facilities will be five-star.

Construction should be complete by Boxing Day, just in time for the start of the couta sailing season.

The club, which has revived the workhorse of Port Phillip Bay’s old fishing fleet, was established in the 1940s and has undergone several renovations in the past. But the footplate of the new club, designed by Melbourne-based architecture and interior design studio Carr, has been extended in two directions, allowing the restaurant, function and event areas, as well as administration offices and boating facilities, to comfortably expand with all taking advantage of spectacular ocean views and sunset vistas. 

“It’s (going to be) a mid- to high-end restaurant experience,” Dyer said, adding that as it is a private members club, with some in their 90s, it will not be open to the public. Members and sponsors are also expected to quickly fill up spots for weddings and events at the new venue.

In addition to the 40 moorings the club owns for its 20 RIBs and wooden-hulled power boats, a handmade wooden marina and jetty have also been built to service the couta fleet. 

A temporary clubhouse has been providing food and beverages for members while construction is underway. Couta boat and off-the-beach sailing has continued throughout the year uninterrupted.

“There wouldn’t be a better club in Australia in terms of facilities,” Dyer concluded.

An impression of the new bar and lounge of the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club overlooking Port Phillip Bay.

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