With marinas full, drinks iced and Hawaiian shirts pressed, the scene is set for the biggest ever number of entries to participate in the 9th annual Sail Port Stephens regatta from tomorrow and through to Sunday (April 11-17).
In a taste of what’s to come, around 35 yachts completed the Newcastle-Port Stephens feeder race today in perfect autumn conditions. Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) perfectly timed the start in Stockton Bite with a six-knot sou-westerly which gradually clocked to the east and settled at around eight knots.
The Lake Macquarie 36-footer Toy Story (Tom Woods) picked the shift to perfection and took line honours off Port Stephens Heads by 500 metres from the Farr 400 Ignition, just half a boat length ahead of the TP52 Frantic.
Toy Story claimed third on PHS, behind 2Xcess (Mark Scharfenberg, South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club) and Scots Wha Hae (Simon Macks NCYC). IRC spoils went to NCYC entrant Schouten Passage, with Rob Howard skippering, and ORCi to Black Sheep (Derek Sheppard CYCA) who also claimed third on IRC.
Starting tomorrow, the tempo for the first three days of Sail Port Stephens will be as relaxed as a Jimmy Buffett ballad as 51 pleasure yachts enjoy a leisurely sail in the Commodores Cup cruising series.
It’s a time for the production boats to shine, with Jeanneau, Beneteau, Bavaria and Hanse cruising yachts all rubbing gunwales with some well-known grand-prix racers. For many it’s their first time outside home waters.
From Wednesday the Junior Off-the-Beach One-Sail series kicks in for competitors aged under 18, broadening the regatta’s renowned appeal for families. Supported by Port Stephens Strata, there are 16 boats competing and late entries are accepted. Among the great prizes for junior sailors is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to sail on Wild Oats X.
Jewel in the crown for Sail Port Stephen is the Pantaenius-sponsored NSW IRC Championship, which has attracted an all-star fleet of 27 yachts – led by five TP52s. The Super 11 division is also using the event as its inaugural State title regatta. Racing starts Friday.
More than 50 registrations have also been received from Performance Racing and Performance Cruising entries vying for the Port Stephens trophy. Also sailing over the weekend are high-quality fleets of sports boats and MC-38s, sponsored by Newcastle Airport.
Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson is expecting light to moderate southerlies to prevail for the early stages of the regatta, weakening midweek into easterlies and turning to nor’easters from Friday.
“We have a good numbers and good weather so we’re looking forward to another great regatta,” he said. “We’re hoping to send the Commodore Cup boats offshore on at least one of the days and with nor’easters blowing the IRC boats will enjoy one of the best race tracks in Australia.”
A huge social calendar is planned for Sail Port Stephens, starting Monday night with a welcome party at the plush Anchorage resort and rounded off Wednesday with a Boardshorts and Bowtie beach ball at Salamander Bay.
This year’s series sees the debut of a Broughton Island passage race, taking yachts out to the pristine island 9km off the Port Stephens heads. Also new, Sail Port Stephens has linked with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) to raise vital funds for brain cancer research, honouring regatta mentor Roger Hickman who succumbed recently to a brain tumour.
The HMRI Cup will be presented for the Broughton Island Passage Race and proceeds from the ‘End-of-Season Sailebration’ evening at Broughtons at the Bay function centre will be donated to HMRI.
The Saturday night party is also the perfect tonic to cap off a great season before winter’s onset.
Sail Port Stephens is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, and Pantaenius’ major sponsorship continues for the third year.
– Mark Rothfield, Sail Port Stephens Media