Island time as Sail Port Stephens fleet heads offshore

It was island time for day two of the Commodores Cup, as a 10-knot sou-easter allowed crews to get a taste of the blue waters and surfing beaches off Port Stephens.

Starting off Nelson Bay breakwall, the popular Three Islands course took the 78-boat fleet on a scenic loop around Cabbage Tree, Boondelbah and Little islands located just outside the heads.

Conditions once again favoured the slippery, light-displacement boats, with Pittwater’s Showtime (Mark Griffith and Campbell Letchford) claiming its second line-honours/handicap double to stretch its lead in Division 1.

The Ker 40 crossed the line over nine minutes clear of the fleet to stay ahead of the PHS handicapper. Second across the line was Anthony Paterson’s giant killing Melges 32 Tow Truck, which kept the 61-footer Margaret Rintoul V and canting-keeled Farr 36 Toy Story at bay.

Michael Rowe’s 9-metre Bullet claimed second on Division 1 PHS, edging out Cronulla yacht Sea Hawk. The result, however, moved Sea Hawk, an IMS-era Farr 44, to second overall in the division after yesterday’s 2nd placing.

“We’re having an amazing run with this boat, certainly sailing a lot better than last year,” skipper Peter Van Ryn said. “We replaced our 11-year-old mainsail this year and the boat has more power now, but we’re still surprised at how well we’ve gone in the light.”

The yacht is one of four from Port Hacking and Van Ryn is loving the week of racing. “Why wouldn’t we?” he added. “It’s such a nice regatta and they run it so well.”

Tow Truck is sitting third in Division 1 on PHS with nine points.

Division 2 had another lightweight bolter in the Melges 24 Knot Ready, which has been chartered from host club Corlette Point Sailing Association.

Skippering today was Brendan Brown, an expat Australian who has lived in Zurich, Switzerland, for the past 20 years. Also on board is high school mate Adam Manders, along with Fletcher Johnson and Graeme Dunlop from Melbourne.

“I thought I’d come here to escape the cold,” Brown said. “It’ fantastic to be here, especially with the warm temperatures. Last week in Switzerland I couldn’t antifoul my own boat [a J24] because it never got warmer than 9 degrees.”

The passage race formula enabled the crew to get the trim right and maintain boat speed. Surfing home under kite they hit a top speed of 9.3 knots in 10 knots of breeze, holding off a Melges 32 until just before the finish.

The crew are using the Commodores Cup as tune-up before the Australian Sports Boat Association Nationals start at Sail Port Stephens on Friday, taking turns on the helm to see who works best in the different roles.

With one race remaining, the Division 2 overall leaders are Amante on 4 points, Austral on 8, and Excapade on 10.

Gosford’s All Our Girls, a Southern Ocean 32, triumphed in Division 3 after posting a 14th in Race 1, edging out Derek Sheppard’s tiny Spider 22 Black Sheep, which was a creditable third over the line.

It moved the consistent Black Sheep to the Division 3 lead with one race remaining.

“The weather was favourable for us today because the bigger boats struggled to get through the swells at the heads,” Sheppard said. “One thing we noticed though, being half the size of everyone else, is that we just about got lost in the troughs.”

Sheppard, from Port Kembla, has downsized from a Beneteau 45 for this year’s regatta. “I sold the big Black Sheep about six weeks ago. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to buy next, but we knew we couldn’t miss Sail Port Stephens,” he added.

“We thought the Spider would be a bit of fun to play around on in this regatta and the 50th anniversary Marlay Point regatta. That said, we were a bit worried this morning when none of us could move after one race in 5 knots of breeze.”

Black Sheep sits on 5 points from Clean Sweep on 8 and Macscap on 9.

All division outcomes can potentially change with tomorrow’s final Commodore’s Cup race.


Sail Port Stephens is supported by the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, along with Port Stephens Council, Pantaenius Insurance and Garmin.

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West Systems
West Systems