The weather was perfect for the start of the Pantaenius Newport to Coffs Coast Yacht Race 2017. A 15 knot east north easterly breeze, a clear sunny sky and a low swell greeted the fleet at the start line between Lion Island and Barrenjoey Headland. The Royal Motor Yacht Club (RMYC) Commodore, Chris Lee, signalled the start of the race at 1pm with the firing of the cannon from the back of the VIP boat, Water Lou.
The start was clear with About Time and Shakti getting away in a perfectly judged crossing of the start line. There were two minor incidents. All Sail Another Challenge was a little too eager to get going and misjudged their run to the start line. This OCS (on course side) infringement was spotted by the eagle eyes of principal race officer Dennis Thompson forcing All Sail Another Challenge to head-back around and restart their race losing a couple of minutes on the rest of the fleet. Stampede, one of the smaller boats in the fleet suffered a genoa halyard breakage and were forced to lower their headsail and fix the problem before catching up with the rest of the fleet.
Lots of spectator craft where present taking advantage of the ideal weather conditions to watch the start of the race and then escort the fleet a short way beyond Barrenjoey Headland.
On board the VIP boat, Water Lou, the Commodore and directors of the RMYC and their wives were wined and dined by owners Louise and Ken Muir while they watched the start of the race. Joining them on board was Vivien Lattimore and Dianne Mc Donald who relaxed in comfort while watching their partners and co-owners, Johnathan Lattimore and Michael McDonald of Stampede, jostle for a good position at the start.
The fleet started in a tight knit group and by 1900hrs the leaders, About Time; a Cookson 50 and Shakti; a Rogers 46, were making good headway and approaching Stockton Bight just north of Newcastle. Close behind the leading boats was a group of 3 boats with a close battle being played out between Swish, Anger Management and Elena Nova. While in the lee of Port Stephens the boats got some protection from the strong southerly current but as night fell they were forced to tack away from the coast to get around Point Stephens which left them exposed to the current.
Skippers were hoping that the north east breeze would hang in but by nightfall the breeze had lighten considerably and left the fleet tacking and looking for breeze in the early morning. There was more wind out wide but more current. In the morning the boats still tucked in behind Seal Rocks were feeling less of the current but soon had to tack out to get around the point.
With still 100 nautical miles to go the first boats are expected in after midnight today but with winds predicted to ease even further the boats are more likely to cross the finish line at Coffs Harbour early tomorrow morning.