Port Stephens, NSW will be packed to the gunwales from April 4-10 as a record number of racing yachts will be joined by an armada of dinghies and Windsurfers for the annual Sail Port Stephens regatta.
In fact, fittingly for its 15-year celebration, the event will be the largest yet. At the close of entries, 121 yachts had entered the Bannisters Port Stephens Commodores Cup series, while around 130 will line up for weekend racing – even before counting Tasars, Finns, Windsurfers and other off-the-beach classes sailing from Bay Sailing Centre.
Boaties are overwhelmingly choosing Port Stephens for its combination of superb sailing and socialising. The Bay, as it’s known, is close enough to Sydney and the east coast capitals to be convenient and affordable for visiting vessels, while worlds apart from city life.
Crews let their hair down the moment they arrive and soak up the holiday vibe and pristine natural beauty. It has also been rated the best racing track in Australia by many good judges, offering a wide variety of courses on protected waters.
Broughton Island, nine nautical miles north-east of the Port Stephens entrance, is as picturesque as any Pacific Isle, and yachts get a close view during sailebration Saturday of the regatta. Principal race officer Denis Thompson has more than a dozen other inshore and offshore courses at his fingertips for the week-long regatta, providing competitors with an array of conditions and scenery.
The Bannisters Port Stephens Commodores Cup is cruiser-racer heaven for yachts as large as a Beneteau Oceanis 62 down to 7.8m trailer sailers. All the major production brands are represented – Bavaria, Beneteau, Dufour, Hanse, Jeanneau and more.
Following a layday on April 7, during which a Making Waves fundraising lunch is held, racing kicks up a notch with the Port Stephens Trophy series for performance cruising and racing yachts, the Yachting NSW Championships with 17 starters and Fareast 28R Nationals. The Performance Cruising division has almost 90 entries alone.
Bay Sailing Centre at Soldiers Point will also host the 2022 Tasar NSW Championships, along with Finn dinghies and Windsurfers. The upper floor of the centre is the perfect place to watch sailing as it has a café serving coffee and snacks.
This is only the second year of the Off-the-Beach component and already it is building momentum in the same way that the 2008 Sail Port Stephens regatta featured only 25 yachts then quickly blossomed.
In addition, pre-event satellite regattas staged at Bay Sailing Centre included the F16 National Championships and Laser Masters NSW Championship (120-plus boats), while the RS Aero Class Intergalactic Championships are this weekend (April 2-3).
The Australian Sports Boat Association is holding its Nationals on 26-29 May with Port Stephens Yacht Squadron, again a satellite event.
Social aspects will comprise a Monday night welcome party supported by Windcraft Yachts and a disco-themed ball for the Commodores Cup presentation evening. Thursday’s break allows crews to experience the tourism attractions or attend a Making Waves fundraising lunch. Post-racing events are also held Friday and Saturday.
Port Stephens residents are welcome to watch the racing, Saturday being the best time as a huge community day is planned at d’Albora Marina Nelson Bay, with TrySailing for kids 6-12, kid’s activities and live music.
Sail Port Stephens is supported by the NSW Government through Destination NSW and subsidiary sponsors.
For more information, see: sailportsephens.com.au.
By Mark Rothfield