Matrix will meet James Bond when the 2017 NSW IRC Championship gets underway at Sail Port Stephens on April 7, as new event sponsor Garmin continues to transform science fiction into sailing fact.
Best known in the marine industry for its GPS chartplotters, fishfinder/sonar technology and radars, the electronics company is now infiltrating the high-performance yachting market in a big way following the buyout of instruments manufacturer Nexus.
They’re even an official supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand and several America’s Cup teams, though that’s classified information.
Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban will defend its NSW IRC title using a full suite of Garmin gear as tactician Will Oxley helps to further push the boundaries on the amount of data that can be extracted and exploited.
Garmin’s Australasian Marine Manager Jason Browne says the experimentation goes beyond anything seen on the local yachting scene, with the radically refurbished supermaxi CQS being another case in point during the recent Rolex Sydney-Hobart race.
“We’re running our GNX series which we purchased from Nexus three years ago and developed over and beyond what they had,” Browne says. “We’re ranging up to 10-inch mast displays with up to 50 inputs of data into each unit, and we integrate with the top sailing software as well.”
Sponsoring the NSW IRC championships at Sail Port Stephens was a logical step for Garmin, Browne adds, as it shapes up to be a five-way fight for State pride between Sydney’s top TP52s, with Balance, Celestial, KOA and RKO out to wrest the title from Ichi Ban.
Allen was unbeatable in Division 1 last year and, as the regatta ambassador, finds the conditions off Port Stephens much to his liking, describing the race track as one of the best in Australia.
Lindsay Stead’s Welbourn 50 Yeah Baby/Boatec, fresh from a second placing behind Beau Geste at the recent Sydney-Harbour Regatta, will be keeping the TPs honest, while Rogers 46 rivals The Goat (Sebastian Bohm) and Shakti (Doug Coulter) are set for a two-horse barney.
Other divisions also have some strong contenders in Schouten Passage from Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club up against fellow Beneteau 40.7 Wailea, along with the Salona 38 Sticky which also sports a full Garmin kit.
Three windward/leewards are set to open the IRC competition on Friday, April 7, followed by Saturday’s Broughton Island passage race and two more windward/leewards on the Sunday to wrap up the series.
The Division 1 and 2 champions, incidentally, will both take home a state-of-the-art Garmin quatix 3 watch, which looks more akin to something ‘Q’ would develop for 007.
“They’re the only true sailing watch,” Browne says. “They have a built-in GPS with 10hz antennae that will update your position every 10 seconds, and you can wi-fi it to a Garmin head unit to get digital readings like boat speed, bearing, distance to waypoint and so on.”
He jokes that the last thing on the engineers’ list, when designing the watch, was telling the time.
Garmin also offer a product called Nautix, an eyepiece that clips over sunglasses. Again, it streams data into the wearer’s line of sight, which may sound fanciful but is about improving integration and making life easier.
Speaking of which, Browne will be taking it a little easier himself at Sail Port Stephens by sailing in the performance cruising division aboard an Elan 37.
The 10th anniversary regatta runs April 3-9 with its biggest ever fleet of grand-prix and high-performance yachts, along with a packed social calendar.
This year’s anniversary regatta includes the national titles for the Australian Sport Boat Association, NSW titles for Super 12s and Performance Racing and Cruising Divisions for the Pantaenius Port Stephens trophy conducted under PHS.
Other events under a ‘season of sailing’ umbrella are:
- Women Who Sail Australia Gathering on the Bay 1-2 April
- Newcastle to Port Stephens Race – 2 April
- Sail Port Stephens Commodores Cup 3-5 April
- Sail Port Stephens Junior One-Sail Dinghy Regatta 11-12 April
Entries close March 30, with a few berths still available at The Anchorage Marina and Soldiers Point Marina.