With the Sail Port Stephens Passage Series now successfully run and won, the regatta gets its game face on from tomorrow as 23 yachts contest the 3-day Windward-Leeward Series comprising the NSW Yachting Championships (IRC) and inaugural Rob Hampshire Trophy (ORC).
Headline attraction of the weekend is Act 3 of the Pallas Capital TP52 Gold Cup series, with nine entries making it the hottest showdown of these thoroughbreds outside Europe’s 52 Super Series.
Among the pre-event favourites is Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business, fresh from taking out the recent Lincoln Week Regatta and Australian Yachting Championship crown. The orange-hulled TP was trucked from South Australia to compete in both SailFest Newcastle and Sail Port Stephens.
A Man Overboard situation in Newcastle robbed SMB of a likely windward-leeward race victory but owner/skipper Geoff Boettcher also felt they lacked preparation time.
“We weren’t quite on the pace in the windward-leeward format,” he said. “We need a bit more tweaking but we’re 90 per cent there and we’ll try harder at Sail Port Stephens.”
Returning tomorrow are the series leader Matador (David Doherty), Frantic (Michael Martin), ever-consistent Gweilo (Matt Donald), Quest (Craig Neil), Smuggler (Sebastian Bohm) and Zen (Gordon Ketelby) while Peter White’s First Light and Mark Spring’s Highly Sprung will make their first visit.
Zen is the defending champion from Sail Port Stephens 2022, where they scored three firsts from four races to eclipse Hobart winner Celestial by three points and Gweilo by five. ORC last year went to Matador from Zen and Celestial, while Quest triumphed in the class-based TPR handicap system, edging out Smuggler and Matador.
With seven entries apiece, IRC divisions 2 and 3 look wide open. Gerry Hatton’s Bushranger, Bob Cox’s Nine Dragons and Keiran Mulcahy’s Soozal have all enjoyed good results on the waters immediately east of Hawks Nest Beach.
Newcastle’s Joe de Kock is bringing his Farr 40 Good Form out of storage for the first time in 18 months and will face classmate Blue Tack, owned by Patrick Delany. Robert Kelly’s RP52 Virago is fresh from a week sailing in the Passage Series but has a high handicap to overcome.
In Division 3, Dale Sharp’s Farr 31 SoFarr will be strongly challenged by the Mumm 30 Nocleks helmed by Belmont 16ft skiff sailor Joel Skelton, along with regulars Bulllwinkle, Chilly Bin, King Tide, Stormaway and Wailea.
With light winds expected to prevail for the series, Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson has the option of conducting the Passage Race tomorrow followed by two full days of windward-leeward racing.
The famous Sail Port Stephens social scene will be at full steam as well, with the Saturday Sailebration Day featuring live music, drinks and daily prizes at d’Albora Marina Nelson Bay.
Sail Port Stephens is supported by the NSW Government via its tourism agency Destination NSW, Port Stephens Council and subsidiary sponsors.