With online entries and the Notice of Race now up and running for the 12th annual Sail Port Stephens regatta, an unforgettable sailing holiday experience awaits for everything from IRC, Super 12 and Farr 40 yachts to cruising boats, trailer sailers, 16-Foot skiffs and junior dinghies.
Dates for 2019 are 8-14 April, which falls outside the busy school holiday and Easter periods. The iconic Commodores Cup is held over the first three days, followed by a lay-day to allow crews to enjoy the region’s many attractions. Racing then heats up for the final three days, both inshore and off, with the Pantaenius Port Stephens Trophy.
Jewel in the crown is the Garmin NSW IRC Championship, which attracts one of the largest and most competitive fleets on the domestic IRC scene. The Super 12 division, for PHRF-rated boats between 9.1 and 12.2 metres, also conducts its State titles in conjunction with Sail Port Stephens.
The 2019 event will welcome the Farr 40 One Design fleet, while invitations have been issued to trailer yachts (under Cat 7 safety) along with 16-Foot skiffs and junior dinghy classes.
Following consultation with competitors, there are new divisions including a TP52 Class under the IRC banner and a Cruising Non-Spinnaker Class and Jeanneau Class (spinnaker and non-spinnaker) for the Commodores Cup. That means more prizes up for grabs and an easier task for the handicapping committee.
In another change of format, racing for the trailer yachts, skiffs and junior dinghies will be staged during the main event, not as satellite events in the following week. Their courses will be immediately off Nelson Bay breakwall to bolster spectator viewing and allow more competitors to feel part of the regatta festivities.
At least six TP52s are expected, including Marcus Blackmore’s Botin-designed Hooligan that will defend its NSW crown.
“When you look at the sailing calendar, this is one of the outstanding regattas for IRC boats in Australia,” Blackmore says. “I love coming here because it has great sailing and a real holiday atmosphere, while my wife gets to play golf while I go off sailing.”
Early bookings are encouraged for those seeking marina berths, as fleet sizes have been on a consistent upward trajectory in recent years. The three major marinas – d’Albora Marina Nelson Bay, The Anchorage and Soldiers Point Marina – all reach capacity yet bend over backwards to assist Sail Port Stephens entrants.
The social calendar is equally packed, again commencing with a Monday welcome party hosted by Wild Oats Wines. The Commodores Cup presentation night, traditionally a sell-out, has a beach-themed ball. Post-racing events are also held on the Friday and Saturday at d’Albora Marina’s Broughtons at the Bay function centre, which becomes regatta headquarters.
The Women Who Sail Australia (WWSA) group are holding their third consecutive “Gathering on the Bay” on April 6-7 before making way for crews from a large feeder-race fleet from Pittwater’s Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club and Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club.
Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson is hoping for a repeat of last year’s ‘endless summer’ weather, when temperatures hovered above 30 degrees and breezes mostly stayed light to moderate, bringing the popular offshore courses into play and keeping incidents to a minimum.
“Generally the racing is quite laid back, although in the high-performance classes it can be as willing as you’ll find anywhere. Fortunately, we’ve got a high-powered jury to sort out any rules issues,” Thompson said.
“It’s also a versatile sailing area, with some interesting courses inside the bay and beautiful islands near the Heads to sail around. And what I think is the best race course in Australia lies just to the north of Cabbage Tree Island in Providence Bay. It’s perfect sailing and we have some great races out there.”
Regatta co-sponsors Port Stephens Accommodation and Winnings Holidays, through parent company Alloggio, offer a wide range of accommodation options in and around the regatta hub.
Sail Port Stephens is organised by Corlette Point Sailing Association with ongoing support from the NSW Government via Destination NSW, Port Stephens Council, Pantaenius Insurance, Garmin Australia, Alloggio Port Stephens, Port Stephens Strata, d’Albora Marina, Anchorage Marina, Beneteau, Gill, Wild Oats, Lion Nathan and Seabreeze Hotel.