The Australian Laser Masters Nationals – the first Masters Nationals in Australia for more than 25 years – are being held at the beautiful holiday resort of Port Stephens in just a frew weeks. Port Stephens is situated about 160km (100 miles) north of Sydney, 15 minutes from Newcastle Airport or is a 2½ hour drive up the freeway from Sydney Airport.
Logo 2011 Laser Masters Australia
Port Stephens is a large area of sheltered waterways, approximately 119 square kilometres (46 sq miles) of crystal clear water and is quite a bit larger than Sydney Harbour and is without the constant commecial traffic. Its been a popular venue for Laser titles as well as for keel boats including the Sydney 38's and Farr 40's.
Michael Mills, the veteran Laser sailor from Port Stephens Sailing Club on Australia’s East coast, is one of the key players behind the 2011 Masters event.
Mills, who founded NB Laser on the NSW Central coast, is these days the Regatta Support Officer for Laser builder Performance Sail Craft (PSA) and he definitely has his finger on the pulse, watching the ever expanding Junior, Women and Standard fields but he sees the growth in the number of Laser Master sailors.
Great sailing inshore and offshore - Port Stephens
'The program for Masters just keeps getting better and better.'
Mills details the Masters dates ‘February 2011 – it’s from the 11th to the 14th of February; that’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday on Port Stephens at the Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club on the beautiful waters of Salamander Bay. Registrations will start on Thursday afternoon.
‘At that time of year there will be virtually no one else there. School holidays are over and this is one of the reasons we’ve put it into this period; it takes it out of the normal tourist time. The other side of it is that when you go to that area you’re being welcomed, because we want to go to a popular area and we’re going to bring in 200 to 250 competitors.
'In Port Stephens, at the sailing club here, we’ve held the State Titles in February 2010. The State Titles on three or four occasions have been held here; we’ve also had the Masters State Titles on three or four occasions. It’s always a popular venue particularly for the Laser Masters.
Masters Nationals shaping up to be bigger than Ben Hur
Entries are pouring in from all over the country, and overseas, for the Masters Nationals at Port Stephens this February.
More than 100 Masters sailors had entered at the time of writing -- more than two weeks before the February 1 deadline -- and total entries are expected to be around 200 boats.
Clubs represented so far include
• Batemans Bay YC
• Clarence River SC
• Dobroyd AC
• Double Bay YC
• Georges River SC
• Gosford SC,
• Lane Cove 12'SC
• Lake Keepit SC
• Middle Harbour Amateur SC
• Northbridge SC
• Port Stephens SAC
• South Lake Macquarie SC
• Vaucluse YC
• Wallagoot Bay YC
• and Woollahra SC all in New South Wales
• Albert SC
• McCrae YC
• Mordiallac SC
• Port Melbourne YC
• and Sandringham YC in Victoria
• Brisbane Sailing Squadron
• North Queensland SC
• Paradise Point YC
• Port Denison SC
• Southport YC all from Queensland
• Adelaide SC in South Australia
• Dunsborough Bay YC
• Fremantle SC
• Royal Perth YC all from Western Australia
• Kingston Beach SC in Tasmania
• Darwin SC in the Northern Territory
There's even an entry from the Manx Sailing and Cruising Club in the UK and quite a few Masters are expected to make the trip over the ditch from New Zealand.
The $125 entry fee includes one ticket to the welcome function on February 11 and one ticket to the regatta dinner on February 13 but you'll need to enter before February 1 to avoid the $50 late entry fee. Extra tickets for the social functions may be purchased for spouses/partners/friends. There's also a Masters golf day, played in the ambrose format, scheduled for the afternoon on February 10. More details of that in the next week or so.
The Salamander Shores hotel adjacent to the sailing club has a terrific $119 per night deal for a double or twin room, including a full breakfast, but they only had about 12 rooms left at the time of writing. There's a link to the hotel on the event mini-site.
Ten races are scheduled over the four days -- two each day on the Friday and Monday and three each day on Saturday and Sunday -- but regatta organisers are conscious that this is a Masters regatta and want everyone to enjoy themselves, so the Saturday and Sunday races will be set on noticeably shorter courses.
In the same spirit, you will be able to put off the decision about which rig to use right up till the morning of the first race -- after you've had a good look at the weather forcast for the weekend. Naturally you'll then have to stick with that decision for the whole of the regatta. There's a 4.7 division for lighter sailors and GGMs can elect to sail in either the Standard or Radial rig, with a cube up for grabs if more than five of the old fellas are silly enough to use a full-rig.
All of the principal race officials are in place, but we could do with a bit of extra help in one or two of the mark-laying and rescue boats -- particularly if you've got some experience handling GPS units. Call Colin Cain (0418 619 164) if you'd like to volunteer.
‘As always, we [PSA] will have the regatta service vehicle at the Laser Master, as we do at most major Laser events to support the local Laser dealer.
Charter boats are available from Performance Sailcraft and NB Laser the local Laser dealer but availability is limited so early booking is essential.
Charter boats are delivered to the regatta site and there will be with support service available throughout the regatta' added Mills.
Accommodation caters for every budget, ranging from 4 and 5-star hotels to a variety of motels, B & Bs and some well-run caravan parks with on-site cabins. There are also many luxury holiday homes available for short-term rental, some right on the beach near the regatta site at Soldiers Point – a few minutes on Google will give you the picture.
The nearest accommodation to the boat park is the 3½-star All Seasons Salamander Shores hotel which is located only 100 metres from the sailing club.
For the regatta they’re offering a special rate of AUD$119 per room, twin share, which includes a full hot buffet breakfast every morning. This rate is based on a minimum 3-night stay. You can find them at www.salamandershores.com Ask for the Laser Masters special deal.
The regatta runs from Friday February 11 – Monday February 14, 2011. Ten races are scheduled altogether – two on the Friday, 3 each on Saturday and Sunday with the final two on Monday.
Naturally the course length will be arranged so Masters sailors are not too knackered after the days when three races are scheduled.
Tony Denham, who was PRO for the Laser Worlds and World Masters at Terrigal in 2008, has agreed to run the regatta. He’ll be using the normal trapezoid courses, and the course area is only about a 10-minute sail from the beach.
There’s lots to do in the area generally, and accompanying spouses and partners will have plenty to entertain themselves with while competitors are out sailing. There is a welcome cocktail party on the Friday night and a Masters Dinner on the Sunday night, both included in the regatta entry fee.
The area is characterised by pretty bays, white sandy beaches and lush bushland. With gamefishing, surfing, beach and rock fishing, sailing, water cruises, boat charters, bushwalking, horseriding, waterskiing, swimming and parasailing Port Stephens is a bluewater paradise. There are a number of excellent golf courses and the Hunter Valley winegrowing region is only about an hour’s drive inland.
February is generally a great time to be on the east coast of Australia a bit north of Sydney. The prevailing wind is a mild NE sea breeze with occasional southerly changes sweeping up the coast. Temperatures are generally in the high 20s C but it can be quite humid.
Around 180 – 200 boats are expected from all parts of Australia and New Zealand plus a number of regular international competitors from further afield have already indicated their interest. Laser cubes will be awarded along normal ILCA guidelines and Great Grand Masters have the choice of either Standard or Radial rig.
The Notice of Race, entry form and more information about accommodation and charter boats is available on the event mini-site. Just go to www.laser.asn.au and click on the Laser Masters Nationals logo on the right-hand side of the home page.
Laser World Masters. Terrigal, Australia February 18, 2008. Image by Craig Coulton. Copyright C & C Images.
February is a great time to holiday in Australia and international airfares are at all-time lows.
Sailing conditions should be ideal and competition at the regatta should be top-class, with at least 12 current or recent World champions sailing in the various fleets.
See you in Port Stephens in February!