With sunshine and puffy white clouds in the sky and a 10-15 knot forecast Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson's aim was to take the NSW IRC Championship fleet offshore to a relatively sheltered area in Providence Bay behind Yacaaba Head, while the Performance Racing fleets would sail inshore with the Elliott 7 Australian Championship fleet and the Performance Cruising fleets on their various bayside courses.
Celestial, IRC NSW Championships, 2013 Sail Port Stephens
But as the Committee Vessel approached the bar between the Yacaaba and Tomaree Heads it became plain that it would be way too dangerous for the fleet to attempt the crossing.
Thompson said ‘we went out outside and assessed the conditions - the course area might have been OK but getting there was the issue. After two heavy days offshore the swell and waves were still up. The bar was breaking occasionally and there was confused 4.5 metre seas. Mindful of our duty of care, we rescheduled for an inshore course.‘
With almost all the podium places across the four fleet still up grabs it was certainly Super Sunday and the racing was spectacular. The IRC, Performance Racing and Elliott 7 fleets sailed between Pindimar and Salamander Bay, the Elliott’s were near West Bank, while out in the centre of the Bay there was breaking surf on the shoals. Quite spectacular as the swell rolled in from the Pacific.
In the IRC fleet, the first race started in 12 knots, in a sou-westerly, the wind swung left 15 degrees and Thompson and his team engineered a course change.
Equinox, 2013 Sail Port Stephens day 4 racing. Sail Port Stephens is hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club.
It was a heartbreaking race five for IRC championship leader Anthony Dunn's HH Equinox II. They ran aground on the West Bank sand and by the time they struggled off they were stone motherless last.
Heads were down as they crossed the line. Tactician Tony Kirby said, 'That’s history. All we can do now is sail our tails off in the last race and see what happens to the score board. They came a disappointing ninth but they still came second overall.
The IRC Division 1 race five winner on handicap was Bob Cox' DK46 Nine Dragons, ahead of Sam Haynes Rogers 47 Celestial and Yeah Baby, Lou and Mark Ryckmans’ Botin Carkeek GP42.
Two other podium contenders Ray Robert's MATS 1245 Obsession was sixth, Equinox was at the back of the bus in 11th.
In the second race conditions were much softer, starting in just six knots of breeze and was very close racing in dead flat water. The wind swung back again, overall light and shifty and very challenging for this strong fleet.
Ginger, 2013 Sail Port Stephens day 5 racing. Sail Port Stephens is hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club.
Race six was won by Bob Cox’ Nine Dragons, Leslie Green MC38 Ginger’s had her first good result, taking line honours and second place on handicap and Rob Reynolds DK46 Exile was third. HH Equinox II was ninth.
Sam Haynes and his Celestial crew won the 2013 IRC NSW Championship handsomely ahead of HH Equinox II and Paul Clitheroe‘s Beneteau First 45 Balance in third. Ray Robert’s MAT1245 Obsession was fourth.
Sam Haynes the owner of the Rogers 46, Celestial, and a former Rob Hanna Shogun, was smiling:
‘We are very happy. We kept both races clean that is all we figured we could do today and with Equinox II on the sand that is all we needed to do.
‘It is a pity the Equinox guys ran aground, it would have been very tight otherwise.
‘We got better as the regatta went on. The key thing was staying consistent and sailing cleanly. We kept the boat on its numbers as much as you could in that shifty kind of wind.
‘The boat is going well we have a lot of new sails. Evolution one sails.
‘We've had the same guys on it for quite a while and it’s a good team. We've been going well. We were fourth behind the three top TP52s in Geelong. Next up it is Southport and Hamilton Island.’
IRC Division 2 Race five was won by L'Altra Donna, Andy Kerman`s Summit 35 followed by Roger Hickman’s IOR Farr 43 Wild Rose, then came Robert Alders Cookson 12 Occasional Coarse Language 1. Fourth was Peter Sorensen’s Sydney 36CR The Philosophers Club.
The podium places in IRC Division 2 race six were incredibly identical in top three to race five. L’Altra Donna again in first, Wild Rose second again and Occasional Coarse Language 1 third.
Overall a very popular NSW IRC Division 2 Championship win to Hicko with Wild Rose (the original Wild Oats) with Philosophers Club just one point back followed by Occasional Coarse Language in third.
Wild Rose, NSW IRC Division 2 Champion, 2013 Sail Port Stephens day 6 racing. Sail Port Stephens is hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club.
Roger Hickman was smiling as always. ‘We are just here to keep Sorro honest. We are very happy inshore with a vintage IOR boat. On smooth water. It was worth the trip. We love Port Stephens inshore. It’s excellent.
Peter Sorenson was not happy. ‘We have an offshore boat and we came here to race offshore. Sailing in flat water like this boat handling is not a consideration. We would much rather be outside but if the weather gods won’t let us what can we do.
The Elliott 7 Championships race six was won by Mike Green's Evergreen, Jim Walsh's Woof was second with Mat Owen's In Spades third. First in race seven was Andrew Chapman´s Taking Back Sunday, Greenie again and Mat Owen sailing conservatively in third again. In the final race of the competition Matt Owen going out in style, winning from Woof and Taking Back Sunday.
IN SPADES, Elliot 7 Australian Championships, 2013 Sail Port Stephens day 4 racing. Sail Port Stephens is hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club.
The 2013 Elliott 7 Australian Champion is Matt Owen's In Spades, an impressive sixth Australian title for the Canberra sailor. Andrew Barney´s Barney Army was second and Mike Green’s Evergreen was third.
Matt Owen: ‘We knew what we had to do today and lucky to have had a pretty good last couple of races and the other two guys, Greenie and Andrew Barney, were fighting each other and that made it easier.
‘We were sailing very conservatively. Because it is a no drop series so for us we had to be really careful how we did on the day. After good placing in the first two races we knew we were there and so in last race we put the hammer down. We are absolutely thrilled.‘
Performance racing, 2013 Sail Port Stephens day 5 racing. Sail Port Stephens is hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club.
Today´s Performance Racing Division 1 race was won on handicap by Warren and Kirsty Buchan's Sayer 44.9 Colortile, second was Matt Allen’s Farr 400 Ichi Ban and followed by John McNamara’s Farr 40 IRC IOTA.
The overall winner was Ichi Ban ahead of Colortile and third was Corinne and Rob Francis’ Sydney 41 The Banshee.
Matt Allen: ‘Performance racing division has really changed in nature over the years. There are these days a lot of good boats which are not going to be successful under IRC. We had a lot of boats with similar performance characteristics, relatively modern boats so the fleet was very good.
‘This is a regatta that is now part of our annual program. It’s a lot of fun here and the accommodation is close to the marina. It was a pity we could not get offshore this year.
‘We are debating whether we bring the new big boat next year (the 60 footer being launched in December ahead of the Hobart or the Farr 400). We will make a decision later on but it is certainly a regatta we really enjoy doing and we will certainly be back. Just not sure with which boat we will bring.’
Performance Racing Division 2 last race in the series was won by Barry Jackson Beneteau 40 Alibi, second was Philip Groves Sydney 39CR Huntress ahead of Roy Leslie’s Elan 37 Koko.
Overall Thirlmere, the Warneford/Jamieson’s Sydney 38 was the winner ahead of Jack Goluzd´s Nelson Marek 35 OD Bling and in third place another Sydney 38 Peter Edwards’ Preddytor.
Performance Cruising Division 1 Line Honours and handicap honours today went to the three Graham´s Margaret Rintoul V, (Mobuckson, Morton and Wilson). Second was Dennis Cooper’s Sydney 36 Amante, third was Chris Rabbidge on the beautifully restored Nelson Marek 43 Quest.
The Port Stephens Trophy winner for 2013 in Performance Cruising Division 1 was Quest, second was Margaret Rintoul V then Amante.
In the Performance Cruising Division 2 passage race today Bruce Ritchie's Bavaria 42 Union finished first on handicap ahead of Paul Ley's beautiful 58 footer Kauffman Pilgrim and Mark Rutherford’s X-35 Next Light.
The Port Stephens Trophy winner was David Edmiston's Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37P Passion, second was Pilgrim and third was Union.
Regatta Director Paul O´Rourke summed up: ‘It’s a credit to the on water team lead by Denis Thompson that we managed to complete such a big program in such adverse conditions. His big team with large numbers of volunteers worked hard in tough conditions.
Planning has already started for 2014 as we will be running the NSW IRC titles immediately ahead of Nationals off Newcastle, so we are expecting even bigger and better fleets.
We thank all the competitors and their families for coming and we look forward to welcoming you all again in 2014.
Full results, news and images at www.sailportstephens.com.au
Media needed high resolution images for editorial use only can register online via the Photogallery.