Audi IRC Australian Championships - Just prior to Easter you will see a lot of vessels on a vector to Newcastle, NSW. This is a general occurrence as bulk carriers from Asia and beyond arrive like modern armadas to queue up underneath the conveyors at the bottom of the Hunter River as each disgorges up to 10,500 tonnes an hour of petrified black gold into each ship’s hungry hold. Thank God they do, for coal is one of the economic pistons that keep the Balance of Payments in check. The difference this Easter is that there will also be squadrons of yachts arriving in Newcastle to partake in the 2014 Audi IRC Australian Championship.
View from the Bridge wing of a bulk carrier as she enters port. - 2014 Audi IRC Australian Championship - John Curnow ©
The Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC), its marina and the amenities have been detailed previously. Newcastle’s accessibility, the feeder races to get you there and Sail Port Stephens are all enticements to enter this year’s national IRC title. Perhaps all these lures are why entries are already well ahead of previous IRC National Championships.
Two main course areas exist off Newcastle on which racing will take place. Simply put, these are immediately to the North and South of the harbour entrance at Nobbys. Marks cannot be set within the exclusion zone directly off the said entrance as a result of commercial shipping but yachts can traverse the restricted zone as long as the ‘give way’ rules and common sense prevails. Both course locales are about 15 to 20 minutes motor from NCYC’s marina.
Course A is to the South of the Harbour entrance and runs from the very identifiable Nobbys, all the way down to Merewether. This amphitheatre, right in front of the CBD, is generally where most of the windward-leeward racing occurs and creates quite a spectacle for those watching from the land.
The view South shows the Nobbys, Main Beach and Merewether race courses. - 2014 Audi IRC Australian Championship - John Curnow ©
Course B is nestled in Stockton Bight, extending to the North from the Harbour entrance towards Williamtown airport. This area is most readily recognised by the sweeping sand dunes and shipwrecks of the MV Sygna about a third of the way up the delightful but at times treacherous bight.
NCYC Chief Executive Officer, Richard Howard, commented 'In a lot of ways, the race areas are not too dissimilar to Pittwater, albeit without quite as much refraction off the coast from rock ledges. You are sailing predominantly along coastlines that have sandy beaches so joggle is minimal. Generally we race in somewhere between 15 and 35 metres of water and each course area’s proximity to the shore adds to the scenery and offers the non-sailing public a chance to become ticket free spectators of our wonderful sport.'
'Roger Hickman and his Wild Rose was one of our first entries. There really is a good diversity in the entries so far which close in a few days time. A couple more vessels and we will have a bumper of a regatta fleet.'
'Audi’s ongoing association with this event is tremendous, for not only do we have an increased number Audi vehicles on Newcastle’s roads but with such a steeped history in engineering Novocastrians appreciate detailed design, good engineering and quality engines, all parameters on which Audi prides itself'.
Audi IRC Australian Championship 2014 - © NCYC
In addition to the grand prix Class A warriors which includes a number of TP52s there are many craft booked in to compete in Classes B and C. Howard commented on this, 'To some degree the IRC fleet is a fleet of two, in that you have both the Grand Prix racers and then also the production boats. NCYC’s fleet certainly survives on its production IRC racing type boats and it’s really encouraging to see such a strong contingent of production boats on the entry list. The Farr 40s, Beneteaus and Archambaults will all be well represented at the event and indeed the racing in Classes B and C is going to be really tight.'
'The recent Sydney Harbour Regatta won by the DK46, Exile, will be on the start line here at Easter. Exile’s sister ship and on water arch nemesis, Bob Cox’s Nine Dragons, has also entered which will make for a great Division B tussle, one of many inter Class sail-offs that will transpire no doubt. Others entries of interest are XT38, Express, as well as long time NCYC club favourite, Tim Gleeson’s Beneteau 36, Summer Salt', added Howard.
So the answer is yes! As an IRC racer in Class A, B or C, you should be bound for Newcastle and the 2014 Audi IRC Australian Championships this Easter.
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