Port Stephens is a natural and beautiful sailing ground. Host to a range of recreational and competitive sailing events, the bay and surrounds provide sailors of all ages with an aquatic environment that is making it one of the must visit waterways in New South Wales.
Sailing is a sport that has few age or gender restrictions. Juniors and seniors indulge and there are boats that suit all abilities. In Port Stephens the junior sailing is undergoing a surge in popularity due to the dedication and enthusiasm of a range of people.
April 2012 sees the annual Sail Port Stephens regatta where this year over 175 boats are expected to compete. For the very first time a junior off the beach class will be included further making this popular regatta one that the whole family can truly attend.
'Water sports are a part of Port Stephens.' Dom Grundy, Commodore of Corlette Point Sailing Club said. 'Recently there were limited opportunities for youths and junior sailing but with the support of local clubs, more and more classes are sailing here.'
Grundy, expects around forty junior sailors to attend the annual regatta. 'We have some great prizes to encourage them. An opportunity to sail on Wild Oats X will give some lucky sailor boasting rights!'
Local schools are encouraged to get involved as well as class associations. In January Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club hosted the Flying 11 National Championships. Sponsored by clothing supplier Gill Australia, nearly 90 the Flying 11s participated with the winners Kurt Hansen and Lindsay Pike both commenting on the consistent breeze and the location as a great place to relax afterwards.
Graham Oborn, Chief Instructor at Soldiers Point Sailing School and World Masters Laser Class three times gold medallist is another local who is very active in encouraging the junior and youth classes. Working with the Soldiers Point Marina and the Real Futures Foundation, Oborn has set up a Learn to Sail Program for local youth in need of support and direction.
'We liaise with the schools and work with the youth to provide them an opportunity to enjoy their natural environment and learn a new sport. Some of them may have had a hard time, or just need some encouragement.
We give them tools to build their confidence and give them skill that they can enjoy as well.' said Oborn.
All involved are also trying to encourage more people to learn how to be instructors. This would enable more junior and youth classes to be established and to grow. Yachting New South Wales, the governing body for the sport of sailing in New South Wales, is liaising with the clubs to run courses and an instructor’s course starting March and finishing in April.
The Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club, as a Yachting Australia Training Centre, are extremely active with youth sailing every Sunday and on school holidays. Their local qualified sailing instructor, Oliver Riorden, was drawn to sailing when holidaying in Port Stephens at a young age and now shares this passion with an ever growing group of junior sailors.
Karen Nye, the club president who drives the program with a team of devoted volunteers, is equally as passionate. 'We had over 60 children during the school holiday program, and with the support from the local clubs and businesses, we have been able to purchase more dinghies so more sailors can come on board.' said Nye.
The Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club will be the home base for this year’s junior regatta and expects to have up to fifteen entrants in the 2012 Sail Port Stephens regatta.
'By bringing together our local clubs, harnessing the range of resources and skills and combining this with the generous financial support of local business Soldiers Point Marina and Soldiers Point Holiday Park there is no doubt that junior sailing in Port Stephens will continue to grow 'says Grundy.
The 2012 Sail Port Stephens Off the Beach Junior Regatta is supported by Destination NSW and will be held over the 19th & 20th of April on the waters of Salamander Bay.
Entries are open now to all single sail, no spinnaker dinghies. The event promises to be as much fun on the land for the competitors and their families, as the racing will be on the water.
Sail Port Stephens website
by Sail Port Stephens
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5:19 AM Tue 13 Mar 2012GMT
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