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Sail Port Stephens heading off to the beach

by Mark Rothfield 11 Mar 21:46 PST 24-25 April 2021
Junior One-Sail, Hosted By Corlette Point Sailing Club, 2016 Sail Port Stephens. © Craig Greenhill / Saltwater

Having built Sail Port Stephens into one of Australia's premier yachting regattas, organisers are now looking to replicate the same successful formula for dinghy, skiff, catamaran and sailboard racing.

For the first time, a full off-the-beach regatta will be held on 24-25 April - the peak weekend for Sail Port Stephens activities, including the NSW IRC Championships. There will be junior and open divisions, with all classes invited to attend.

Host club Bay Sailing Centre, situated on the shores of Salamander Bay, has a 40-year history of running local dinghy sailing as well as world, national and state championships for myriad classes. It faces east towards the majestic Port Stephens headlands and a body of water that's widely regarded as offering one of the best sailboat racing tracks in Australia.

A long stretch of white sandy beach and two grassy reserves either side of the clubhouse provide ample rigging and launching opportunities. In addition, there is a public wharf and concrete boat ramp 100 metres to the north of the site.

The event will bring together all the laid-back fun factors that make Sail Port Stephens so popular with competitors, combined with the professional race management resources of Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, which was granted the lease to Bay Sailing Centre in December 2020.

"Sail Port Stephens started in 2007 with just 25 yachts, a far cry from the 160 entries received for our last regatta in 2019, and once again we're at absolute full capacity for marina berths and moorings in 2021," says Race Director Jennie Hughes.

"So, we're aiming to build the off-the-beach component in a similar way, starting from the ground up. It's a great time to be at Port Stephens, with ideal weather conditions, lots of social activities and a relaxed sailing carnival atmosphere throughout the area.

"Plus, we'll be ramping up the media coverage with drone footage and professional photography to give class associations a major publicity boost."

Restaurants, bars, marinas, local hotels and accommodation suppliers all warmly welcome competitors as the event is held outside the busier Easter and school holiday periods. Also, for those content just to watch the racing, Bay Sailing Centre has a café serving barista-made coffee and snacks.

"We've previously held an event for juniors only in one-sail classes like Lasers, O'pen Skiffs and Optimists. Opening it up to other classes, and adult sailors, creates more opportunities for families and couples to compete," Jennie Hughes adds.

"Already the NSW Finn class has expressed interest, and they may bring some boats down from Queensland. We'd love to have them, and I'm looking forward to hearing from other associations as well."

A number of satellite regattas are also being run at Bay Sailing Centre prior to Sail Port Stephens, including the RS Aero Intergalactic Championship scheduled for 27-28 March and the NS14 Nationals at Easter.

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