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Simply stunning Sail Port Stephens

by Nic Douglass 19 Apr 12:00 PDT 19-25 April 2021

Sail Port Stephens got under way today, with over 100 boats setting off under spinnaker on the sparkling waters of Nelson Bay, right off the break wall.

The armada of colour headed East against an incoming tide in a light south-westerly breeze, with a pod of dolphins also joining in at times to enjoy the action.

Live coverage of the Race Start from the Pantaenius Sail & Motor Yacht Insurance Media Boat

As the majority of the fleet were heading West from Shoal Bay to the Soldiers Point mark, the breeze died out and filled in from the Nor'East, so once again up went the spinnakers and we were treated to another brilliant sight of the 105-boat fleet parading down to Bannisters Port Stephens across the sparkling water.

With the forced "re-start" the fleet was tightly bunched, and mark roundings were often more than five boats wide making for brilliant viewing, and keeping all competitors on their toes.

Day 1 of Sail Port Stephens from the sky

The race was eventually shortened, and all fleets headed home in the building sea breeze for a fantastic gathering at Broughton's to enjoy the best bit of Sail Port Stephens; a fantastic venue with a light-hearted nature centred around a love for community alongside great sailing.

Staying clear of trouble was the secret for Division 1 PHS winner XXX, a modified Mount Gay 30 from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, with another Mount Gay 30 MBD finishing third. Separating them was the Beneteau First 45 Highly Sprung.

Line honours went to the Shaw 11 Little Nico in a dominant display.

In Division 2, it was the hot Italia 11.98 cruiser-racer Cicero, skippered by Australia agent Mark Hellyer, who claimed first place on PHS. Cicero is configured for IRC, with a fin keel and carbon rig, and it slipped beautifully through the light patches.

"We were a long way ahead before the breeze turned and everyone caught us, but that happens in these races," Hellyer said. "Once we got the breeze, we kicked again.

"There was definitely some rust because this is pretty well the only regatta we've been able to do since I got the boat a year ago.

"I personally enjoy light weather sailing because it takes concentration, and we kept out of trouble at the marks - better than some other people apparently."

The Sydney 36C Salt Shaker (Peter Franki) held off Liquid Force (Jason Jordan) and the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200 Hells Bells (Lincoln Dews).

David Rundle's Smoke and Mirrors, an Enigma 34, won Division 4 from Elusive Spirit and the Young 88 Agent 88. Originally from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club but now sailing with the Port Stephens Yacht Squadron, Smoke and Mirrors had a mixture of crew from both clubs aboard.

"I think it's fair to say we had a good handicap today," Rundle said. "It was one of those weird, fluky days where there were boats behind us that shouldn't have been, and boats in front that also shouldn't have beaten us across the line.

"There are so many boats here that the challenge is to get clear air and get going. We mostly stayed out of trouble. When we ran down to Bannisters the rounding was more about security than anything else - most people were pretty courteous."

Non-spinnaker honours went to Noel Borel's Kulani, a vintage East Coast 31.

"It was challenging for sure. You had to be in the right place at the right time and keep out of trouble more than anything else," Borel said. "It was nice that everyone stopped to wait for us every now and then," he added.

"We were right at the bottom mark when the wind line hit, so we effectively got two runs for the price of one."

Borel describes Kulani as an oldie but a goodie, but it did him proud today.

Tomorrow's forecast is for more breeze, building to a predicted 20 knots from the north-west. Stay up-to-date with Sail Port Stephens news and results via the event website or Facebook page.

Sail Port Stephens 2021 is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism agency Destination NSW, along with Port Stephens Council and key sponsors Pantaenius Insurance, Alloggio, Bannisters Port Stephens and Flagstaff Marine.

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