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Great events.

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 24 Oct 2021 14:00 PDT
Nine Dragons racing offshore from Port Stephens © John Curnow

In a way, they are almost diametrically opposed. One is a much sought after destination event, and the other is a long-standing A to B coastal hop. One attracts a vast array of boats and crews, all drawn to compete in racing designed to be like for like, and focuses squarely on everyone having just as much fun off the water, as on. The other epitomised the mantra, 'Thou shalt turn left', and for decades it offered an appealing alternative to turning right out of Sydney Heads, and heading South to get cold, wet, and have the bejesus belted out of you.

The former is the appropriately venerated, Sail Port Stephens. I think I attended the second or third regatta, and even with a blindfold you could have seen that this was a regatta bound for the top of the dais. A year or two later and it was there, screwed, Sikaflexed, and bonded in epoxy to the top of the pyramid. It wasn't going anywhere, and justifiably so. Varied racing, great fun, and a stellar location - not sure there are any other boxes to tick... Well done Paul O'Rourke and Mark Rothfield for making it so.

The latter is the Royal Prince Alfred's Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race. I have never done one. In those days, the lure of the Apple Isle was about as strong for me, as it was unappealing for one Errol Flynn. It was only later that I could start to see merit, and potentially become a disciple of the mantra. I can say that Pittwater is stunning, and Coffs is gorgeous. In between it is pretty much marvellous.

It is only 226nm, but the weather can be flukey (read slow), and that East Australia Current means you'll never be too far from the bricks, which certainly keeps the focus clear. It also means you get to see said utterly brilliant coastline. If you want, you can call me biased, but I have not found any overseas traveller yet whose jaw is not on the sand, and they're only seeing it from the land side.

On paper then, you would believe them to be very different. Yet there is one item that has them inexorably linked for 2022, and if we want help our sport to grow and prosper, then clarity of the kind befitting a Venetian glassmaker is required. At the very top of the deal, we have just seen the New York Yacht Club exit AC37 citing uncertainty as the reason. For sure there were others, but the lack of clarity was certainly the anvil falling over the cliff (Road Runner style), around which they attached the reasoning for their departure.

A clash of dates is bad for both events. Yes. Sail Port Stephens is almost a victim of its own success, and berthing is past being at a bit of premium. On the other hand, moving Coffs from its traditional post Christmas date to late in January, and now the middle of April, is akin to playing football with a snow dome. The tiny little white particles seemed to have escaped out of a crack, and are no longer falling delicately onto the wonderful landscape on display.

Given their offering is quite different, there is certainly more than enough space in the market for both, but owners and crew need those hooks onto which they will place hats, salopettes, and smocks. For all involved in our beloved pastime we urge concerted dialogue and judicious review of the calendar. Perhaps in this way, 2023 will look a little different. They are not mutually exclusive, and can offer wonderful pathways between each other via different forms of yachting.

The RPAYC had set their annual timing for the Friday before Easter back in 2019. It suited crews and slotted into the offshore season. For some sailors a weekend event was also preferred. Brendan Rourke, the Sailing & Communications Manager at RPAYC, who conduct the coastal classic, said, "The Pittwater to Coffs race is the ideal race for new sailors to offshore racing and those experienced looking for a mid-length, overnight weekend race to compete in."

"Though the event will clash with the tail end of the Sail Port Stephens in 2022, the Pittwater to Coffs race offers competitors the challenge of racing up the east coast of Australia over a 226nm course and the warm welcome of Coffs Harbour on arrival. The event will be scheduled the Friday before Easter annually and is open to all monohull and multihull boats meeting the eligibility requirements of the category 3+ race."

2022 will be the 15th annual Sail Port Stephens, and it has been in that near to Easter timeframe since the get go. They announced their 2022 dates as soon as the 2021 regatta ended.

It does put some competitors in a tough situation because they'll risk losing their annual berth allocation at Port Stephens. Someone else will surely grab, and then keep that spot, as I am sure there have been a few who have not been able to do SPS to date and are dead keen to do so. Alternative ports are just too far away to offer realistic daily commutes.

Our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine commented, "Sailing is on the cusp of enjoying a golden age with so many people looking to get out on the water. Undoubtedly there will be growing pains and bottlenecks, with berthing slots and dates being at a premium."

"While all of us should be looking outward to attract more people into the sport, dialogue is key within sailing organisations to try and avoid clashes and to come to solutions which benefit all. Yes, sometimes the situation is complex, and arranging dates for events has been all the more difficult by the pandemic and lockdowns, but those looking to take part in sailing are looking for clarity, not complexity."

Incredibly humbling

From the USA to Europe; Africa to the UK; And Asia to Australia; Over the last six weeks the volume, and incredibly broad nature of inbound material from you, the sailors, has been exceptional.

Thank you for all your calls and emails on so many elements of our wonderful sport. It is enough to make you want to go for a yacht right now.

Your praise is so utterly fantastic, and your efforts to assist us conduct the very best research to deliver fully responsible, and totally accurate material, is both praiseworthy and completely appreciated. Thank you. It is so wonderfully heart-warming to know how you think, and what you see.

I wish I could say more, but somehow I am a little lost for words right now... Beers on me for all of you. Cheers.

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Finally, many thanks for making Sail-World your go-to choice. We're always here to keep pumping out the news. Stay safe, and enjoy your time on the water.

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS