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SailFest Newcastle Regatta - Day 1: a walk on the wile side

by Mark Rothfield 15 Apr 09:10 PDT 15-16 April 2023
SailFest Newcastle Regatta, Day 1 © Salty Dingo

As much a rite of passage as just a passage race, the opening salvo of SailFest Newcastle Regatta's offshore series and TP52 Gold Cup Act 2 again lived up to its billing as being tactically challenging and scenically spectacular.

Two years ago there was a spinnaker start in 25 knots that crews still relive over post-race Heinekens, but today Newcastle Harbour showed more of its wile side than wild side, with lulls and shifts prominent during the funky transition from nor-west land breeze to seabreeze.

South Australian entry Secret Men's Business (SMB) won the 'brag' race to the heads but the fleet of 10 TPs soon evenly split tacks on the work to a mark off the Sygna shipwreck. Those who went seawards, anticipating the nor-easter, lost out to those nearer the shore.

Matt Donald's Gweilo came through least scathed, building a lead that it would hold on the long run south along Newcastle's beaches, back north into a 14-knot breeze, then into the Harbour under asymmetric kite to take line and IRC honours. The 25 nautical mile race took almost four hours.

"We had to roll the dice after the start and we got a little bit lucky, I guess," skipper Matt Donald said of Gweilo's performance. "Downwind we're pretty slick and get into our groove, while upwind there's not much difference in boat speed between us, Matador, Zen and Secret Men's Business.

"This boat tends to like stretching its legs more on coastal races, but we're looking forward to the windward-leewards tomorrow. I think we'll hold our own."

Quest also performed strongly, finishing third on IRC behind Matador but importantly taking honours under the class's TP rating to lead the Palace Capital Gold Cup Act 2.

Skipper Craig Neil: "There was a lot of good close racing, and we managed our way through the shifts pretty well. We just sailed the averages and kept in touch with the fleet, without trying any brave manoeuvres.

"We had nine boats around us, all similar, so we could get a good feel for how we were going. Tomorrow will be a bit more intense but hopefully we can keep our rhythm going."

Geoff Boetcher's SMB, as the newest generation boat, recovered from 5th placing mid-race to eventually pass Matador in an enthralling harbour gybing duel to the finish, claiming second across the line. SMB was lacking local knowledge, having flown two-thirds of its regular crew in from Adelaide, but Geoff Boetcher was more than content.

"We haven't been in the Eastern states for a while, so we had to come up and share the love with the guys here. What sold is that we have 10 TP52s on the water - how good is it to do that. It was worth the effort and we're stoked," he said.

Results in the Offshore series were dominated by Lake Macquarie Farr 31 So Farr, which won the IRC, ORC and PHS trifecta in the eight-boat fleet, Darryl Hodgkinson's Victoire snaring line honours.

So Farr owner Dale Sharp said conditions were ideal for the lightweight racer: "We did quite well when the conditions were soft then the breeze filled in nicely for us to sail the rest of the day. It was good sailing."

Race officer Denis Thompson will make a decision tomorrow morning on where to stage the three windward-leeward races, Stockton Bite being slightly favoured.

View results here

Inshore action

Port Hunter 16ft Sailing Skiff Club's 'Cock of the Harbour' race, which historically crowns the fastest boat on Newcastle Harbour, was won convincingly by Brett White and Kevin Winchester aboard the all-carbon Nacra F20 Thunderbolt.

As used in America's Worrell 1000 race, the cat hit speeds of 19 knots in around 12 knots of breeze and averaged almost 11 knots. "I should add, we were hitting heaps of jellyfish and lost a lot of time putting the rudders back down. We also broke the tiller in one round-up but we enjoyed it," Brett White said.

Three minutes adrift was second-placed Jam Em, an F18 sailed by James and Emily Henderson, while a two-handed 16ft skiff with Danny Hore and Anthony Johnson was first of the monohulls. Yardstick results were dominated by VS dinghies, Firestorm grabbing the first of the top four placings.

Day 1 of the NSW Sailing League Finals saw some tight racing in the first 12 races of the Qualifying Series, and tomorrow looks to be another day of intense racing as the battle to claim the final four spots for the SAILING Champions League - Asia Pacific Final comes to a close after this weekend.

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