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Three's a crowd as Sail Port Stephens interest builds

by Mark Rothfield 15 Dec 2023 21:28 PST April-May 2024

Having outgrown its single Race Week formula and transformed into a three-pronged Regatta Series embracing a broad cross-section of classes, the 17th annual Sail Port Stephens in April-May 2024 promises to bring tighter and more targeted racing for competitors.

Competitors and spectators alike now have a choice of tailored events, starting with the 'cruisy' Commodores Cup and Port Stephens Trophy regattas running concurrently from 15-20 April. This forms the "Passage Series" sailed from d'Albora Marina Nelson Bay, with a raft of social highlights and scenic courses that utilise the inshore and offshore islands.

The prestigious NSW Yachting Championships (IRC), TP52 Gold Cup Act 3 and Rob Hampshire Cup (ORC) combine from 26-28 April in the "Windward-Leeward Series". With The Anchorage at Corlette being the hub, this is grand-prix offshore racing nirvana utilising marker buoys rather than landmarks.

Part III of Sail Port Stephens invites off-the-beach dinghy classes, sports boats and Windsurfers to contest their own "Bay Series" hosted by the Bay Sailing Centre at Salamander Bay in conjunction with Bannisters Port Stephens. Dates are 3-5 May.

The new format was successfully embedded in 2023, its aim being to maximise usage of a finite number of marina berths while spreading the off-water fun across three weekends to provide an unsurpassed sailing holiday experience. Record numbers were achieved, with more than 220 sailcraft taking part.

"It's a wonderful time to be at Port Stephens, with a sailing carnival atmosphere prevailing across 11 days of sail racing," Regatta Director Paul O'Rourke says. "We've had mostly good feedback to the new extended format because it alleviates pressure on berthing and creates a more level playing field for those wishing to join the regatta."

For the first time since 2017, the Passage Series will coincide with the NSW school holidays, allowing more families to attend and encouraging wider community engagement. Marinas are receiving huge levels of inquiry, promising another bumper fleet for the five-race event.

The TP52 class is expecting up to a dozen starters for Act 3 of its Gold Cup series during the middle weekend of Windward-Leeward racing, and organisers are hoping to boost the IRC component as it comes just three weeks after the prestigious Australian Yachting Championships being staged in conjunction with SailFest Newcastle on April 5-7.

Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, as host of both regattas, is providing discounted berthing at its Newcastle marina to make it more convenient and affordable for owners. Yachts wishing to compete under ORC, sailing a mix of offshore windward-leewards along with passage racing, can contest the Rob Hampshire Series.

Inquiries are also flooding in for the Bay Series. Back for another year are the J70 class, Windsurfers, RS Aeros and more, while the J24s, Tasars and Lasers have expressed interest.

Notices of Race and the entry portal for the respective series segments can be accessed online at www.sailportstephens.com.au/series-information

Sail Port Stephens is supported by the NSW Government via its tourism agency Destination NSW, Port Stephens Council, Pantaenius Australia and subsidiary sponsors.

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