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Hobie 18s brighten up Tanilba Bay for the Big Boat Regatta

by Paddy Butler, Bridget Raftery 25 Mar 15:33 PDT
Big Boat Regatta at Tanilba Bay Amateur Sailing Club © John Forbes

Welcome to Tanilba Bay Amateur Sailing Club. Where the sun shines brightly through the graceful gum trees, onto the pristine rigging/camping lawn situated on the pristine shores of Port Stephens.

With two days of solid nor' east sea-breezes forecasted for bottom-half of the mid-north coast, the 40-plus strong fleet of off-the-beach catamarans were in for a grand weekend of cowboy sailing.

Mixing it up in a 17-boat strong fleet of some the best F18 teams Australia has to offer, the 11 boat fleet of Hobie 18s were a spectacle between the white, grey and black rags on the race track. Doing a spectacular job of building the fleet, John Forbes has once again put the largest fleet on Hobie 18s on the water for the second time this season.

With a bunch of brand-new faces joining the fleet for the first time (along with a couple regulars out for their inaugural jaunt on a "big boat"), the Hobie 18s were a showcasing the up and coming talent to join the Hobie family. Leading the band of Youths was Rose Cookson with regular skipper Scott Kestevan. Following, Emma Tallis was on with the old-boy David, as was Emma Webb on 'Garfield' with Mark. From Mannering Park, Sam Dalton was pushing the limits of his super-crew of a dad Ken, as Toby was doing the same with his old-man Bevan. Finally, Kaitlyn & Justin Forrester were back once again and set to send it in their fourth event for the 23-24 sailing season.

A newbie to the Hobie 18, but far from new for cat sailing, Nick Hord & Georigia Davis were racing in the fleet for the first time against regular hotshots Linda Renouf & Tracy Gowen and the Redheads: Jani & Ian Marcovitch. Leading the charge in sensational form was John & Bronte Forbes as the titular parent/child team, marking up the seventh of such teams. And finally, Ellie Knorre graciously agreed to jump on a Hobie 18 with myself; both of us sailing jumping on an 18 for our very first time.

Saturday

Saturday afternoon saw three, solid races take place on the Worimi waters in a blistery nor' east sea-breeze. The Hobie 18s were first out of the gates, with a three-minute sequence keeping everyone on their toes. Nailing the pin-end of the line, Bronte & John were showing the fleet how it was done as soon as the first gun went. Ellie & myself followed the leader for the next three races, narrowly beating Team Forbes to a-mark on the first lap.

Remaining consistent was Georgia & Nick, who finished with a trio of thirds, whilst Kaitlyn & Justin were putting all their practice to work, with two fourths and a fifth. Rose & Scott were showing signs of greatness in between a self-imposed deep-sea mining expedition utilising the tip of their mast, whilst the Webbs were going bow-to-bow with the Daltons and Marcovitchs, taking it in turns to beat each other across the line.

As Ellie & I headed into Newcastle city for a night of fun and games, the Hobie Family joined the extended NSW Cat-Sailing community in the hallowed halls of Tilligerry RSL Sports Club for an evening of socialising, storytelling and good old fashioned fun.

Sunday

With a late nor' easter forecasted for the Worimi Country, the opportunity was presented for a photoshoot of the Hobie 18 fleet. With all eleven boats lined up in sensational fashion on the shoreline, the outgoing tide and array of coloured rags was a spectacle from the rigging lawn and beyond.

As the 'hurry-up-and-wait' protocol was initiated at 1000 hrs, the NSW cat whackers began a social morning, sharing ideas, stories and ways to help all classes present grow, thrive and survive on the east coast. Meanwhile, Ellie & Rose ducked off to the Tanilba Bay shops to grab a chicken schnitzel burger x Vietnamese roll combination that will go down in history as one of the most sublime cures for a late night in Newie...

Not long after 1300 hrs, the fleet of 40 hit glassy waters of Tanilba Bay, as the early stages for the nor' easter began slowly making its way west. And by the time the first gun sounded, the breeze was well and truly in.

Favouring the stronger breeze, Georgia & Nick started off strong, as did Linda & Tracy finishing third in the fourth race of the series. Ellie and myself played catch-up after a slow start, but weren't fast enough to catch Bronte & John as they led the fleet to the finish line. After misreading the race course due to a number of overzealous F18s, Rose & Scott came away with a solid last race.

Likewise, Emma & Mark, along with Kaitlyn & Justin, were pushing their boats to the absolute limit.

Finishing the five race regatta with a drop of a bullet, Bronte & John have set the bar for Hobie 18 in 2024. Ellie & I couldn't be more stoked with a scorecard of four seconds and a drop of a third, whilst Georgia & Nick remained consistent, finishing with a second in the final race.

With the Reimagined fleet headed to Toukley Sailing Club for the Ian Holly Memorial Regatta over the second weekend in March, the Victorian State Championships hosting a few boats in Anglesea the same weekend, and the International Hobie Class Association confirming the final rule changes for the Hobie 18 class, we are set to see large fleets returning to the east coast very soon.

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