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Light-air specialists have their day in the sun

Sail Port Stephens 2024 Windward Leeward Series day 2

The Sail Port Stephens Windward-Leeward Series transitioned to Passage Race mode today, and with the change of pace came a change of pace, literally, as both the wind and seas calmed considerably.

Racing began in the shadows of Mount Tomaree, at the entrance to Port Stephens, in near drifting conditions as the morning nor’westerly yielded to the arrival of a light sou’easter. Friday’s lumbering swells had also become more languid.

In the ensuing vacuum a number of the TP52s sat stationary, even lagging behind the Division 2 fleet despite a 5-minute head start. Former Sydney Hobart winner Celestial set a chute, seized a small puff, and was the first to escape, heading directly east.

“It felt like a punishment but our navigator Alex Nolan was confident it was the right way to go, and our tactician David Chapman agreed,” skipper Sam Haynes said. “We were in 4 to 5 knots of breeze, occasionally 6, and it remained quite fluffy most of the way.”

© Promocean Media

Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan followed suit and took the lead shortly before the turning mark positioned near Broughton Island. Celestial stayed in touch on the reach back to Hawks Nest beach, running a Code Zero, and crossed the line second on scratch, second on IRC and second on TPR.

“It has never really been known as a light-air boat, but we’re running a bigger main for the inshore regatta, we’ve got some newer jibs, and we changed the keel slightly last year to gain more grip upwind,” Haynes added. “We’re actually going better in the 5-knot range than previously.”

Michael Martin, a former Wallaby, pulled a Kiwi-sourced light-air kite out of Frantic’s bag of tricks and finished a creditable 8th across the line, 7th on IRC and 4th on TPR — an excellent result for the heavyweight among TP52s. The sail bore Emirates Team NZ livery as Martin has several New Zealanders aboard.

“We wanted to get them excited,” he said. “We’re sailing for fun against a lot of really good sailors, and if a few boats finish behind us we’re pretty happy.”

Looking at the results for the TP52 fleet, also competing in Act 3 of the Pallas Capital Gold Cup, Hooligan (6pts) leads Matador (12pts) and Zen (14pts) with three races to follow. Matador and Quest are tied on 10pts under TPR.

Bullwinkle © Promocean Media

Frantic © Promocean Media

Hooligan © Promocean Media

Lets Get It On © Promocean Media

Division 2 honours went to Bullwinkle, Peter Farrugia’s Bull 9000 from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, following a hasty repair job on a holed transom. The damage resulting from a collision with Saltwater Wine had the crew initially fearing the yacht could potentially sink but they were able to limp home.

“As soon as we got back to the dock yesterday we ran to Bunnings [hardware] and a boat supply place to grab all the necessary materials, and we finished just before it began raining,” Farrugia said. “While that was underway, we had a protest hearing and successfully received redress for the two races we missed yesterday, so we were pretty happy with that too.

“The crew of Saltwater Wine felt terrible and there’s absolutely no hard feelings there … it was just a racing incident and we’ve all moved on.”

Today, the Bull took a perfect gybe angle to the northern mark, arriving along with the bigger and faster yachts in its division. The IRC/ORC double was warmly applauded by Bullwinkle’s fellow competitors, including Let’s Get it On skipper Garry Holt who came second under both handicap systems.

Overall, Bullwinkle now lies second on IRC, trailing Team Hollywood. On ORC, Let’s Get it On leads Bullwinkle and Daguet 2 after four races. The final day’s racing is set to feature up to three more windward-leewards, with more light airs predicted.

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