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Swell start to Sail Port Stephens windward-leeward series

Rock fishermen were being advised to stay indoors but the sea conditions off Port Stephens made for an action-packed opener to the Anchorage Marina Windward-Leeward Series, part 2 of the 2024 Sail Port Stephens Regatta Series comprising the NSW IRC Yachting Championships, Pallas Capital Gold Cup Act 3 and Rob Hampshire Trophy.

A crewman from the TP52 Celestial hit the drink and was collected by a media boat, the JPK 10.8 Saltwater Wine hit the stern of the Bull 9000 Bullwinkle, and there were plenty more war stories in the wake of the Anzac Day break.

Southerly swells of around 2.5m, with sets rising to 4m, gave the fleet plenty of surfing opportunities off Hawks Nest beach, the wind gradually swinging from south-west to south better align with the rollers. As it built to around 18 knots, a challenging chop was created.

Hooligan © Promocean Media

In the TP52s, Marcus Blackmore’s new Hooligan was fast from the outset, winning all three races on scratch and claiming the second two on IRC. The ever-consistent Matador finished 1 point adrift, with four races still to come, after overcoming some hurdles greater than the swells.

“We were fast but created some problems for ourselves and also broke a winch,” owner/skipper David Doherty said. “So we lost a fair bit of time but the crew did a great job, we fought back, and it got us into an okay position.

“It was really choppy, with big shifts, but we can pretty well change our modes now to meet the conditions. And we certainly had some things go our way tactically.”

Matador took three firsts in the class-based TPR handicap system to lead Craig Neil’s Quest and Gordon Ketelby’s Zen, currently tied on 9 points.

In Division 2, conditions were ideal for Ray Roberts’ Team Hollywood, the lightweight Botin Fast 40 flying downwind under its big asymmetric kite. Among the crew are three international sailors flown in for the NSW title, and they helped guide the CYCA yacht to three consecutive wins.

Daguet 2 © Promocean Media

Matador © Promocean Media

Another powerful entry, the Mylius 50 Daguet 2 from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, also appreciated the stronger winds after competing in last week’s lighter Sail Port Stephens Passage Series. The Italian-designed boat only recently landed from St Tropez for its new owners, and this is its first windward-leeward event.

“After the Commodores Cup last week this was another step up for us, but having more wind today was probably good for us. We’re learning how to sail the boat and getting better each day,” tactician Sean Kirkjian said.

Noclecks © Promocean Media

Team Hollywood © Promocean Media

“In the first race the wind went big-time left, but you could see that as the clouds were 30 degrees different to the wind angle on the race track. It kept going left, which made it easier for the smaller boats in that race. The other two races had a bit more breeze, so it became more interesting.”

Joel Skelton’s Farr 30 Noclecks, though dwarfed by some of the seas, sailed well to currently reside in third place, ahead of the Queensland entry Let’s Get it On (Garry Holt). Daguet 2 leads on ORC from Let’s Get it On and the Beneteau 40.7 Wailea.

Today’s Race 4 will comprise an offshore Passage Race, however the breeze is predicted to drop to around 5 knots at the 11.30am start time.


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