A gap of good weather opened up for the record 114-boat fleet which gathered for the 10th anniversary of Sail Port Stephens, a classic event in Australia’s New South Wales. It began with things calming down for the feeder race from Newcastle on Sunday, and just kept getting better. The best was left for the last day of racing on the following Sunday, April 9, before a blustery 40 knot Westerly took charge that night and into the following day. Indeed the highlight for many was Saturday’s passage race, which offered mild breezes from the Northeast and numerous opportunities to take in the glorious scenery of Tomaree Head and Cabbage Tree Island.
North Sails was proud to support the owners and their crews as they undertake their passion. Whether sailing on board, assisting with trim and tune, or completing overnight repairs, the North Sails team is committed to ensuring sailors get the best from their time on the water and importantly, their sails!
Four North Sails team members participated in this year’s event, racing on different boats at different times. Michael Coxon, Alby Pratt, Billy Sykes, and Nick Beaudoin would like to thank their clients for the opportunity to sail with them, and experience racing from a number of unique vantage points.
Racing for the Commodore’s Cup in performance cruising, Rob Aldis’ new and very stylish Azuree 46, which was penned by Rob Humphreys, secured an impressive third place on debut. ‘Kayimai’ featured North Sails 3Di working sails, a NPL code zero and NPC A1.5 asymmetric spinnaker. Greg Wilkins’ Archambault 32, ‘Esprit’ was celebrated a daily win with great gusto. North Sails Alby Pratt sailed with Anthony Bishop on the Dehler 38, ‘Rocksalt’ for the first half of the regatta from Monday to Wednesday.
The Super 12’s were bristling with power, really shining when the breeze got into the 12-14 knot range towards the end of the regatta. Brad Sewell’s Melges 32, ‘Breezin’, had North Sails Scott Beeby on board. Mark Griffith had his distinctively shaped, and equally memorably named Ker 40, ‘Showtime’ out there punching away. Adrian Walters had an impressive spinnaker on Shaw 11m, ‘Little Nico‘, grabbing your eyes from every angle on the course, even if it was simply returning back through the heads.
Just before the last race, Walter Lewin’s Farr 400 Vento was interfered with on the start line by another craft, and it did take some gel coat off. What it did not do was deter the crew, who assessed the damage, gave the thumbs up when asked if they were OK and then set about sailing well, especially downwind under their brand new A2 flying off their bowsprit.
The racing in IRC division II was predictably hot. Gerry Hatton’s MAT 1245, ‘Bushranger‘, nearly secured the win on the last day, needing only to scrape home by a point. Alas, they tied with Bob Cox’s DK46, ‘Nine Dragons‘, who beat Bushranger by just 11 seconds on corrected time in the final race.
It was great to see Tony Kirby back out on the water, and he brought his sleek Ker 46, ‘Patrice‘, to the regatta for IRC Division One. North Sails Certified Service Manager Nick Beaudoin was onboard and commented,
“Tony could not be happier with our result at Port Stephens. The yacht has had a few modifications below the water line and now it’s all coming together. Patrice had new crew Richard Allanson and David Chapman onboard, who delivered a superb debut performance. Although we’re smaller than the TP52’s, we found this to be to our advantage in the shifty conditions”. Patrice’s crew was constantly improving and saved their best performance for the last day which brought much lighter conditions where they enjoyed the power delivered by their 3Di jibs and A1.5 and A2 kites.”
Aaron Rowe’s TP52, ‘RKO’ (Reverse Knockout Option), was sailed near faultlessly to comfortably win IRC division. 1. Even when starting second row and to leeward, they set about their work, climbed back on top to secure yet another win for the regatta. As a mark of respect for the regatta and the competition, the whole crew was on hand to collect the trophy. Well-done team!
Matt Allen’s TP52, ‘Ichi Ban’, left Sydney with her offshore mast in place. They had not sailed her since the Sydney Hobart Race and were perhaps a little under-prepared in that regard. It certainly did not stop them from trying, and when they found the right gear, they certainly had more than enough hustle to streak ahead. Alas, that was not often enough to match her very high rating. Billy Sykes sails on Ichi Ban, and commented,
“Yes it was hard to tune the stiff offshore rig, and with no sailing since the Hobart, and in often trying conditions it meant we just could not get the results we expected. Finding the sweet spot was a bit hit and miss, but we certainly got better as the regatta went on, with the Sunday seeing us perform the best yet. We also had a crew in different positions, with one of the changes not having Wade Morgan being available, due to the birth of his son on Saturday.”
An impressive story to come out of it all is the large tear that appeared along the foot of one of Ichi Ban’s kites. It was replaced smartly at the time, but later than night, Billy and Nick drove an hour down to their agent’s loft in Newcastle to apply proper repairs. Given the forecast, they knew it would need it next day. Directly after racing on Sunday the guys put the offshore boom back on, and set the entire boat up for going back to sea. The very next morning she headed North in readiness for the Brisbane to Gladstone race which started on Good Friday. Hoping for a strong Southeasterly, Billy would be sailing on Ichi Ban, and Mark Bradford and Vaughan Prentice from the North Sails Brisbane loft were sailing aboard Black Jack.