13 April 2021
For over 175 years, Newcastle Harbour has hosted countless sailing regattas, but it was the one held this weekend, Sailfest Newcastle 2021, that may have been one the most exciting as eight grand-prix TP52s planed across the line under spinnaker, fanned by the 25 knots of unbridled south-westerly.
The action signalled the perfect start to the last day of Sailfest Newcastle 2021, a event with 175-years of heritage that was sadly was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This weekend saw well-oiled machines and racing teams display a remarkable level of control as accelerated to over 20 knots, holding fast despite being fractions away from each other’s gunwales.
Ultimately, it was Tony Kirby’s Patrice that got the jump, holding windward before striding 150 metres ahead towards port’s entrance. From there, the Botin-designed 52 stretched launched through the clear air, zooming past Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban to win overall IRC honours via countback.
“We got a great start and were just able to skim past the port marker. We hit the lead then extended it. Downwind we were hitting the high 20s – they’re awesome boats in these conditions, just so fast,” said Kirby on the results.
“It was one of those days when you had to execute cleanly, and we didn’t quite manage to do that,” he said. “We had a problem with a jammer at the start and got caught up in the pack. I guess we made too many mistakes overall, but we’re really pleased with how the boat’s going,” added Allen.
“Sailing out there in that sort of breeze is incredibly exciting. Also, everyone’s so welcoming and relaxed up here. We love coming.”
The TP52 Gold Cup, awarded on the class’s TPR handicapping system, went to Quest after overnight leader Smuggler posted a fourth today.
“It’s such a great event to have so many TPs here and, as far as the start goes, I’m not sure about 175 years but it was the most exciting I’ve been involved with,” said Quest owner, Craig Neil.
“Yesterday was tough with the shifting breezes but today really suited us – a strong breeze and a course that provided a mix of upwind, reaching and running. It had everything. Our boat was designed for offshore racing so we were really in our element.”
Smuggler ultimately claimed second place with owner Sebastian Bohm buzzing about the lively conditions.
“That was heart-in-the-mouth stuff,” he said.
“As soon as the gun went, a gust of 25 to 30 knots came through and we were absolutely flying down the harbour. We had Ichi Ban and Matador above us, and Quest and Celestial below us, so it was fairly intense but great fun.
“Once we gybed out of the harbour and worked upwind it became pretty full-on. We saw a gust of 38 knots. We had some kite issues and blew up our A4 [gennaker], then it became touch and go under our A2 in those conditions.”
Celestial unfortunately was forced to withdraw due to gear damage while Denali’s owner, Damien Parkes, retired once the breeze increased: “We did the first run and clocked 25 knots, which is plenty, but it was gear-breaking stuff on the second work and we decided it wasn’t worth it for a weekend of fun,” he explained.
In the offshore series run in conjunction with the Gold Cup, PHS honours went to Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club’s Summer Salt, helmed today by Peter Sinclair, ahead of Anger Management and Mako.
Overnight leader Little Nico retired from the race, as did Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Commodore Steve Rae aboard Marta Jean.
Next year’s Sailfest Newcastle Regatta is currently planned for March 25–27 2022.