04 October 2022
Sail Port Stephens is revamping its event schedule and revising dates for racing in April and May 2023, having outgrown the previous week-long format that remained largely unchanged since its inception in 2008.
The popular regatta has traditionally been anchored by the low-key Commodores Cup over the first three days, followed by a lay-day then three more serious days of racing for the Port Stephens Trophy and NSW Yachting Championships.
From next year, the Commodores Cup series will be extended to five days of racing under PHS handicapping, while the Port Stephens Trophy will be contested under the ORC Club rating system.
Dates for the combined Sail Port Stephens Passage Series will be 24 to 29 April 2023, with 27 April retained as a lay-day.
The prestigious NSW Yachting Championships, sailed under IRC and ORC, will become a three-day, stand-alone event held from 5 to 7 May 2023. The fleet will be accompanied by Act 3 of the TP52 Gold Cup, utilising windward-leewards.
Finally, 19 to 21 May 2023 has been set aside exclusively for sports boats, trailer sailers, Finns, Tasars and Windsurfers, hosted by The Bay Sailing Centre at Salamander Bay as the Bannisters Port Stephens Bay Series.
Regatta Director and Co-Founder Paul O’Rourke says overwhelming demand for marina berths and accommodation, combined with competitor feedback, had necessitated a rethink, adding that regatta management resources were being stretched.
“While we’re mindful of the needs of our competitors and thankful for their loyalty, we’ve seen unparalleled, exponential growth over the past six or seven years,” O’Rourke said.
“There literally weren’t enough berths, buoys, pylons or jetties available to accommodate everyone, despite the three major marinas [d’Albora Nelson Bay, The Anchorage Marina and Soldiers Point Marina] being fully supportive.
“Many owners rebooked their berths immediately after an event finished, which meant that new competitors had to go on long waiting lists.
“Some yachts were also occupying berths for the entire week yet only racing in one or other series, so the new format should be more time-efficient for everyone.”
With a wide variety of courses taking in the many inshore and offshore islands and bays, the opening series will particularly appeal to cruiser-racers who enjoy longer and more scenic passage racing.
Extra divisions will be added in 2023 to reduce start-line crowding and allow more equitable boat-to-boat racing.
The contrasting preferences of IRC/ORC and TP52 entrants will be catered for by sailing predominantly offshore windward-leeward races over three days, while the trailable series will have its own spotlight rather than being a satellite event.
The Sail Port Stephens race team has previously been spread quite thinly across multiple starting lines, both inshore and offshore, so the new structure will allow them to work more efficiently.
Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, recently named the 2022 NSW/ACT Yacht Club of the Year, is also formally partnering with and co-hosting the regatta in conjunction with Corlette Point Sailing Association, adding additional race resources.
“We understand that the timing change might cause some initial inconvenience for competitors who’ve pre-booked berthing and accommodation, however everything possible will be done to assist them with the transition,” O’Rourke added.
“We also welcome feedback to help further refine and embed the new format, moving forward.”