A popular event on the Port Stephens sporting calendar will make a welcome return in 2021.
And, with safety plans in place and fingers firmly crossed, Sail Port Stephens is accepting entries for its regatta in April.
Once again, it aims to provide an unforgettable sailing holiday for crews aboard everything from small dinghies to family cruiser-racers and IRC yachts.
The forced cancellation of last year’s edition due to COVID-19 restrictions only served to intensify the pent-up demand for this must-do event, renowned for both its on and off water attractions.
Offsetting this, berthing availability at Port Stephens’ three major marinas has become scarcer over the past 12 months, with many 2020 bookings also transferred to 2021, making it somewhat more challenging for new competitors this time around.
Race organisers are currently working with state marine authorities to install temporary moorings as a back-up measure.
A number of marinas, including Little Beach, have commercial jetties as well.
There is also a renewed focus on dinghy and trailable sailing, using Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club’s newly-acquired Bay Sailing Centre in Salamander Bay as a host site.
All off-the-beach classes are warmly invited to participate, as are sports boats and trailer sailors.
“2020 was a tough year on our sport with a number of major regattas and national championships being cancelled due to COVID-19,” regatta director Jennie Hughes said.
“We’re hoping that our Notice of Race will provide a glimmer of hope that we’ll successfully stage an event in 2021.
“Hopefully, things will have settled by late April.
“So, we’re doing everything in our power to ensure that as many sailors as possible can participate.
“That includes welcoming dinghy, skiff and trailable class associations who’ll be itching for some more racing.
“The Bay Sailing Centre is a fantastic venue with a great beach frontage.
“We encourage all the classes to come along and enjoy the festival atmosphere that surrounds Sail Port Stephens.”
Mindful of being a COVID-Safe event, Facebook Live will be utilised for morning race briefings and afternoon presentations to alleviate crowding at race headquarters in d’Albora Nelson Bay.
A number of venues across Port Stephens can also host post-race functions, with regatta bars at Port Stephens Yacht Squadron, Bay Sailing Centre and The Anchorage as well as local pubs.
Dates for 2021 are 19-25 April, a traditional autumn timeslot when weather conditions tend to be favourable.
The regatta starts with the iconic three-day Bannisters Commodores Cup, followed by the NSW IRC Championship and all-inclusive Port Stephens Trophy from 23-25 April.
A lay day on Thursday 24 April will allow crews to experience the region’s many tourism attractions.
Should circumstances change closer to the event, entry fees will be refunded in full.
- By Mark Rothfield