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Light-air lottery for Sail Port Stephens opener


The delightful unpredictability of yacht racing in light airs ensured a nail-biting opening day for the Sail Port Stephens Passage Series (Commodores Cup).

Pre-regatta forecasts of balmy breezes of six-to-eight knots for the first two days proved accurate as spinnakers were hoisted in a congested downwind start off the breakwall near d’Albora Marina at Nelson Bay.

But, that was nothing compared to the crush of at least 50 boats at the Pindimar mark when a glass-out on the inshore course put the brakes on division 1 and race leaders Little Nico, Road Runner and Vento, who had ghosted away from the chasing pack consisting of four other categories.

Sail Port Stephens staged the opening day of the Passage Series. Photo: Promocean Media

Those who capitalised on a light southerly filling in at the Salamander Bay mark by quickly setting their kites reaped the dividends.

They brought the breeze with them and kept clear of the carnage as divisions 1 and 2 compressed into a very crowded section of water.

“There was a lot of yelling, but I’d have to say it was mostly good-natured,” recounted Rob Carr, co-owner and skipper of Jambo, a King 40 from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club in Sydney and the eventual winners of division 1.

He and his wife Stephanie Cook are Sail Port Stephens regulars and have enjoyed considerable success with their previous boat Rumba, a Northshore 370.

“This race was a real lottery,” Carr commented.

“We didn’t do anything fantastic… but we also didn’t make too many mistakes.

“We just tried to keep the boat moving.”

Day one division 2 winner Gunner Goodwin. Photo: Promocean Media

The flukey, zephyr-like conditions meant the sportsboats with enviable power to weight dynamics were often setting the pace and Peter Geddes Thompson’s 920 Road Runner was rewarded for some smart tactical sailing with second in division1, while Grant Pocklington’s Hussy, a Sydney 39, slotted into a third.

In an extremely auspicious start to his first Sail Port Stephens in more than two decades, Craig Suggitt took the gun in division 2 aboard his Hick 35 Georgia Lee.

“I bought her up from Tasmania, where she had re-design and she’s now a bit of a weapon”, he revealed.

“We avoided the crush at the mark.

“We came up with our own little breeze, with a big A2 on, dropped the kite and watched this mayhem happen behind us.”

Suggit and his crew notched a tenth in division 2, with the overall podium placings being filled by Gunner Goodwin, Andiamo and Jazz Bar.

Division 3 saw a close battle between Avalon Sailing Club rivals and friends Bruce Potts and Ralph Moller, with the latter on Countessa, a Northshore 38, prevailing by just 14 seconds on corrected time over Moller’s Kookaburra, a Hanse 400.

The crew of Marri Nuwi, an Elan 34 from the Royal Motor Yacht Club, got its Sail Port Stephens off to great start with a solid win in division 4.

In the non-spinnaker section, the team from the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club aboard Making Waves Foundation – Joy, a Sayer 45, held-off Allsail Leeward for first place.

  • Sail Port Stephens Media

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