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Paths to glory converge in the rain for Sail Port Stephens winners

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With only a few points separating rivals across each of the five divisions contesting the Sail Port Stephens Passage Series (Commodores Cup PHS), the prospect of receiving a thorough rinsing in the rain didn’t deter the bulk of the 115-strong fleet from turning out.

An outgoing tide and a light upwind start resulted in a boat jam at the pin end of the line, with some forced to go around and re-start.

Robert Kelly’s RP52 Virago, from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, with Andrew Parkes calling tactics, led the fleet on the inshore course to the Corlette Mark and then on what was effectively several windward/leewards before hosting the kite for the final run to the finish at Nelson Bay.

2024 Sail Port Stephens Passage Series’ offshore course. Photo: Hover UAV

Virago’s handicap result of 12.5 for the race was enough to ensure they secured the Commodores Cup for division 1, with Little Nico not far behind in second and Peter Byford’s Mylius 50 Daguet 2 rounding-out the podium in third.

“We’re over the moon, really pleased,” said Andrew Parkes.

“We’ve made modifications that have improved the boat’s light-and medium-air performance – a longer keel fin and smaller bulb.

“We also had Wade Morgan (America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran) help us with some rig tuning, every little bit helped.”

Sea Hawk claimed first place in division 2 of Sail Port Stephens. Photo: Promocean Media

Division 2 saw a close battle between Drew and Peter Van Ryn’s Farr 44 Sea Hawk and Lisa Callaghan’s well-campaigned Sydney 38 Mondo.

The former, from the Cronulla Sailing Club, acquired more Sail Port Stephens silverware for the cabinet, while Peter Farrugia’s Bull 9000 Bullwinkle put in a strong performance in third.

Ralf Moller and his mates from the Avalon Sailing Club didn’t cross the start line in Kookaburra, his Hanse 400, until five minutes after the gun.

But, they managed to claw their way back into contention… and their third place ensured they captured top honours in division 3.

“We stayed focused, picked the shifts – I guess that’s one advantage of having boats in front of you,” he recounted.

“We’ve been here (Sail Port Stephens) twice before, we did really rubbish last time round.

“However, the boat’s set up better now, we had a good crew and everything went our way.”

Absolut, an Archambault A35, was consistent all week and rewarded with second.

Local knowledge aboard Ataraxia II, from Newcastle, paid dividends with a third.

The crew of Midnight’s Promise, a Jeanneau 37, used to reading the vagaries of the shifts on Pittwater, applied that knowhow to good use in the regatta’s mainly light airs… and sailed to a comprehensive win in division 4.

Marri Nuwi and Majella, clubmates from the Royal Motor Yacht Club in Port Hacking, ended the week separated by one point, with Marri Nuwi posting a second and Majella third.

MWF Joy made waves as the winner of the non-spinnaker division. Photo: Promocean Media

In the non-spinnaker division, the Making Waves Foundation’s crew aboard MWF Joy were thrilled with their win on a countback over Russell Waddy’s Allsail Leeward.

MWF Joy’s skipper Ian Murray praised his senior troops including sailing master Bridget Canham of Currawong fame who co-ordinated a changing daily roster on the Sayer 45.

The winner in division 1 of the Port Stephens Trophy sailed under ORC was Garry Holt’s Corby 36 Let’s Get it On, just ahead of the always-competitive Indi owned by former CYCA Commodore Noel Cornish.

Division 2 ORC winner was Simon Grosser’s Young 88 Young at Heart, with Organised Chaos and Georgia Lee second and third respectively.

Regatta director Paul O’Rourke declared the 17th Sail Port Stephens as the “best ever”.

“The social side of things received an extra boost with the Street Party the night before lay day, attracting a big crowd of sailors and locals who enjoyed the entertainment and friendly atmosphere,” he said.

He urged anyone thinking of attending the 2025 Sail Port Stephens to get in early and reserve a berth for the Passage Series, Monday 31 March to Saturday 5 April.

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington also confirmed the NSW Government, via Destination NSW, will continue its long-standing commitment to the event.

Ralf Moller and his mates from the Avalon Sailing Club, aboard Kookaburra, captured top honours in division 3. Photo: Promocean Media

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