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Sail Port Stephens 2023 reveals revised dates, format

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Sail Port Stephens (SPS) is revamping its schedule and revising dates for racing in April and May 2023.

The move comes after the event’s outgrown the previous week-long format, which remained largely unchanged since its inception in 2008.

The highly-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 iconic Commodores Cup series is being extended to five days of racing under PHS handicapping, while the Port Stephens Trophy will simultaneously be contested under the ORC Club rating system.

Dates for the combined Sail Port Stephens “Passage Series” will be Monday 24 April to Saturday 29 April, with Thursday 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 from 5-7 May.

The fleet will be accompanied by Act 3 of the TP52 Gold Cup, again utilising windward-leewards.

Finally, 19-21 May has been set aside exclusively for sports boats, trailer sailers, Finns, Tasars and Windsurfers, hosted by The Bay Sailing Centre at Salamander Bay under the banner of 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.

“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,” he explained.

“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 another 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-racer crews 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 the three days, while the trailable series will have its own spotlight rather than being a satellite event.

The SPS race team has previously been spread quite thinly across multiple starting lines, both inshore and offshore, so the new structure will allow them to focus their attention and 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.”

Comments and enquiries can be sent to [email protected]

  • Mark Rothfield

Sail Port Stephens 2023 dates

24-29 April – Sail Port Stephens Passage Series

  • Commodores Cup (PHS) and Port Stephens Trophy (ORC Club)

5-7 May – NSW Yachting Championships

  • TP52 Gold Cup Act 3

19-21 May – Bannisters Bay Series

  • Sports Boats, Trailer Sailers, Off-the-Beach

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