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Two-time Olympian shines at Sail Port Stephens

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“Sheer enjoyment”.

That’s how Nicky Bethwaite summed-up her experience of the combination inshore/offshore course set by the Sail Port Stephens race committee for the fourth of the five-leg Passage Series.

The two-time Olympian helmed the distinctive gold-hulled super-skiff Don’t Panic to a podium result in division 1, behind Virago and MC38 Botany Access.

Ian Green’s Archambault A35 Absolut is the boat to beat in division 3. Photo: Promocean Media

Don’t Panic, designed by her brother Julian with the unique designation of an 89er, a bigger version of his famous high-performance 49er skiff, found a clear lane off the start line and powered-up its blue asymmetric kite in the 10-12 knot south-westerly.

The 8.1-metre sports boat was still among the leaders on the downwind leg from the Heads to past Cabbage Tree Island.

“It was just glorious, skipping along the waves,” Bethwaite recounted.

“We were second at the bottom turning (Providence Bay) mark and then Little Nico caught us on the work up the beach.”

The highly-accomplished sailor describes the sensation of helming Don’t Panic as “almost being in the water not on top of the water.

“And, like all of Julian’s boats, when you bear away the acceleration is a bit hair-raising,” she added.

Only 57 seconds separated the top three in division 2 but Bullwinkle made it two bullets in a row, followed by Garry Turner’s Adams 10 Bartender with Mondo securing third place.

In division 3, Ian Green’s Archambault A35 Absolut is the boat to beat after its second win of the regatta, with Forever Young and Kookaburra consolidating their podium aspirations.

In division 4, John Veale’s Dehler 32 Hasta la Vista and Peter Graham’s Midnight’s Promise, a Jeanneau 37, got a break on their rivals at the start and in contrast to previous days were able to hold-off their bigger opponents when spinnakers were hoisted.

Veale and his crew from the Greenwich Flying Squadron secured the win thanks to some “good concentration” and the Dehler’s ability to perform in light to medium airs.

He rates Sail Port Stephens as his favourite regatta.

“There’s nothing else like it,” he says.

“It has the feel of a dinghy regatta, the same sense of camaraderie and people talking to one another after the day’s sailing.”

The crew on MWF – Joy has been thoroughly enjoying everything the week has to offer. Photo: Promocean Media

In the non-spinnaker division, the crew on MWF – Joy have also been thoroughly enjoying everything the week has to offer.

“The offshore racing has just been fantastic” says skipper Ian Murray.

“We’ve had a mix of crew, some very experienced and some getting to grips with what it’s all about.”

The Sayer 45, formerly ColorTile, is used by the Making Waves Foundation to provide extraordinary experiences for young people with disabilities or young adults experiencing disadvantage.

Unfortunately, the run of balmy autumn conditions that have provided some memorable sailing moments ended overnight.

  • Sail Port Stephens Media

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