West is best for the kick off of the Pantaenius Port Stephens Trophy

The Pantaenius Port Stephens Trophy, the second half of Sail Port Stephens will kick off today with a fleet of 130 boats in a westerly breeze starting at 15 knots, set to ease all day. 

The majority of the fleet is heading offshore, with the Flagstaff Performance Cruising and Racing divisions starting off Nelson Bay breakwall at midday for Course 4A and 4B. They’ll swing around the islands, dip into Fingal Bay then head for home. The IRC and Performance Racing fleets will do windward leewards north of Cabbage Tree Island and inshore, the Sports Boat NSW Championship, and Performance Racing Division 2 will be racing in Salamander Bay, with a fleet of 50-odd off-the-beach Finns, Sabots and Windsurfers joining in from tomorrow. 

Sail Port Stephens’ NSW IRC Championship has 27 entries, ranging from David Griffith’s Judel-Vrolijk 62 Whisper down to the Farr 31 Sofarr of Dale Sharp, defending its Div.3 title from 2019.

Checkmate of Hollywood, Ray Roberts’ 1978-vintage Peterson 50 IOR, will lend an air of timber tradition to proceedings, with its glistening varnished topsides conspicuous alongside a trio of carbon fibre TP52s – Celestial, Ichi Ban and Smuggler.

In the Flagstaff Marine-sponsored Performance Racing Series, featuring 29 starters, will be the newly arrived Beneteau Figaro 3, the world’s first foiling one-design production yacht.

Penned by the VPLP office in collaboration with Beneteau, the 36-foot (10.85m) light-displacement yacht brings a slice of America’s Cup technology to Port Stephens, albeit its foils are designed to increase righting moment rather than carrying the hull aloft.

Among five Fareast 28s in this division is Chicken Lips from NSW’s Riverina region, as owner Mark Hillis and crew love the wide-open waters of Port Stephens: “If we tipped the boat over in Wagga’s Lake Albert the mast would go through someone’s front window,” Hillis jokes.

Renowned boatbuilder John McConaghy will also feature in his 47-footer Second Time Around, a yacht he designed, built and launched in 1995, sporting hydraulic lifting keel, carbon rig, twin rudders and a luxury fit-out.

The Flagstaff Marine Performance Cruising divisions has 65 starters, just shy of the 2019 fleet but once again featuring a wealth of cruiser-racers.

The Australian Sports Boat Association, meanwhile, has eight entries lined up for its NSW State titles, Luke Ratcliff’s Re-Heat and Malcolm Dean’s Shaw 650 The Stig being pre-race favourites.

Sail Port Stephens has been proudly sponsored by Pantaenius Sail & Motor Yacht Insurance for seven years and would not be the success it is today without the generosity, enthusiasm and loyal support of Pantaenius. Michaela and Jamie capture the essence of Sail Port Stephens. They are fun, energetic, enthusiastic, generous team players with strong customer service being the core of their business and ours”.

Jennifer Hughes, Regatta Director. 

It is set to be a HUGE day on the water! 

The Bannisters Port Stephens Commodores Cup wrapped up on Wednesday with a brilliant evening of fun at the Cheeky Dog featuring Scott McRae’s Sons of Beaches. 

“Sunny with winds 15 to 25 km/h becoming light in the late afternoon” was how the official forecasters optimistically described Wednesday’s weather for Sail Port Stephens. At least they were right about the sunshine…

The breeze built to a fresh 20+ knots, with more than a sniff of southerly, and it blew away the chances of some of the fancied frontrunners in the Bannisters Port Stephens Commodores Cup fleet, along with an overnight adjustment of PHS handicaps.

Of course, it also brought other boats roaring back into contention.

The inshore race favoured yachts with longer waterlines and the flexibility to power and de-power as required, with no better example than Little Nico. To its hat-trick of line-honours wins, the Shaw 11 added an overall handicap victory in Division 1.

A fourth placing allowed it to overtake overnight leader Highly Sprung, a Beneteau First 45, while the Marten 49 Indigo II held on for third despite a 13th today. The podium for Race 3 was actually filled by three less-fancied newcomers – LaTroisieme Mitemps, a Beneteau 50 Sense, from the Hanse 458 Travelling Light and Dehler 46 YKnot.

In Division 2, the consistent Italia 11.98 Cicero held onto its overnight lead after posting an 11th today – again a step down from the 1-2 of previous days. Peter Horne’s Bling finished second overall, while the Bavaria 41 Elusive climbed to third.

Honours went to Antipodes, Greg Newton’s Oceanis 45, from Namadgi and Tensixty.

While it was so far so good for Sofarr, leading into the final race, a 19th placing gave the Farr 31 a nervous moment as it waited for the MASRM Liquid Force to finish. Ultimately the two yachts were tied on 21 points, victory going on countback to Sofarr owner Dale Sharp. The Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 Hells Bells claimed third place.

Race 3 honours in this division went to Ca Va, Wings 11 and Escape.

The handicappers caught up with Smoke and Mirrors in Division 4 after it had proven unbeatable in the two previous races. A 23rd dropped them back to second overall, allowing the popular Fareast 28R Chicken Lips to leapfrog them for the series win.

Skipper Mark Hillis hails from the NSW rural town of Wagga Wagga and only gets to sail three or four times a year. He caught the sailing bug after trying a catamaran on his home waters before stepping up to 28R.

The Azuree 33fc The Italian Job was third overall in Div 4.

Finally, in the non-spinnaker division, Peter Hamilton’s classic S&S34 Red William revelled in the heavier breeze and snared overall victory from the Jeanneau SO349 Pinta Bay and evergreen East Coast 31 Kulani.

Stay up-to-date with Sail Port Stephens news and results via the event website or facebook/sailportstephens/.

Sail Port Stephens 2021 is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism agency Destination NSW, along with Port Stephens Council and key sponsors Pantaenius Insurance, Alloggio, Bannisters Port Stephens and Flagstaff Marine.

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