Newcastle to host elite regatta

NEWCASTLE will host one of the most prestigious events on the yachting calendar next year after securing the rights to the 2014 IRC Australian Championship.

Yachting Australia announced last night that Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club would host the event for four days over the Easter long weekend.

The championship will attract the nation’s leading sailors and is regarded by many as second only to the Sydney to Hobart on the ocean racing schedule.

The IRC is a time-based handicap system which is also used in the Sydney to Hobart.

NCYC commodore Phil Arnall told the Herald yesterday that his club had outbid other NSW yacht clubs for the hosting rights.

Several members of the NCYC are in Geelong this week on a fact-finding mission at this year’s IRC Championship.

Up to 50 yachts are predicted to converge on Newcastle, bringing 500 to 1000 sailors and supporters.

‘‘It’s a feather in our cap and a feather in Newcastle’s cap because part of the reason we were awarded it is the infrastructure that exists around Newcastle and the proximity to the race track,’’ Arnall said.

‘‘I think over the four days we’re going to see plenty of intensive and competitive sailing, which is good for the club and can only be good for Newcastle and for anyone who has any interest in water sports.’’

The program is yet to be determined, but it will feature seven races over a variety of distances.

It is unknown if six-time Sydney to Hobart line-honours winner Wild Oats XI will be in the fleet in Newcastle, but well-known TP52s Hooligan and Shogun V will almost certainly be among the competitors.

‘‘The good thing about this is it’s not a matter of how much money you’ve got which determines who wins this, it’s how good your crew is and how well maintained your boat is,’’ Arnall said.

The event in Newcastle will be preceded by the NSW IRC Championship in Port Stephens the week before.

NCYC sailor Michael Martin is competing in Geelong this week on his yacht Frantic and is likely to be a leading local contender next year.

Arnall confirmed he would race his Corby 43 Anger Management and other likely NCYC competitors are veteran Sydney to Hobart husband-and-wife team Jim and Mary Holley on their yacht Aurora.

‘‘I would assume there would be half a dozen boats at least from the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club fleet and I would assume there would be the same number from Lake Macquarie,’’ Arnall said.

‘‘It’s just such a great opportunity when it’s happening in your own backyard.’’

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