Mark Rothfield | Wild Port Stephens welcome for Oats X

BIG WELCOME: Sandy Oatley's Wild Oats X has entered the NSW IRC Championship for the first time
BIG WELCOME: Sandy Oatley's Wild Oats X has entered the NSW IRC Championship for the first time

WILD Oats’ wines have graced Sail Port Stephens for many years but the regatta is now getting a taste of the real thing – Wild Oats X is lining up for the prestigious NSW IRC Championship for the first time.

Sandy Oatley’s canting-keeled Reichel-Pugh 66 also competed in the recent Sydney-Hobart, belying its size and age by finishing just six hours behind its famous 100-foot sister.

As the largest entry in Sail Port Stephens’s 11-year history, it will be firm line-honours favourite in IRC. They’re berthing at the recently upgraded Anchorage Marina.

A hot field of TP52s will once again vie for overall honours after RKO tko-ed the previously unbeaten Ichi Ban in 2017.

Regatta patron Matt Allen is bringing his new gun to the next knife fight, itching to be ‘number one’ again aboard the Botin-designed 52. With Sydney-Hobart and 2018 Australian Yachting Championship honours already in the bag, the NSW title would give Allen the trifecta of majors.

Marcus Blackmore has entered his own Botin boat, Hooligan, which won the Sydney Harbour Regatta’s Open Class Division 1 with four bullets.

Fresh from a runner-up result in the Hobart race with the chartered Balance, Bob Steel is moving back to his M.A.T 1180 Quest and bringing a highly talented crew.

In last year’s IRC division 2, Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons led until the penultimate race, when Pittwater yacht Bushranger slipped ahead.

Nine Dragons finished up the top boat by the slimmest margin, a countback, after posting a final heart-stopping corrected time win by 11 seconds to Bushranger’s second. Owner Bob Cox will be hoping for a less stressful result.

It’s the best IRC field assembled in Australia this year.

When it comes to the Performance Cruising category, don’t be fooled by the cruisy looks.

A case in point is the Azuree 46 Kayimai, a twin-ruddered Rob Humphreys design with a blue-blooded performance pedigree, especially once its 190 sqm kite hits the masthead.

Jeanneau dealer Performance Boating Sales has announced it will be the maiden regatta for the award-winning Sun Odyssey 440 – the first in the country.

The 440 won European Yacht of the Year 2018 with innovations like an inclined side deck, and cathedral shrouds with retracted inboard shrouds to further clear the path forward.

If there’s an entry that defines the intent of Commodores Cup racing it’s John and Kim Clinton’s Beneteau, Holy Cow, which is easily recognised by black and white cow spots, a cow horn and fluoro-lime crew. John Clinton is better known as the bearded drummer from the Wolverines, a country rock band from Tamworth.

Race organisers are welcoming the Sailors with disAbilities crew aboard Wot Eva to Sail Port Stephens for the first time. The TP52, skippered by David Pescud, will compete in the Performance Racing division to give the crew a taste of intensive inshore and short offshore racing. The entry fee has been waived to support the charity, while d’Albora Marinas are offering free berthing.

The modified Mumm 30 Rumbo, owned by Port Stephens oyster farmers Guy and Clark Holbert, are mounting a defence for the NSW Titles in the Super 12 class. Last year’s victory came down to a broken wire on the Melges 32 Breezin, owned by Brad Sewell from southern Lake Macquarie.

A solitary point is all that separated them after the breakage in the final race. Breezin will also be back.

BUZZI LITTLE SPEEDSTER

WE know that Novocastrians don’t mind a water speed challenge – with David Warby still planning to break his dad Ken’s overall record at some stage – so here’s one if you happen to have an oil-guzzling tractor engine lying around:

Italian Fabio Buzzi recently set the fastest speed on water, at Lake Como, using a diesel engine. He reached 277.5 km/h, which is 25.5 km/h more than the previous record. And that was using a customised 16-litre, 1700hp agricultural engine.

Two things to consider though – Buzzi is a world champion driver and is CEO of the company responsible for the hull’s engineering.

MELBOURNE-OSAKA 

ALL but one of the 19 Melbourne-Osaka yacht race starters are now underway after the bulk of the fleet left Port Phillip Bay last Sunday.

The Judel-Vrolijk 62 Chinese Whispers will leave on April 1, giving chase to the S&S 34 Morning Star that departed March 15 – both are tipped to arrive in Osaka on the same day, April 24, after sailing 5500 nautical miles non-stop and double-handed.

Disappointingly, Newcastle’s Sibby Ilzhofer and crewman Jon Sayer were a late omission, withdrawing the yacht Dare Devil despite using the Sydney-Hobart as a shakedown.

The Melbourne-Osaka was first run in 1987 and is considered one of the world’s great yacht races.

COMPETITIVE: Performance cruiser entrant Azuree 46 Kayimai, powering ahead under its blue spinnaker.

COMPETITIVE: Performance cruiser entrant Azuree 46 Kayimai, powering ahead under its blue spinnaker.