Weather gods play havoc with Sail Port Stephens | Mark Rothfield

LUCKY DASH: Wild Oats X sailing past Cabbage Tree Island during Sail Port Stephen's NSW IRC Championship.
LUCKY DASH: Wild Oats X sailing past Cabbage Tree Island during Sail Port Stephen's NSW IRC Championship.

AFTER six days of sublime sunshine and sailing, a wild westerly put paid to any further racing across all divisions at Sail Port Stephens on the final Sunday, leaving the overnight results standing.

The postponement flag was hoisted at 9am, with race officer Denis Thompson declaring that the committee would reassess. At 12.15pm, the siren’s final wail was dispersed by winds gusting to 39 knots.

A freak storm cell also wrought havoc on Saturday night, with 60-knot gusts accompanied by horizontal hail and lightning. Mast-top instruments bore the full brunt while stray sails and gear were sent flying.

Luckiest of all was the Wild Oats X which, with its 4.5-metre draft, was awaiting the tide to enter The Anchorage Marina. The crew saw the front approaching and made a dash for the harbour with minutes to spare, bumping the keel but sustaining no damage.

It was a slightly sour end to a sweet day of sailing aboard Oats, which blitzed the Broughton Island race to cross the line 10 minutes clear of Marcus Blackmore’s latest TP52 Hooligan.

OVERALL WINNER: Hooligan, owned by Marcus Blackmore, in action at Port Stephens.

OVERALL WINNER: Hooligan, owned by Marcus Blackmore, in action at Port Stephens.

Navigator Adrienne Cahalan noted that the 30-mile course, which also weaves through the three islands off Port Stephens Heads, presented numerous challenges for the canting-keeled 66-footer.

Of the four races sailed in IRC, Hooligan won three and took third in the other to wrest the NSW Championship title from last year’s winner, RKO. Despite the dominance, they were only 1.5 points clear of Tony Kirby’s Patrice, which won the opening race, had a rare dead-heat with Celestial in Race 2, then posted two 2nd placings.

While disappointed that Ichi Ban, a Botin-designed sistership, was a late scratching, Blackmore was rapt with the performance of his recent purchase, formerly Azzura, and his crew.

“There are very few IRC regattas in Australia. This one is outstanding, with a great race committee, and I really thank the organisers,” Blackmore said.

The new NSW champions in the Super 12s are the Ker 40 Showtime, for Division 1, and the Belmont-based Melges 32 Tow Truck in Division 2. Plans for a series of windward-leewards on Sunday were scuttled by the breeze.

“You can’t control the weather gods,” Tow Truck skipper Anthony Paterson said. “Still, we’re very happy with the result and had a lot of fun. We had a great team on board that just kept pushing.”

Paterson favours the Super 12’s handicapping system over PHS but, as a skipper of a smaller entry, would prefer to see the divisional length capped at 40-feet. “Once you get above 40 it changes the dynamic,” he added.

X43 Quest III took Performance Cruising Division 1 honours by one point from the Sydney 36 Amante. Equal on 14 points were Peter Byford’s Jeanneau 469 SO L’Esprit and Rob Aldis’s Kayimai, with L’Esprit winning on countback.

Newcastle’s Tim Gleeson won Division 2 aboard Summersalt, despite not winning a race. Second was the Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 Steadfast from Swan 48 Sumatra. On the Performance Racing podium were the Archambault A32 Esprit, Sydney 38 Challenge and Salona 38 Sticky.

Andrew York defended his national sports boat title in Reo Speedwagon by claiming two of the four races. In second place was Juno skippered by Reg Lord, a first timer at Sail Port Stephens regatta.

Dates for Sail Port Stephens 2019 are April 8-14, the week preceding the NSW school holiday break. Class associations are urged to contact the organisers to participate under the Season of Sailing banner.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 debut

FOUR days after it arrived in the country, the shiny new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 made an impressive Australian debut in the Commodores Cup at Sail Port Stephens.

Owner Les Pondgrass was thrilled by its performance. “Once it digs in it can really go. It will be used for cruising and entertaining, but it is exciting to know that it can handle these kinds of racing conditions,” he said.

The distinctive Phillipe Briand hull has a large amount of volume in the bow, allowing for a spacious master cabin with a full-size queen bed, yet it doesn’t detract from performance.

See performanceboating.com.au

WaveRunner milestone 

YAMAHA has celebrated a milestone by building its one millionth WaveRunner personal watercraft after almost 30 years of manufacturing in the US. Do the maths, and that’s more than 90 a day, every day.

They’ve built a great reputation for reliability, affordability and performance, especially with their latest four-stroke models, while being at the forefront of innovation. They’re renowned for ride quality, with sweet handling in corners, softness in the chop and good stability.

The milestone model was a VX from the recreational range, which has been Yamaha's best-selling WaveRunner. The 2018-model VX Deluxe is a snazzy looking beast in black and blue.