SINCE its maiden run in 1981 with a fleet of 14 yachts, the annual NSW coastal yacht race from Pittwater to Coffs Harbour has been fondly regarded as a fun, friendly, warm-water alternative to the Sydney-Hobart.
It was conceived by recreational sailor Max Tunbridge while competing in a race that rounded South Solitary Island, just north of Coffs, then returned to Sydney without stopping at one of NSW’s best coastal harbours. No fun, thought Max.
At its peak the Coffs race lured up to 120 entrants, among them Apollo, Ragamuffin, Wild Oats XI and Hong Kong’s Beau Geste, making it bigger than the Hobart some years.
However, disaster befell the event in 2017 when Coffs Harbour Marina sustained major damage during severe storms, resulting in former race hosts Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club relocating the finish line across the border to Southport.
The Royal Motor Yacht Club (RMYC) Broken Bay, in association with the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club, then forged a new partnership to reinstate the iconic event to the national calendar and reinvigorate interest in the Coffs Harbour region.
The reborn Newport to Coffs Coast Yacht Race (NCCYR) started on 27 December 2017 with 12 entries – including Newcastle’s Anger Management, which went on to win IRC and ORCi honours. Lake Macquarie entry Shakti sailed a strong race to be second on line-honours and PHS handicap victor.
International insurance company Pantaenius stepped in as major sponsor, adding to a portfolio that includes the popular Sail Port Stephens regatta.
At 230 nautical miles, the NCCYR appeals to skippers and crews who like to sail over the Christmas holiday break yet are disinclined to compete in the Sydney-Hobart or Pittwater-Southport because of safety equipment requirements, cost or time constraints.
It's close enough for family and friends to pack their beach gear and golf clubs and drive up the coast. Coffs Harbour Yacht Club puts on a fantastic welcome for visitors.
New Year’s Eve activities are in full swing as the fleet arrives, and many competitors stay throughout January to enjoy play-and-stay golf or hinterland drives.
Organisers say it’s “the right race at the right time” and see great potential to rebuild fleet size to beyond that of the 2016 race, which attracted 42 boats and more than 400 sailors.
RMYC Broken Bay commodore Chris Lee says: “This is our second year associated with the race and we’re looking forward to increasing the number of entries from last year.
“The southerly current provides many challenges for crews and means hugging the coast. The upshot is that they will experience some of most picturesque beaches and coastline all the way to Coffs Harbour.”
With Rob Brown OAM as race director, they’re calling on yachts from Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and Port Stephens to consider competing.
“If you do only one ocean race this year, make it this one,” Brown says.
Download a Notice of Race at royalmotor.com.au/coffs-race
“The race is conducted under Safety Category 3 Plus, which makes it affordable and accessible for a broader range of yachts. Competitors only need to have a VHF radio and a satellite phone for communications, not a High Frequency radio,” Brown says.
“Also, all yachts are provided with Yacht Tracker beacon technology to enable an online audience to closely follow the course and positioning of the fleet.”
The record time stands at just 18 hours and it’s a relatively easy delivery trip home once a nor-east weather window arrives.
Chaparral releases’ big reveal
WAKE up towsporters – Chaparral has two new bowrider releases pending for Melbourne Boat Show from next Thursday, June 28. Both the 21 H2O Surf and the 247 SSX will be seen for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere.
The 21-footer is an entry-level wake surf boat, priced below $100,000, but it reportedly doesn’t scrimp on advanced wake technology. There’s a computer-controlled Surf Gate device, built-in ballast and Volvo forward-facing drive to generate a clean wave up to one-metre high.
Meanwhile the 247 SSX is the first of the all-new Premium SSX model range and represents a new styling direction for Chaparral.
Volvo’s unusual scenario
OVERALL victory in the current Volvo Ocean Race will be decided on the final leg after the finish in Gothenburg left three teams tied for the lead.
Team Brunel, with Lake Macquarie’s Kyle Langford aboard, completed one of the great comebacks in sailing by winning the Cardiff-Gothenburg race by two minutes. It drew them level with MAPFRE and Dongfeng.
The team was sixth not long ago, but has since collected 45 out of 47 possible points.
It's an unprecedented scenario in the 45-year history of the race, with the final sprint to The Hague getting underway last night.