Over three days from March 29-31, Newcastle will be the scene for one of the year's biggest regattas in NSW. All up, more than 90 boats are expected to sail in Sailfest Newcastle Regatta, both within the harbour and offshore along the coast of Newcastle.
The main drawcard will be the inaugural TP52 Gold Cup, which is attracting some of the nation's most experienced sailors. Seven TP52 from around Australia are expected to line up for the three-day competition, one of the biggest fleets for TP52 racing in the country. The entry list is highlighted by local boat Frantic, and also includes Hooligan, Gweilo, Celestial, Zen, Wot Eva and Koa. The series will include windward-leeward races off Newcastle beach and a passage race off Stockton Bight.
The TP52 regatta will take place on Friday through to Sunday. The other offshore yachts will join them outside the heads for PHS and IRC racing on Saturday and Sunday.
There will be other offshore racing, featuring a collection of local boats and a few outsiders, who will do a passage race one day and windward leeward the next. Headlining the local consortium will be the J122 Marta Jean, skippered by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Commodore Steve Rae.
"Newcastle Harbour acts as a great spot for sailing and spectating, allowing visitors to stroll the foreshore and watch everything from dinghy sailing and Olympic class boats, and walk down to Nobby's Beach to watch the TP52s and ocean racers battle it out," Steve Rae says.
"It's a fantastic chance for us to show off the sport of sailing to the city."
The Laser fleet will race right in front of Honeysuckle Hotel for four windward leeward races on Sunday at 12.25pm for the Honeysuckle Hotel Laser Pub Challenge, where teams will get a chance to win their weight in beer.
All other Off The Beach sailors, including Skiffs, Trailable Yachts, Sports Boats and Force 24s, will compete over two days in the Queens Wharf Brewery Challenge conducted by Port Hunter 16ft Skiff Club, starting with the historic Cock of The Harbour Race on March 30 and concluding with the Newcastle Trophy Race on March 31.
Port Hunter 16ft Skiff Club's Cock of the Harbour Race will be revived for the regatta, giving smaller boats an opportunity to sail in one of the oldest trophies in Australian sailing. First staged in 1834, the Cock of the Harbour Race precedes Sydney's Australia Day Regatta by nearly three years, and a full decade before Geelong's Australia Day Regatta.
It's a busy schedule for NCYC sailing manager Jack Buchan and his race team.
"We want to showcase the sport of sailing in a way that's never been done before in Newcastle," Buchan says.
"To get so many classes of boats to come here for the event shows that region has the capacity to host big events. With The Ocean Race looking out for new locations, we want to put Newcastle on the map as a potential host city."
And it's not just seasoned campaigners who can jump aboard a yacht this weekend, with NCYC running the TrySailing program in Carrington for first-timers.
Jack O'Rourke is a contributor to Ocean Media
The first National Sailing League event will feature 24 teams taking to Sydney Harbour to compete in 45 stadium format races of 12-15 minutes each. The three days (April 26-28) of fully umpired short course keelboat racing will use Elliott 7s. A maximum four crew, at least one of those female, will crew in the open division and a maximum of five will crew in the youth and women's division. Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club have entered three teams. Team captain and Open Division skipper is Richard Howard, while Janease Graham will serve as women's team skipper and Thomas Steenson will be the youth skipper.
Free lifejacket clinics will be held at Port Stephens on Sunday, as part of a new phase of the successful NSW Government wear a lifejacket program. The clinic will be held on Sunday, March 31, at Little Beach boat ramp, between 12pm and 3pm. At the clinic, Roads and Maritime staff will teach boaters how to carry out a simple pre-wear check before use and how to service inflatable lifejackets. Boaters who come along to the Port Stephens clinic will be eligible to receive free lifejacket parts kits or $15 vouchers that can be used towards the buying a new lifejacket or parts at participating marine retailers.