Sail Port Stephens 2012 – Loved by the sailors and growing rapidly

’Hooligan’ during the NSW IRC Championships 2012 Sail Port Stephens Regatta hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club Day 6.
Matt King /Sail Port Stephens 2012
Sail Port Stephens, one of Australia’s fastest growing regattas, attracted a record 165 entries in 2012.

The fifth annual regatta ran from Monday 16th until Sunday night 22nd April 2012.

The week started with the Commodores Cup Cruising series, then Trophy series, the NSW IRC titles across three divisions, the Performance Racing and Cruising divisions, the Elliott 7 Sports Boat Australian Championship and a new two day Junior regatta.

Port Stephens is just 110 nautical miles from Sydney and 2.5 hours driving time, with Newcastle airport just 20 minutes from the Port Stephens holiday town of Nelson Bay.


Regatta central is at d’Albora Marina, in downtown Nelson Bay, with ever growing elements of the fleet at the multiple award winning Soldiers Point and the Anchorage Resort marina further along the bay.

While it competes for precious holiday time with many established regattas around the Asia Pacific, the event does have a very bright future.

The IRC 2011 Australian Champion is Marcus Blackmore. Blackmore and his very talented Hooligan crew defended their NSW IRC Division 1 title at Sail Port Stephens 2012.

On the Sunday afternoon he spoke to us about the event and then repeated the same sentiments during the Prize Presentation.

‘We really enjoy this regatta.

We have always seen Sail Port Stephens as being an important preliminary event for Hamilton Island (IRC National Championship).

‘I compliment the organisers. I can’t say enough good things about this event - great sailing waters, superb race management and great event management overall.

‘I think the organisers are incredibly good at getting local support, with strong local support at a small corporate level and government support too, and I think that helps make Sail Port Stephens successful. The event has just grown in stature each year.

‘I think they have done a fantastic job and it is a great place to visit and the other thing is that it doesn’t cost you the earth. The accommodation is reasonable. Some of the regattas we go to the accommodation suddenly goes up the week we are there.

‘Port Stephens is a beautiful location close to Sydney and its convenient as boats can return to Sydney quickly - I think half the boats are on their way back. It’s not disruptive and you don’t have to take your boat a long distance.

‘I think it is a great venue. We started coming here in the Farr 40 years ago. We started that trend, not that they hadn’t had regattas here before, but then the 38s followed the Farrs and now this event - I think it is fantastic.

‘More marina berths and Sail Port Stephens will really be away. The event development is coming along quickly, when you talk about the 23rd Airlie Beach and the 28th Hamilton Island, Port Stephens is only up to number six.

‘ If you are a keelboat owner and you’ve not been to this event plan to be here in 2012.’

Peter Sorensen Philosophers Club
Sail Port Stephens Event Media


Peter Sorensen, a former 18 footer world champion now sails the Sydney 36 The Philosophers Club. ‘Sorro’ is a dual IRC national champion and a very keen sports boat skipper and he is very positive about Port Stephens.

‘This is a really great location for a regatta - better than the big ones south and north. It’s definitely much less expensive and a lot better.

'I’d love to see an Australian IRC Championship here in the future.’

Rapid Transit on the final day of Sail Port Stephens 2011
Sail Port Stephens Event Media


Lake Macquarie's Brett Van Munster, the official 18 foot skiff builder, sailed the GP26 Rapid Transit at this year's event.

He was smiling dockside. ‘It’s a fantastic event. The waterway is really challenging - sailing around inside with all the sand bars.

‘It is a great spot to come and sail - nice and central to everything, not too far and it’s a good time of the year.

‘Its is pretty cheap for most people to come and you see the likes of Hooligan and Loki, the big guns from interstate and also the club guys from the Lake (Macquarie), Gosford and Newcastle and it is good to have everybody together.

‘I think the feeder races are an important aspect of this event. Thanks to both Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and Royal Prince Alfred for their support for this growing event.’

Sail Port Stephens Principal Race Officer for all of the six years has been Denis Thompson. He is the best known and most experienced keelboat race officer in the Asia Pacific.

As day seven came to a close Thompson said ‘A hard week in paradise. It was a very difficult week with unusual weather conditions with a trough lying over Port Stephens and creating some heavy rain and no wind, and it was a very light regatta but I think IRC had the best of the breeze offshore. It was good racing.

‘The swell made it interesting when the fleet was going upwind with a westerly and swell behind and it was difficult to steer, I would say, for some of the skippers.

‘It was good to have a mixture of conditions. It probably would have been good to have one heavy race, but you have still have to be able to sail in the light.

‘The venue is excellent for a regatta. It’s very family friendly and offers good racing in challenging conditions. You have to use the tide, you have to navigate, so all the skills come into it.

‘Running an inside course and outside course makes it pretty challenging from a race management angle; trying to juggle the tides, juggle the courses, juggle the sandbanks, it’s good fun.

‘Positive feedback (on race management) and that is always pleasing to hear.’

Long Time Dead with developing water spout. Commodores Cup day 1 Sail Port Stephens 2012
Sail Port Stephens Event Media


Paul O’Rourke, Regatta Director from the Colette Point Sailing Club, the organisers of the event, worked from dawn to very late at night all week.

After the Sunday afternoon presentation he commented ‘We would have preferred a little bit more breeze but the sailing was still challenging. Everyone got round the race course and everyone had a good time.

‘I am glad everyone enjoys Sail Port Stephens because we enjoy hosting everybody. We love having them here and on the race management side the sailors are right - Denis’ team were outstanding on all the race courses. They adjusted to the weather and the conditions every time and as I said, it made for great sailing.

Junior action aplenty on day 2 at Sail Port Stephens 2012 Junior Regatta 2012
Sail Port Stephens Event Media
‘We have been very pleased with the success of our first Junior regatta. It was great to see the kids get out and give it a go and I think that is a particularly strong area of growth for the regatta going forward.

‘Hopefully everyone who was here this year will tell their sailing mates about Sail Port Stephens and the event will continue to grow.’

For more news, pictures and information on Sail Port Stephens 2012 please visit the event website - www.sailportstephens.com.au

(L-R) ’Zen’, ’Exile’ and ’Victoire’ race during the NSW IRC Championships at the 2012 Sail Port Stephens Regatta
Matt King /Sail Port Stephens 2012

Division 2 start of Race 2 during the NSW IRC Championships at the 2012 Sail Port Stephens Regatta hosted by Corlette Point Sailing Club Day 7. Picture by Matt King Sail Port Stephens Media Event
Matt King /Sail Port Stephens 2012

Selden Deck Hardware day 1 leader of Elliott 7 Australian Championship at Sail Port Stephens 2012
Sail Port Stephens Event Media

Matt Allen helming Ichi Ban - his new Farr 400. IRC Division 1. NSW IRC Championship. Sail Port Stephens 2012 day 6
Sail Port Stephens Event Media


Pretty as a picture for Division Two at the top mark. - Sail Port Stephens
John Curnow ©