The SailFest Newcastle Regatta is a wonderful event, which not only shows off our spectacular working harbour and thriving city but also delivers a welcome economic boost for local businesses.
– City of Newcastle Lord Mayor, Cr Nuatali Nelmes
AS the third annual SailFest Regatta brings a smorgasbord of world-class sailing to Newcastle Harbour and beaches on the weekend of March 26-27, the Steel City will transform into Keel City.
It is one of the few places in Australia, let alone the world, that allow you to stroll the waterfront and see international match-racing and high-performance catamarans and skiffs in action on the harbour, grand-prix ocean racers off the coastline, and free kids’ sailing in a protected basin.
TP52 Gold Cup
Once again, the main attraction of SailFest Newcastle will be the TP52 fleet from Sydney, sailing their intraclass Gold Cup series.
The skippers and crews thoroughly enjoy the hospitality that the recently expanded and refurbished Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club provides.
“It’s pretty stunning watching these big weapons charge down the harbour,” club CEO Paul O’Rourke said. “It’s a real coup to have them here.
“They love it here because we’ve got the deep water in and out of the harbour, and from the yacht club out to the offshore course it’s 15 minutes. Other places it can take you over an hour to get to the start.”
The ocean-racing fleet includes reigning Sydney to Hobart winner Ichi Ban and the Newcastle-based TP52 Woteva sailed by the Making Waves Foundation.
They’ll sail offshore on the Saturday and a passage race on the Sunday that starts and finishes off Queens Wharf, weather permitting.
Last year’s start featured eight TPs planing across the line under spinnaker, fanned by a wild westerly.
In over 175 years of regatta sailing on the harbour, rarely had a sight been more enthralling for spectators and crews.
The well-oiled machines and racing teams reached 20+ knots within metres of each other’s gunwales, further confined by breakwall rocks and shipping marks, but showed remarkable calmness and skill.
The TP52 Gold Cup, awarded on the class’s TPR handicapping system, went to Quest.
“It’s such a great event to have so many TPs here and, as far as the start goes, I’m not sure about 175 years but it was the most exciting I’ve been involved with,” Quest owner Craig Neil said as he held his Cup aloft last year.
Smuggler claimed second place, owner Sebastian Bohm also buzzing about the conditions: “That was heart-in-the-mouth stuff,” he said. “Fairly intense but great fun.”
Asia Pacific finals
Friday, March 25, sees the opening salvos of the Sailing Champions League Asia Pacific match-racing finals.
Yacht club crews from around Australia are racing directly in front of the Honeysuckle precinct over the three days.
Port Hunter Sailing Club is hosting a 16ft skiff regatta on Saturday, March 26.
Cock of the Harbour
The iconic race known as the Cock of the Harbour moves to a Sunday timeslot.
The latter’s sole purpose is to determine the fastest sailing craft on the Harbour, as it did when gaff-rigged workboats plied the Harbour.
“It’s one of Australia’s oldest sailing trophies,” Paul said. “The race title is derived from an old phrase “Cock of the hooper” which means to crack a keg in celebration.
“Any boat can contest it, be it skiff, foiling boat, catamaran etc – they do a circuit and see who’s the fastest.”
Brothers Daniel and Nathan Van Kerckhof, who represente Tanilba Bay Sailing Club last year on Send It Marine, are the defending champions.
Fastest of the monohulls last year was Waddles, a local 16-foot skiff, which crossed the line eighth overall.
Children can also participate in a free Try-Sailing experience in the sheltered waters of Throsby Basin, adjacent to Carrington Bridge, running 10am-2pm on both days. No registration is necessary for this chance to learn a new skill aboard one of NCYC’s Tackers trainers.
“It’s just one of the many programs NCYC offers,” Paul said. “We’ve got programs from kids to veterans and everything in between – families, teens, kids, adults, female only etc. If people like what they see during Sailfest, we’re hoping it inspires them to get into sailing.”
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said City of Newcastle, a foundation supporter, was pleased to be able to continue its backing of the SailFest Newcastle Regatta as part of its commitment to supporting and attracting local, national and international events to Newcastle.
“The SailFest Newcastle Regatta not only shows off our spectacular working harbour and thriving city but also delivers a welcome economic boost for local businesses who benefit from those who travel to Newcastle for the weekend,” Cr Nelmes said.
“Our sponsorship has supported Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club in its plans to expand and improve the festival to add another great fixture to our vibrant calendar of annual events and enhance our reputation as a world-class events city.
Transport for NSW is another major supporter, leveraging the opportunity to promote a vital water-safety message direct to competitors and the wider public.
“The event provides an excellent opportunity to engage both participants and spectators on a range of maritime safety issues,” says Bernard Carlon, Chief, Centres for Road & Maritime Safety.
SailFest ends the following Sunday with the Newcastle-Port Stephens feeder race for its sister regatta, Sail Port Stephens.
For more details, see sailfest.com.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 4940 8188.