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The Great Escape

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 31 May 2020 23:00 BST
Little Nico racing back into Port Stephens © John Curnow

Planning for liberation after the outbreak, huh?! Well, a collection of New South Wales clubs has very much kept the spirit of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell alive. Now their plan does not require everything to take place behind enemy lines, but is an equally monumental gem that will be known as, The Breakout Regatta.

This is a real goer, with the Notice of Race out this week for the event, which departs Sydney Harbour on Saturday, August 8, 2020. The whole thing ran from the kernel of a great idea, and to learn more I spoke with one of those directly attributed with its formulation, Peter Lewis, the Commodore from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club.

"One of the unheralded benefits to come from the crisis the world is experiencing is that the Commodores from the area all came together and (e) met fortnightly, which definitely keep us in lock step with each other. This meant that all of the clubs have gotten behind this event", said Lewis.

"We'll take off on Saturday August 8 from Sydney Harbour and arrive at Pittwater to overnight at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. On the Sunday we'll head further up the road to the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, which is right in the heart of town. Note there will be berths for just 60 vessels here, so if the fleet expands past this number, then we'll look at sending some further on to Port Stephens itself."

"On the Monday there is the race to our final destination, Port Stephens, and this is followed by a lay day. We have three days of racing from the Wednesday, with a passage race out and around all the islands and back. Anyone who knows the area will know just how tactical this will be. There is then two more days of racing inside, before boats can make their way home under their own recognisance."

In what seems to be a case of everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, on offer will be Cruiser/Racing (all white sails), spinnaker racing, and two-handed divisions. There is even a cruising rally in company meeting at each point, as well. Lewis also happens to be a Brand Ambassador for Jeanneau, so they will also have their own division to race in, additionally.

"Yes, we are going to celebrate everything yachting stands for. There will be prizes for the boats with most youth sailors (18+ years due to going outside), and also the most female crewmembers. There is a limit of 10 on board due to COVID-19 restrictions at this time, pending any further changes to the rules when racing comes about. Speaking of rules, there will also be functions every night, all designed to comply with the regulations in place come August."

The spirit of camaraderie is quite evident, with not only the host and founding clubs all binding together to make it happen, but also clubs like the Royal Motor in Newport stepping in to assist with overflow berthing, and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia applying average points to any of their fleet they elect to break out and thereby miss one of their local winter series races.

"We are also going to be raising money for the Making Waves Foundation, and their TP52 is a definite starter for the event, which would not have been possible without the help of partners like Pantaenius Sail and Motor Yacht Insurance, and the Newcastle Council. We are sure more sponsors will also look to be part of this special regatta", said Lewis in closing.

Another kind of first

Racers in the event will be able to see the first Beneteau First 27 to reach Australia. She was purposely designed with offshore racing in mind by the naval architect, Sam Manuard, who drew on his own experiences when creating her. The hard chine runs from vertical stem to transom, and the slab topsides provide for a generous 2.5m beam all the way to the waterline.

Her 610kg lead, swing keel comprises a healthy proportion of her 1400kg light displacement, is CAT3 compliant, and has a head and galley setup all set for short haul offshore work. Her carbon fibre mast stands just on 11m above her deck, from which holds aloft a square top mainsail, and there is a retractable bowsprit for flying either a masthead or fractional A-sail. There are decent accommodations down below for up to four souls, but importantly the First 27 can be run two-handed.

Flagstaff Marine's Graham Raspass said of the new boat arriving in time for the regatta, "Our client has come from a 31-foot cruising monohull, and is excitedly looking forward to a racing program. The selection was made because of the boat's performance capabilities both inshore of off (CAT3), and it can also be trailered to various locales."

"It has been specified with a standard. Three-reef mainsail, and a deck-sweeper furling jib was selected for ease of use. A fractional asymmetric spinnaker was chosen, as too an optional code zero on a second, Facnor flat deck furler. The boat is due to leave the factory in next couple of weeks, and shipping is easy, as it all goes in to a standard 40-foot container."

All of that means the vessel should be on the water right at the beginning of August, just in time for The Breakout Regatta. Her highly visible blue and white livery will be the easiest way to identify this first, First 27 to reach Australia. The super-qualified team of formidable racers at Flagstaff Marine, including co-owner Micah Lane and the irrepressible, living and breathing 18-footer wunderkind, Michael Coxon will be on hand to help the new owner extract the best of being a First skipper.

Raspass finished by saying, "Furthermore, we're really delighted to be sponsoring the Port Stephens leg and activities, and we'll be providing a Beneteau Swift Trawler 35 as the start boat. An event such as this all ties in very well with our offices in Sydney, Newport and Solders Point, with the Port Stephens YC right next door to our office."

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the site for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by emailing us. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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