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Sail Port Stephens - Day 1

by Mark Rothfield 19 Apr 12:47 BST 19-25 April 2021

It was a day to clear the rust, but also to show some trust, as Sail Port Stephens turned on a spectacular opening day for the Bannisters Port Stephens Commodores Cup 2021.

Racing on the icon Pub-to-Pub course began in light nor'westerlies, allowing an easy run to Shoal Bay, however a mid-race shift to a nor'east seabreeze brought the backmarkers right back into contention as they rode the new wind line.

It compressed the fleet of 105 starters, making mark roundings action-packed - especially in the bay overlooked by series sponsor Bannister Port Stephens Resort.

Staying clear of trouble was the secret for Division 1 PHS winner XXX, a modified Mount Gay 30 from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, with another Mount Gay 30 MBD finishing third. Separating them was the Beneteau First 45 Highly Sprung.

Linehonours went to the Shaw 11 Little Nico in a dominant display.

In Division 2, it was the hot Italia 11.98 cruiser-racer Cicero, skippered by Australia agent Mark Hellyer, who claimed first place on PHS. Cicero is configured for IRC, with a fin keel and carbon rig, and it slipped beautifully through the light patches.

"We were a long way ahead before the breeze turned and everyone caught us, but that happens in these races," Hellyer said. "Once we got the breeze, we kicked again.

"There was definitely some rust because this is pretty well the only regatta we've been able to do since I got the boat a year ago.

"I personally enjoy light weather sailing because it takes concentration, and we kept out of trouble at the marks - better than some other people apparently."

The Sydney 36C Salt Shaker (Peter Franki) held off Liquid Force (Jason Jordan) and the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200 Hells Bells (Lincoln Dews).

David Rundle's Smoke and Mirrors, an Enigma 34, won Division 4 from Elusive Spirit and the Young 88 Agent 88. Originally from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club but now sailing with the Port Stephens Yacht Squadron, Smoke and Mirrors had a mixture of crew from both clubs aboard.

"I think it's fair to say we had a good handicap today," Rundle said. "It was one of those weird, fluky days where there were boats behind us that shouldn't have been, and boats in front that also shouldn't have beaten us across the line.

"There are so many boats here that the challenge is to get clear air and get going. We mostly stayed out of trouble. When we ran down to Bannisters the rounding was more about security than anything else - most people were pretty courteous."

Non-spinnaker honours went to Noel Borel's Kulani, a vintage East Coast 31.

"It was challenging for sure. You had to be in the right place at the right time and keep out of trouble more than anything else," Borel said. "It was nice that everyone stopped to wait for us every now and then," he added.

"We were right at the bottom mark when the wind line hit, so we effectively got two runs for the price of one."

Borel describes Kulani as an oldie but a goodie, but it did him proud today.

Tomorrow's forecast is for more breeze, building to a predicted 20 knots from the north-west. Stay up-to-date with Sail Port Stephens news and results via the event website or Facebook page.

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