Mark RothfieldKeg run added to Port regatta calendar

By , 17/12/2018 16:21

BIG PRIZE: 16-Foot East Coast Marine and Sail will be competing hard for a keg or two at Port Stephens.IT will be all beer and skittles at Sail Port Stephens in April if you happen to be a 16-Foot skiff sailor, as a fun ‘Keg Run’ has been added to the regatta calendar for the first time.

Kegs will be offered as prizes for crews to slake their hard-earned thirst after a long, competitive season. Port Stephens’ boutique brewery, Murray’s, is coming to the party with some of ’s finest craft beers.

The event will be held on April 21-22 as part of an extended ‘Season of Sailing’. There’s three windward-leeward races planned for the Saturday, starting 2pm, followed by a few quiet Sail ales at Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club.

Sunday will have two races from 12.30pm. The top three competitors all win beer, plus there will be a lucky door prize.

Regatta director Paul O’Rourke reckons it’s a great chance for sailors to let their hair down with families and mates.

“Skiff sailors are renowned for loving a beer or two and we thought their ears might spring up if there was a keg on offer,” he said. “But it’s very much a fun, social thing, and the keg idea is part of that.”

Newcastle sailmaker Scott Beeby, who joined the 16s three years ago as a sailor and sponsor, concurs: “We race all these hard-core regattas throughout the season but the venues aren’t exactly the nicest place for a holiday. Lots of us have young families now, so we thought Port Stephens would be perfect.

“You can’t beat the waters for this kind of sailing, and there’s great accommodation and activities on shore.”

Beeby is sheethand and sponsor aboard the skiff East Coast Marine and Sail, owned and skippered by Matthew Reece-Jones, with Corey Hamilton up front.

“There’s been a class resurgence in recent years because you can buy a kit boat from China, off-the-shelf, for around $60,000 with two rigs,” Beeby added. “The hull is pretty well one-design, which means that hulls don’t age.

“We get between 50 and 60 boats at the major regattas, and there’s still the traditional strongholds of Belmont, Manly, St George, Middle Harbour, Drummoyne, Illawarra, and Brisbane.”

Organisers are hoping for around 20 boats for the first Keg Run, including from Queensland, and it’s set to become an annual event. There’s whispers that Port Stephens may get to host a 16-Footer national title, so some competitors might come early to gain local knowledge.

Meanwhile, for yachts heading to Sail Port Stephens and looking for company, two feeder races will bring a large fleet of yachts north on the weekend prior to the regatta.

First, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club stages a race from Pittwater to Newcastle on April 7. Entrants berth overnight at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC).

NCYC then hosts the Newcastle-Port Stephens race at 10am on Sunday April 8, with divisions for PHS, IRC and ORCI.

They aim for a spectacular Newcastle Harbour start, shipping movements and weather allowing, although for timing sake there’s the option to conduct a rolling start in Stockton Bight if wind conditions are light.

The race committee instructs the fleet to motor until there’s to enough breeze to start the race. At that time an offshore start line will be set, and a gate finish line is set off Port Stephens heads.

Distance from Pittwater to Newcastle is around 45 nautical miles, while Stockton Bight measures around 22 nautical miles.

KIWI BREAKS DROUGHTNEW Zealand 18-Foot skiff Honda Marine, helmed by David McDiarmid, broke one of the longest droughts in sailing last Sunday, securing the first win by a Kiwi boat in the JJ Giltinan Trophy on Sydney Harbour.

The victory is the first in Sydney since the trophy was donated 80 years ago, and the first for a New Zealand boat at any venue since 1973. To rub salt into Aussie wounds, compatriot Josh Porebski aboard Maresk finished runner-up.

The win for Honda Marine came after seven attempts for McDiarmid, including winning four of the seven races sailed last year but still only finishing third.

KIWI-POWER: 18-Foot skiff Honda Marine has won the JJ Giltinan Trophy in Sydney. Photo: Frank Quealey

BRAIDWOOD ON BOARDANOTHER Lake Macquarie yachtsman is due to join the Volvo Ocean Race fray on Sunday in Auckland.

Tom Braidwood has signed on with Hong Kong’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, led by wily Aussie skipper David Witt, for Leg 7. The fleet will skate across the stormy Southern Ocean, around Cape Horn, to the Brazilian port of Itajaí.

The yacht is currently sixth out of seven entrants, with a best result of 4th in the six legs to date, but Witt and Braidwood are renowned heavy weather sailors who’ll push hard on what is arguably the signature leg of the race.

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