Main photo: Cock of the Harbour Race. Photo by Salty Dingo

Australia’s fastest and foremost racing yachts will arrive in Newcastle early next month to contest one of the premier prizes in offshore yachting, the Australian Yachting Championships, from April 5-7.

Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) is hosting the prestigious event in conjunction with the national sailing body, Australian Sailing. It will be embedded into the fast-growing SailFest Newcastle Regatta which was relaunched in 2019 but has a proud heritage dating back to 1845.

Undoubtedly one of the signature events is a TP52 division with 11 entries. Included are Geoff Boettcher’s orange-hulled Secret Men’s Business, due to be trucked from Adelaide for the series, and Marcus Blackmore’s newly built Hooligan.

David Doherty’s Matador, fresh from winning a closely fought Act 1 of the Pallas Capital Gold Cup for TP52s last weekend, will take strong form into the national championships, as will podium placegetters KOA (Andrew Kearnen) and Quest (Craig Neil).

Joining them will be at least 11 other entries striving for IRC-handicap honours in the Australian Yachting Championships, including Middle Harbour Yacht Club stablemates Nine Dragons (Bob Cox), Soozal (Keiran Mulcahy) and the Sydney 36 Stormaway (J. Stenning and C. Gunn).

Nine Dragons will square off with Mark Griffith’s LCE Old School Racing from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, both being near-identical DK46 sisterships built in 2004. Duelling for home-town honours, meanwhile, will be reigning Adams 10 National Champion Tom Woods aboard the JPK 10.8 Saltwater Wine, and Joe De Kock on his Farr 40 KD1.

Entries remain open for the IRC divisions and the PHS cruising class that is contested as part of SailFest Newcastle. Vessels from Queensland and Victoria are also expected to make the trek to Newcastle to compete in the Australian Yachting Championships.

Windward-leeward racing will be staged off Newcastle’s famous beaches and the passage racing will feature an in-harbour start at around 11.30am on Saturday, April 6, marked by a firing of Fort Scratchley’s 80-pound gun. It will give spectators on the harbour foreshore a front-row view.

NCYC CEO Paul O’Rourke says: “It’s fantastic to bring the sailing community together here in Newcastle. What make these events special is the camaraderie the sailors develop in the Club afterwards. We have always been able to deliver fantastic sailing along our coastline and generous hospitality after, and it’s great to be able to share that with a wider group of sailors this year.”

Saturday will also see the historic Cock of the Harbour race run by Port Hunter 16ft Sailing Skiff Club, with NCYC Sailing Manager Jack Buchan noting: “The 16ft Skiffs, catamarans and off-the-beach dinghies really bring the harbour to life as they vie for the honour of being the fastest sailing boats on the harbour. There is a colourful, chaotic beauty to the racing that’s fantastic to watch.”

Families can also get involved on Saturday and Sunday, April 6-7, from 9am to 12pm, as kids aged 6 to 12 can try sailing for free under the supervision of Australian Sailing qualified instructors from NCYC.

SailFest Newcastle Regatta is supported by the City of Newcastle and Transport for NSW.

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