THEY’RE usually harder to herd than cats, but as many as 20 crews will contest the Australian Sport Boat Association’s (ASBA) national titles from April 7-9 as part of the 2017 Sail Port Stephens race week.
At the same time, around a dozen super-charged Super 12s will vie for their NSW state title, the strongest fleet to date.
Both associations represent a myriad of models from different designers, all coming together under development umbrellas but with rating systems to level the playing field.
At ASBA regattas it’s common to see early-90s veterans like Elliott 7s and Magic 25s competing with cutting-edge newcomers such as Shaw 650s, Viper 640s and VX1s, the Jamaican sprinters of the yachting world.
Association president Chris Bland reckons sport boats are the “only way to fly”.
“My Shaw is 6.5-metres long and carries 850 square feet [80 square metres] of sail downwind. We regularly see 15 knots but the best I’ve had is 32 knots – frightening to say the least, but it can be done.”
“Being a development class, we also have guys constantly pushing the limits of the rules, which is what we’re encouraging,” Mr Bland said.
“Last year the regatta offered some spectacular sport boat sailing and this year won’t disappoint either.”
“We’re going to have 10 boats, no risk, but more likely 15 and as many as 20. At last year’s nationals in Queensland we had nine boats, so it’s looking better,” he said.
Most of the competitors will be based at Soldiers Point Marina as Port Stephens Yacht Club is hosting post-race drinks.
Meanwhile, Super 12 association representative Mitch White says their fleet is rapidly gaining traction thanks to a PHRF handicap formula, which is working well among a raft of performance boats up to 40 feet.
The NSW titles at Sail Port Stephens will feature two Farr 400s, two Little Nicho sisterships, four Melges 32s, the Farr 36 Toy Story and more.
“No one is designing to a rule because that quickly makes boats obsolete. It’s all about having fun and going fast without stress,” Mr White said.
“You don’t have to continually tweak your boat, but if owners want to try things we’re not going to stop them. Go for your life.”
For more information see www.sailportstephens.com.au.