Super 12s go down to the wire at Sail Port Stephens

With the snap of a stay during the closing scenes of the Seabreeze Super 12 NSW Championship fleet at Sail Port Stephens 2017 yesterday, the fortunes of the two diminutive frontrunners changed dramatically.

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The Melges 32 Breezin, owned by Brad Sewell from southern Lake Macquarie, had begun the final day with a one-point advantage over local Port Stephens entry Rumbo, Guy and Clark Holbert’s modified Mumm 30.

Rumbo won the penultimate race to make life even more interesting.

Then misfortune struck for Sewell’s crew: “The D2 just snapped … I think the cockroaches must’ve gotten into it,” Sewell said wryly. “We’re lucky the mast didn’t come down actually.”

With Rumbo placing 7th in the last race, Breezin’s DNF reversed the overall championship result by a solitary point.

Looking back, it was a difference of 8 seconds on corrected time after Saturday’s 3-hour passage race to Broughton Island that also proved telling. It showed just how effective the Super 12s’ PHRF system is –  in fact, barely four minutes separated the fleet on corrected time in most races.

Sewell, a nine-year Sail Port Stephens stalwart, has previously collected a Commodores Cup trophy in 2008 and a Performance Racing gong last year, so he quickly cast off any disappointment.

“It’s been great sailing in this Super 12 fleet because the handicap system gives the little boats a chance, particularly in light airs,” Sewell added. “The Broughton Island race on Saturday is just a lovely event – we had a kite run all the way back, hitting 11-12 knots, and we had another Melges 32 in the fleet sitting on our hip the whole time.”

For the Holberts, who won a NSW IRC title at Sail Port Stephens six years ago with the same boat, it’s reward for heavily modifying their vintage Mumm 30 with a wider transom, fuller bow sections and prodder.

“We knew we could never afford a TP52 but we wanted this boat to look like a mini version,” Guy Holbert said. “This series was a great chance for us to compete against the best sailors and it was amazing to scrape in by one point.

“As fifth generation oyster farmers I guess we know the tides pretty well around here but overall we sailed pretty well and stayed motivated.”

With Rumbo now packed away for the season, the boys were back on board their oyster barges at 6am today, tending their racks in a wintry 30-knot westerly.

Third overall was the Melges 32 Mac 2, skippered by Andrew McDougall from Gosford Sailing Club. Adrian Walters’ Shaw 11 Little Nico won the lion’s share of line honours while the two Farr 400s Ignition and Vento were never far away.

In the Australian Sport Boat Association national titles sailed on Salamander Bay, Sydney’s Andrew York iced the cake that he’d largely baked on the Saturday by posting another two race wins out of the three sailed yesterday.

Victory on the modified VX1 Reo Speedwagon was even sweeter after a disappointing conclusion to last year’s nationals: “We thought we’d won the title last year as well but a rating issue pushed us back to third place,” York said.

“I designed and built this boat to the sport boat rule and I’m really happy with how it went. It looks a little under-rigged with a short boom but we have a good power-to-weight ratio and can be fully powered up and efficient in up to 15 knots. We’re really competitive upwind and still light enough to go well downwind.

“Overall it has been a great series on a really beautiful stretch of water.”

Second went to the Melges 24 Panther M24, helmed by Cronulla’s Steve O’Rourke, while Graham Sherring secured third place in his Leech 750 Retuned.

The Sail Port Stephens hosted series was the largest and most competitive in many years, with crews praising the race committee and venue.

Dates for the 11th Sail Port Stephens are set down for  9-15 April 2018 which is the week leading into the school holiday break.

Aerial footage of the sport boats can be seen at https://youtu.be/ZF1VVFD4rdc

Final overall results http://www.topyacht.net.au/results/2017/sps/index.htm

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