Sail Port Stephens 2017: NSW IRC, Super 12, Australian Sports Boat championships, performance racing and cruising kick off on Friday

Friday marks the start of busiest half of the 2017 Sail Port Stephens on-water program.

The NSW IRC Championship, NSW Super 12 Championship, Australian Sports Boat Championship, Performance Racing and Cruising Series all kicked off today (April 7).

It follows three days of Commodore’s Cup racing, and a lay day on Thursday.

All racing concludes on Easter Sunday.

Peter and Drew van Ryn’s 25 year old Sea Hawk took out the Commodore’s Cup division one pointscore.

Just four points won it for them, their first regatta since 2011.

Division two went to the wire, with Dave Griffin’s Alfresco the victor on a countback.

The Commodore’s Cup is the traditional Sail Port Stephens opener and usually a very straightforward three race series.

For the first time in a decade protests were lodged post-race.

“We’ve had nine years and two Commodore’s Cup races without a protest, and now we have two,” organiser Paul O’Rourke said.

There was plenty more drama.

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Three division one boats were OCS in the three knot tide at the start.

Tom Woods’ super quick Toy Story, which is usually the lead boat, had to painfully work its way back against the current to restart behind the entire division two fleet.

Six division two boats were over at the start off the Nelson Bay breakwater.

Three of those made a genuine attempt to return for another go but in the end accepted a five minute penalty from the race committee in lieu of restarting.

Classic boat Vittoria broke a steering chain shackle and owner Alan Reece found himself facing 50 oncoming boats with no steerage.

The crew rummaged through lockers and found the spare steering post, setting up a manual system to get them out of trouble.

There was five knots of sou’east wind against tide at the lunchtime start, a quiet affair until the RAAF flyover to mark the 10th anniversary Sail Port Stephens.

Midway through the final passage race kites were shredding in the gusts and a collision between division one boats Amante and Flashdance II.

The collision rendered Amante’s race over, and sent them to the protest room to argue their case.

Flashdance was subsequently disqualified by the jury from race three and, disappointingly for owner Dennis Cooper, Amante sustained too much damage to continue its Sail Port Stephens series.

For van Ryn, Wednesday’s division one series win with his long-time owned Farr 44 from Cronulla Sailing Club was unexpected.

“We haven’t done a regatta since 2011, we’ve just been doing club racing and in that time we’ve built the crew up and have a fantastic group of people who achieved what we achieved today,” he said.

“I’m here with my son and sidekick Drew; it’s a pretty special moment for an old dad.

“We were fourth in the series [on Tuesday] and I thought if we did well today we might be able to hold onto fourth, or perhaps snake a third.

“I was lost for words when the blokes from Black Sheep called over the dock and told us we’d won.

“Sea Hawk was 25 last month. I’ve had her 12 years; she’s an amazing boat and she keeps looking after me.

“We are so happy with the event organisation; everyone is so helpful,” van Ryn added.

Second overall in division one was Huntress and third was Rob Aldis’ Azuree 46 Kayimai from Middle Harbour Yacht Club.

Philip Grove’s Sydney 39cr Huntress almost missed Wednesday’s start when they were literally stuck in the mud in their berth 20 minutes before the gun fired.