The port of Newcastle this coming Saturday will host a fleet of between 40 and 50 ocean racing yachts at the end of one of the significant events on the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's summer calendar.
Among the crack fleet are former Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winner, Quest, the famous maxi yacht, Brindabella, fast 66-footer, AAPT, the former Grundig which finished third across the line in the last Sydney Hobart, and Ichi Ban, winner of the recent Sailing South Race Week in Hobart and the Skandia Geelong Week.
AAPT's entry has a local flavour with owner/skipper Sean LANGMAN recently extending his boat rigging and maintenance facility to Newcastle Harbour.
Also in the fleet are the Volvo 60s, Seriously TEN, Andrew Short Marine and Nokia, along with other big boats, Infinity III and Broomstick.
The CYCA has included Newcastle as the finish of the second last race in its prestigious Blue Water Championship and the final race in the Ocean Pointscore following the establishment of the Newcastle Yacht Club and the development of excellent marina facilities at the old commercial port.
The fleet in the Blue Water Championship will set sail on Friday evening, sailing a course up the New South Wales Central Coast to Cabbage Tree Island before finishing off Newcastle's famous headland, Nobby's. The Ocean Pointscore fleet will race directly from Sydney, starting Saturday morning.
Depending on the wind strength and direction, most of the yachts should be berthed at Newcastle by late afternoon, where entertainment has been organised for visiting skippers and their crews.
Saturday's passage race from Sydney to Newcastle will be the final race for the Ocean Pointscore, a series of seven long ocean day races that has attracted a fleet of 25 entries for the 2003-2004 summer.
The race will be the decider in each of the three handicap divisions, with at least two boats virtually locked together at the top of each pointscore.
In the IMS Division, Greg NEWTON'S Antipodes (271 points) has a one point lead from Sommerbreeze, skippered by Hans SOMMER which is on 270 points.
In the bigger IRC Division, CYCA Commodore John MESSENGER in his Sydney 38, Utopia, shares the top of the leader board with Julian FARREN-PRICE, skippering his Cookson 39, About Time. They each have 268 points on the board after one discard, and are only three points clear of CYCA Rear Commodore Martin JAMES in his Farr 65, Infinity III.
CYCA Vice Commodore Geoff LAVIS, the driving force behind the development of the Ocean Pointscore, heads the PHS Division with UBS Wild Thing, on 262 points, just two points clear of the Volvo 60, Andrew Short Marine Djuice, skippered by Andrew SHORT, which is on 260 points.
In the Blue Water Championship, the second last race before the long Sydney-Mooloolaba Race next month, Quest, Bob STEEL'S Nelson/Marek 46, is on 324 points in the IMS Division, one point ahead of Nips N Tux, Howard de Torres' IMX 40, on 323. In third place is veteran Syd FISCHER with his Farr 50, Ragamuffin, on 318 points, although Ragamuffin is not competing in the Newcastle race.
In the IRC Division, for the Cape Byron Trophy, Ichi Ban, Matt ALLEN'S Farr 52 is on 324 points, two points in front of Quest on 322 points. Nips N Tux is third on 321 points.
The Tasman Trophy, decided on PHS handicaps, has Quest on 314 points going into this race, with Ragamuffin and Nips N Tux equal on 311 points, closely followed by Ichi Ban on 310 points.