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Newcastle's new Easter time regatta

28 June 2010 David Ritchard

Etchells racing directly in front of Newcastle's main beach

"Etchells racing directly in front of Newcastle's main beach"

Easter 2010 saw the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club host their inaugural Etchells Easter Regatta. There is not an Etchells Fleet based at this venue, but the event was run with the active support of the Lake Macquarie Fleet.

NCYC bent over backwards to make this regatta a success, but unfortunately, they were rewarded with only five contestants, so I will focus on the venue and organisation, as opposed to the regatta outcome.

For those not familiar with NSW geography, Newcastle is 60 nautical miles North of Sydney Harbour. The history buffs will have already known that this is why the old colliers that plied the route were known as "60 milers". The port of Newcastle serves the Hunter Valley and I understand, loads and ships more coal than any other port in the world. 90 millions tones of it, in fact, during 2008/09, which is a far cry from the first recorded shipment of just 50 tonnes, way back in 1799.

Not so many years ago, the port was a run down dump. Reconstruction, particularly of the Honeysuckle area on the South side of the port has created a gentrified café riddled social area, while to the North, the coal and other port facilities remain. Hence, unlike the port of Sydney, Newcastle has not lost its genuine maritime influence.

Now, back to Etchells racing. Like Mooloolaba, this port offers a fantastic sailing opportunity. From the Yacht Club it is about 20 minutes sailing time to pass Nobbys Head and be on the sailing course. The Club had gazetted two sailing areas. The first was to the South and East of Nobbys (in front of Newcastle beach) and if a strong Southerly persisted, a second course closer into Stockton beach, which offered some protection.

The Newcastle beach course, which was used for the regatta, is very visible from the shore and the natural amphitheatre just South of Nobbys beach, where the Pasha Bulker ran aground in 2007, offers great public viewing.

The Clubhouse is only a few years old and they are very keen to showcase its first class facilities. Ernie Thirkell is the Club Captain and together with his dedicated team, they presented excellent on water facilities, plenty of support boats and a willingness to swing the course to suit the conditions. Racing was under the stewardship of the inimitable Kevin Wilson. Daily prize givings, with the support of some great sponsors including Thrifty Car Rentals, were well attended by members and club guests, which created a terrificly welcoming atmosphere. Lake Macquarie luminaries Peter McNeill and Tom Woods fought out the top places. Most importantly, all competitors felt very much at home and reveled in the conditions.

As I mentioned this article is about the location not this year's regatta. It is on again Easter 2011. Put it on your calendar. The venue is great, the hospitality second to none and race management of a top order, is assured. Most importantly the area offers the very best family facilities close to the yacht club and at a very fair price. Tours to the Hunter Valley, the great scenery of historic Newcastle and places of interest further North, will offer you and your family plenty of experiences. This has to be the best opportunity to develop a new Fleet in Australia.

Be there!

David Ritchard
Sydney Fleet

The small fleets heads in the direction of the sandy Stockton beach, where you can take your 4WD for a run.

"The small fleets heads in the direction of the sandy Stockton beach, where you can take your 4WD for a run."


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