Windcraft yacht owners push themselves outside their comfort zone to get up close and personal with their boat the ocean and themselves.

Popular with new owners, new sailors and event regulars, Sail Away Port Stephens is the perfect opportunity to get to know your boat and to practice cruising skills. Just a 10-12 hour sail north out of Pittwater, the event is designed to get you cruising in open water.

For some, it’s a first passage and a launch pad for new found confidence and experience on the path to becoming real cruising yachties, for others it’s the chase of the challenge or an annual adventure to look forward to on the calendar.

Thanks to Sylvia Smith on Hanse 415 “Bling Bling” for making this fabulous video.

Phil and Meaghan Lucas – Hanse 415 ‘Paper Moon’ are a perfect example of what can be achieved through the Sail Away. They came last year for the first time just a couple of months after handover. It was a brave move but they liked it so much they were back for more this year, adding again, to their experience and conquering their fears – and they loved every moment of it.

Phil says, ‘These trips from Pittwater to Port Stephens are just as they are intended – to introduce new owners and sailors to passage planning and execution. We really enjoyed the challenge of getting our yacht out of the harbour and out to the open sea and extending ourselves out of our comfort zone, so we can become better sailors and hopefully make longer journeys in the future’.

This year’s 12th consecutive Sail Away included Hanse, Dehler and Moody brands, with owners sailing from Port Hacking, Sydney Harbour, and Lake Macquarie. Some owners even flew in from Melbourne and Darwin to sail their Sydney based boats.

This event is not a race so timing is up to the owners. The only must is to arrive in time for the much anticipated celebration dinner on Saturday night at The Anchorage. Some yachts leave early the Friday morning and sail straight through while others stop at Newcastle for an informal get together continuing to D’Albora Marina at Port Stephens on Saturday morning. Several yachts gathered on Thursday night at the Basin at the northern end of Pittwater to get a head start before leaving very early Friday morning.

This year 64 people joined Windcraft for drinks and canapes in the bar and a sumptuous three course meal in the restaurant. A few family members who don’t want to sail, drive up just to attend the festivities. Everyone had a fantastic time, stories were told and new friendships were forged.

Sunday morning – Windcraft delivered breakfast for all to enjoy on the dock and handed out event souvenir polo shirts. The plan to sail to Broughton Island for lunch had to be abandoned as the swell and wind conditions would have made it very uncomfortable. So for some fun, owners and crew had a land based competition sponsored by Helly Hanson who generously donated two wet weather jackets for the winners. Famous and super delicious local prawns were enjoyed with champagne on the beach – thanks Club Marine!

Skippers and crew discussed weather conditions and made preparations for the return sail to Sydney on Monday. However, not all boats return home together – some choose to extend their stay and take advantage of the beautiful Port Stephens waterways.

Sailing Home in Challenging Weather:

A windy sail home with an average of 17.5 knots gusting to 24 knots and a 2 meter swell pushed comfort levels and created some proud skippers as a result.   Some of the boats reported an exhilarating broad reach the whole way with just one gybe at the end into Pittwater.

Great feedback from owners:

Geoff Jarrett on Hanse 385 ‘Hansoff’ says, ‘Although it was one of the roughest seas I have been out in for a long time, it was one of the best sails I have ever had. We averaged 9 to 10 knots all the way back to Sydney on a very broad reach. It was sheer fun, fun, fun. It was the best weekend, we had an absolute ball. I sailed with my friend David – we have shared sailing adventures together for 40 years’.

Meaghan Lucas says, ‘What a fantastic trip. Thought it was going to be hard to top last year’s whales and maiden ocean voyage but it did! Rain, wind, swell, whales and dolphins. My favourite part was racing downwind with full sails, surfing down the swell into Pittwater as the sun was setting with dolphins leaping across the bow. I am not making this up. One of those picture perfect moments. You couldn’t get the smile off our faces’.

David Sweet – Hanse 370 ‘Blue Manna’ is a Sail Away stalwart from Darwin and says, ‘The trip back to Pittwater required real concentration. It was exhilarating – one squall was a bit alarming but it only lasted 15 mins. The crew were my 18 year old son and some novice sailor friends from Darwin. One crew member was very scared to see the huge waves behind the boat. She eventually got used to it after 10 hours of sailing and loved watching the dolphins and whales’.

Just Do It:

Windcraft have designed the Port Stephens Sail Away to give boat owners experience and practice needed for future cruising adventures and to provide a fun voyage for all.

What a great incentive to take the plunge and just do it. Especially those who are planning their first passage – who knows where your cruising will take you!

More pics here