WHAT better way to celebrate Australia Day in Newy than watching the Australian Formula Tunnel Boats racing on the harbour for the first time in a decade?
Regarded as the Supercars of the water – they were formerly known as F1 Superboats – these outboard-powered, pitchfork fliers have blistering acceleration, snappy handling and top speeds approaching 250 kmh.
Their 0-100 time of three seconds is actually faster than a Supercar, thanks to the 400hp Mercury racing engines on their tail. Having ridden shotgun in a two-seater a number of years ago, I can also attest to the insane G-forces the hulls pull through tight hairpin turns.
Racing action is fast and furious, providing explosive starts and high-speed passing manoeuvres to keep spectators on the edge of their seats. What’s more, the Honeysuckle venue provides numerous vantage points of the course, so you won’t miss any of the action.
More than 20,000 people are expected to be celebrating in the precinct over the course of the day. Racing is also scheduled for Saturday.
The former Newcastle event ceased in 2008, around the same time as the F1 Superboat Series promoter closed shop. In September 2009 a new “driver owned and run” Grand Prix came to life.
A group of Hunter-based enthusiasts then banded together last year to convince the Australian Formula Powerboat Grand Prix Club (AFPGP) to hold their season-opening race in Newcastle.
For Offshore Superboat fans, incidentally, there’s no sign of the circuit returning to Newcastle Harbour this year, despite talk of them coinciding with the Supercars weekend. That said, you can pencil in October 13-14 for them to hold Race 5 of their national series on Lake Macquarie.
So this is the only chance for some high-octane racing and, as the first round, AFPGP is expecting a large field of entrants from around Australia, along with New Zealand, Malaysia and as far away as Europe.
Reigning titleholder Luke Sharp, from New Zealand, will be back to defend his title aboard his Prompt Parts racer, though there’s a few Australian drivers keen to wrestle that trophy back from across the ditch.
Also competing over the next two days will be the Formula Optimax, Formula Two, Formula Three and Formula Four classes. The latter is a fast-growing, entry-level division for tunnel boat racing, headed by the current Australian Champion Tracy Pugsley.
Unlimited monos will also be out in force, as will the three junior classes. These little guys aren’t to be missed as they hone their driving skills to hopefully, one day, vie for a Formula Tunnel berth. Entry is free on both days. Racing starts from 9am. Details at afpgp.com.au
If you’re planning to head out on your own boat, also remember that the Newcastle Harbour Swim is scheduled for 10am and 11am.
Activities at Fly Point, Port Stephens, run from 10am to 4pm and include a RAAF flyover, while Lake Macquarie festivities will be centred on Speers Point Park with a scouts canoe race, music, outdoor movie and a fireworks finale at 9pm.
Lakefest 2018 then takes over from February 16 to March 4, with a full calendar of events hosted by the Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto, Lake Macquarie Yacht Club (LMYC), Wangi Amateur Sailing Club, Belmont 16s and Toronto Rotary Sunrise.
ONE of the world’s most exciting and best-selling single-handed dinghies, the international RS Aero, is bringing its world and national titles to Port Stephens.
Mayor Ryan Palmer announced the coup on Tuesday, with Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club at Salamander Bay, supported by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, set to host the first dinghy world championship in NSW for around a decade.
Dates are December 2019, with a projected fleet size of 120 boats. The nationals will serve as the test event this year around the same timeslot.
The RS Aero weighs about the same as an Optimist and has three rig sizes.
IF sailing was on your resolution list but you’re not sure where to start, check out the mysail.team website. Like an Airbnb for boating, it helps people find yachts looking for crew and vice versa.
Founder Deborah Dalziel developed MySail to help grow the sport.
“Despite what many people think, sailing offers a number of entry points for people of all ages and abilities, at a very low price point,” she said. “Yacht owners are constantly looking for crew … and many are willing to take inexperienced crew members and train them.”
MySail registered over 200 crew in 2017 who had no racing experience.
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