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Jack in the Basket Record falls

by Karl Thorne 1 Sep 2016 18:25 BST 28 August 2016

Gary Stones and Abby Keightley-Hanson got up as usual last Sunday and made their separate ways down to the Lymington Town Sailing Club ready to race in their elderly B14, not sure what to expect with a windy forecast and the Solent already carved up into a mess with a strong ebb tide against a 25-30 knot breeze. Little did they know this was to be the day to break a "World Record", and for some, just to break boats.

They said it couldn't be done, not with the new river defences in place and more masts in marinas than ever before to disrupt the prevailing south-westerly. The Jack in the Basket Trophy record for the fastest elapsed time (no handicap) to sail from the Club Line in the Lymington River out to the Jack in the Basket Post (the last channel marker on the on the western side of the river) and back has stood for years. So long in fact nobody could reliably remember who had last broken it, in what and when, all we knew was that there was a time of 14 minutes and 30 seconds for monohulls to beat and some simple sailing instructions to follow.

With the scheduled long distance Coronation Cup cancelled due to the conditions being deemed unsafe for dinghies in the middle of the Solent, the Race Team elected to hold two attempts at beating the Jack and Back record. Both attempts would consist of a mass start and be half an hour apart, ferries, rowing skiffs and the Birmingham Navy allowing.

The first attempt was a sighter, fourteen boats of all types, from an F18 cat to an RS Tera Sport, lined up and started cleanly. The fleet also included a very tired 420 crewed on the wire by a locally famous foiling and skiff-loving octagenarian, Pete Conway, who made it round easily and were one of the early finishers. However the records for cats and monohulls remained very safe, unlike one poor RS600 sailor's mast that couldn't quite cope with the rigours of record breaking.

The second attempt proved to be the one that would have got Norris McWhirter excited. Gary and Abby, having elected to miss the first attempt to prepare their B14 properly for a run across the salt, lined up with the remnants of the fleet to take another shot at the record. In conditions that were by now pretty punchy off the river mouth all the boats elected to tack around the Jack in the Basket post (bizarrely you can choose which side to leave it as part of the SIs) rather than gybe, although even this proved problematic to a few of the lighter boats. All of the fleet returned safely, some under their own power, others not.

The results had handicaps applied, purely for interest, but the real result that mattered was the scratch time of 14 minutes and 18 seconds that Gary and Abby had taken in their B14, it took a few moments to notice that the record had fallen by 12 seconds, mainly due to the Race Officer forgetting what the actual record was, what a momentous day! Richard Keeton sailing his RS700 was also thrilled to have shaved 6 seconds off the existing record and still be in one piece afterwards.

Thanks must go to the Harbour Authorities for tolerating our whacky races, the safety team led by Dave Gorringe whilst the Chief Safety Officer was distracted judging the Concours d'Elegance for some bath tubs ahead of the afternoon's Annual Bath Race. A special mention to deputy-dog race officer Nick Simmons who is a proud new dad to Finn (a little boy) and Merlin (of the Rocket sailing weapon variety).

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