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Lightning 368 Northern Championship at Denholme Sailing Club

by Jason Gallagher 23 Jun 2016 11:41 BST 11-12 June 2016
2016 Lightning 368 Northerns at Denholme © Steve Hodgeson

A new venue for the Lightning fleet at the picturesque setting of Denholme SC in Gods own county of Yorkshire. A small fleet took the journey to pretty but tricky water and enjoyed two days of challenging light conditions to contest the 2016 Northerns.

With a light but relatively steady South easterly F2, Saturday afternoons races got under way with Simon and Caroline taking the first mark together closely pursued by the rest of the fleet before heading down the aptly named death valley which was to be the cause of much colourful northern vocabulary and bemused expressions over the next five races. Needless to say Simon and Caroline got away and spent the rest of the race swapping the lead as they searched for the best wind. Much to his surprize the slightly larger built frame of Mr Hopkins emerged victorious continuing his current excellent form since acquiring last year's championship winning boat. Jason Gallagher used his local knowledge to sail through to 3rd despite Ian Ranson's and Bryan Westley's best efforts.

The breeze continued to soften and for Race 2 Ian picked the port end of the line and flew (relatively) away from the rest of the field down to the first mark – however Death Valley saw the fleet catch up and soon there was a 3 way battle for the lead with Simon and Caroline joining Ian. The Giles boat of Ian held its own in the upwind legs but couldn't match the others Claridge boats downwind. Simon and Caroline continued to swap the lead as before but with Caroline taking the victory, following Simons vocalized and amused frustrations at the variation in wind. Which saw him sailed down by Caroline who seemed to effortlessly suck the breeze from his sails on the final legs. Bryan and Ian followed them home along with Nick Cossins, guesting in LN53 pushing them hard. Jason whilst on the water seemed to have forgotten how to sail.

A quick tea break – with Caroline deciding to give Simon a chance by attempting a world cake eating record before the day's final race. In the lightest conditions of the day a close start saw familiar result with Simon, Caroline and Ian getting away and Bryan, Jason and Nick having a private battle back down the water. Simon by now was getting to grips with the lakes idiosyncrasy or was it just LN420 coming back to its former home, and the big man took a comfortable victory to lead the championship the halfway stage.

Beer and BBQ was provided by the club, before decamping to Jason's to drop off bags and hit Saltaire for an evening of fun. England drew, the band was great, the beer cold and the Fleet danced the night away. Many thanks to Ian who gave us a lift to the pub, and came in for a shandy. 4 hours later, he gave us a lift back before driving home to Accrington (obviously drinks his milk) on the other side of the Pennines. Ian the nationals are calling!

Sunday dawned, with a forecast that made the chance of any sailing seem unlikely. However Denholme came up trumps and we arrived to a stronger breeze than Saturday and the prospect of a good day on the water. The start had been pushed back to 11, as Ian deserved a bit of time to get back following his heroics the night before, Simons pain killers needed time to kick in, and the rest of us recover from our efforts on the dance floor.

With another interesting circuit set by the Race Officer and a good start made by all, it was soon obvious that Simon meant business. He and Caroline resumed their battle up front with Ian and Jason doing their best to get on terms, whilst Bryan was battling with a new foe in (Nick) in a familiar LN53. Despite suffering a few more frustrations with the shifty winds Simon held off Caroline with some good tactics, luffing her up just when she seemed to be getting the upper hand and claiming his 3rd win and command of the championship. Behind Ian had been hauled in by Jason who sought to use his better boat speed downwind on the final run and reach. Just when it looked as if he might get past the wind shifted 1800 and caught out Jason drifted into Ian, and the turns allowed Ian to cruise over in 3rd.

Race 4, and Simon just needed to beat Caroline to secure the title. The wind had built a little and it started to better suit Jason's stiff mast. The start saw Simon and Jason pull away from the rest of the fleet and maintain their advantage for the first lap. At the start of lap 2, Simon tacked at the mark, whilst Jason used his local knowledge to continue past before tacking giving him a much faster line down the next leg. His lead was short lived as Simon took the inside line down Death Valley, with Caroline closing fast. Looking to cut back inside Simon at the mark, Jason touched the back of his boat, and let Caroline through followed by the rest of the fleet as he completed his penalty.

Simon was away and victory assured, with Caroline also confirming the runners up spot in the championship. Behind LN417, somehow managed to sail through Nick, Bryan and Ian, and allow Jason to claim a surprize 3rd in the race.

A hearty Yorkshire lunch of pie & peas saw Simon and Caroline decide to sit out the final race. Nick got to trade up to Simons LN420 – he normally sails a CII and we were on a mission to convert. Which left Ian, Jason and Bryan on 14, 15, 16 point respectively in the race for 3rd place in the championship. – so the scene was set for a final race shoot out.

The winds were beginning to fade so Death Valley was getting trickier and as the wind began to shift Jason managed to pass Ian going down to the mark and open a small lead. Bryan and Nick had closed back to Ian and it remained close until the 2nd trip down DV. The space with no boats around him, gave Jason time to get the best line in and out of the mark and make the most of the shifts to pull out a large lead over the others. The wind continued to shift and ease and despite Nick passing Ian and closing on the final lap Jason took the final race and 3rd overall.

So a great weekend came to an end, the wind was better than expected from the forecast and Simon continues to prove there's life in the old dog yet, adding the Northern to his Sea Champs and Up River Open Victories. Denholm SC loved hosting the Association and all of those who made the Journey North found a warm welcome and an invitation to return again. And so we move on to Ullswater for the Lord Birkett before the next open at Cookham SC at the beginning of July where the fleet will be tested on the narrows of the upper Thames.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1st420Simon Hopkins1‑2111(DNC)4
2nd413Caroline Key‑21222(DNC)7
3rd417Jason Gallagher3‑6‑543111
4th110Ian Ranson‑5‑4334212
5th407Brian Westley434‑5‑6314
6th53Nick Cossins‑65665(DNC)22

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