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Lightning 368 National Championship at Northampton Sailing Club

by Simon Hopkins 11 Sep 2017 16:56 BST 2-3 September 2017
Robbie Claridge wins the 2017 Lightning 368 Nationals at Northampton © Simon Hopkins

On the weekend on 2nd and 3rd of September, Northampton Sailing Club once again hosted the UK National Championship for the Lightning 368 class.

New faces and newly-built boats were welcomed, along with returnee Rob Claridge, several times a champion, most recently in 2015 but absent in 2016. The holders of all the other trophies had returned to do battle again; notable amongst them were Penny Yarwood and Simon Hopkins. Penny, a former National Champion, current ladies champion and winner of 3 open meetings already this year: Simon, defending champion, dominating the 2016 Nationals and the whole of that season. Notable particularly because neither were able to compete in their own boat, after a high speed ramming by a van on the Dartford crossing in July rendered both boats un-sailable. They could have been excused for sitting this one out and tending to their sore bodies, but the stock of club boats at Up River Yacht Club was raided and two boats were assembled and transported to Northampton.

So, with the stage set, the forecast wind of 1 knot on Saturday became the reality and an early call was made to abandon for the day; with a plan to attempt 5 races on Sunday, in what was forecast to be anything between 8 and 18 knots.

Race 1

In a shifty 5 to 8 knots, starting at the favoured pin end in plenty of room, Spike lead the bulk of the fleet out towards the left hand side, while Rob started nearer the committee boat and soon tacked off to the right. Spurning early opportunities to come back to the middle on the small lifts, Spike was gambling on the big one. It never came and what had looked like a promising situation turned into a scramble to limit the damage, as the right hand side looked increasingly favoured. He did just manage to round second to Rob, but at quite a distance and with Penny and Paul White close behind in 3rd and 4th. A run, reach and another run saw the gap to Spike closed, but not to Rob. Ignoring the evidence of the first beat, Spike again set off in search of a big left-hander and effectively lost contact with Paul and Penny who worked over to the right. He had also reversed himself into 6th place and a scrap with John Claridge and Simon. Paul overhauled Penny to finish 2nd, Simon claimed 4th and Spike just managed to squeeze John into 6th at the last mark. Hugh Spencer led the Silver fleet with a solid 7th.

Race 2

A short delay while Solo sailor and PRO Neil Pitcher, re-configured the course after the first race had become increasingly right-handed. Hugh, in the recently acquired boat that John had sailed to 3rd place last year, took off from the pin end like a scalded cat and found himself tacking across from the port lay line in contention for the lead. Rob did narrowly lead around the first mark while Hugh, who was in the zone on port tack, correctly carried on past the lay line, allowing Spike to scrape around in 2nd; Hugh making 3rd, albeit with the whole fleet right on his transom. The ensuing broad reach and then another short beat saw Paul emerge from the pack to give Spike the dilemma of whether to attack Rob or defend against Paul. Given that Rob always appeared to be on the paying shift, going on the attack was going to very risky. Given Paul's offwind speed, Spike considered fending off Paul a significant victory, and the pair finished close together with Simon in 4th and John in 5th.

Race 3

Another course shift as the wind went further right and increased to 12 to15 knots and full hiking was now required. The first mark looked like it was going to be a triple header between the Claridge family and Spike, until the latter's halyard snapped and a DNF went onto his score sheet. Mark Langstone and John scored their best finishes of the day with a 5th and 3rd respectively. Simon, clearly missing his red boat posted another 4th; despite good starts and good strategy he was missing his usual speed to stay in the top 3, and we were being denied the battle between the 2015 and 2016 champions. After a less than stellar first beat, Paul worked his way through to 2nd place. Penny was holding a 5 point lead over Caroline Hollier (used to be Key, congratulations!) in the ladies competition with Elaine Laverty in 3rd.

Race 4

Rob and Simon pulled off very flash port end starts and crossed the fleet, which had the added benefit of keeping themselves clear of the SuperNovas who were coming down their first run. But, later up the beat the left tended to pay so the early advantage was eroded by those who'd taken a more conservative approach to the start. However, Rob still led at mark 1, with Spike 2nd and Simon in 3rd. Rob always had a comfortable lead which allowed him to pick and choose his shifts and the windier conditions were now causing bigger gaps to appear down the fleet. Paul again overhauled Simon to finish 3rd. In the Silver fleet, Ben Twist was improving and was now posting results in single figures; an 8th versus 11th between Mark and Hugh had Mark leading that competition by 1 point.

Race 5

Almost a carbon copy of race 4 except that Rob opened his biggest lead of the day and now had the perfect score. Spike in 2nd was hoping that Simon could keep Paul back in 4th, thereby levelling their scores (although that he had no idea how the tie would be broken). The tie break became moot when Paul's relentless offwind speed saw him into 3rd place and 2nd overall; only for the 6th time!

A great day's racing saw Robbie Claridge Champion for the 5th time. When the wind is up he is a hard man to beat.

Most significantly over the weekend John Claridge was sailing a prototype revised deck layout for the Lightning. The intension to modernise the boat without making it faster seemed to work and ,as this was unanimously approved at the AGM, the Lightning 368 will enter its 40th Anniversary year in 2018 with the new deck layout.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoBoat NameHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st424GiGiRob ClaridgeLymington SC‑111114
2nd406Four PlayPaul WhiteDraycote Water SC2‑323310
3rd294AlfonsoSpike DanielsHayling Island SC52(DNC)2211
4th420 Simon HopkinsUp River YC‑4444416
5th426 John ClaridgeLymington SC‑6535518
6th342IllusionPenny YarwoodUp River YC3‑887624
7th413Little GemCaroline HollierWest Oxfordshire SC8‑976728
8th322FlashMark LangstonBeccles Amateur SC‑116581130
9th421Blue SkyHugh SpencerRoyal Plymouth Chorinthian YC776‑111030
10th407 Bryan WestleyChase SC‑1211910838
11th423 Ben TwistBroadstairs SC‑1612109940
12th267MoonshineGary TompkinsHunts SC9‑1311131245
13th417 Jason GallagherDenholme SC1010DNF12(DNC)47
14th335 Graham LazellUp River YC‑151513141355
15th333The Black PigElaine LavertyMid Warwickshire YC131412(DNC)DNC56
16th422 Andy GriffinSevern SC141614DNS(DNC)59

Silver: Mark Langston (Beccles Amateur SC)
Veterans: Spike Daniels
Ladies: Penny Yarwood
Giles built boat: Spike Daniels

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