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Lightning 368 Northern Championship at Denholme and Ulley Sailing Clubs

by Jason Gallagher 4 Jun 2018 11:48 BST 2-3 June 2018
Race start – Lightning 368 Northern Championship © Event Media

Two Opens in two days with one championship saw a new format for the Fleet on its now annual pilgrimage to Gods own county of Yorkshire.

However, a last-minute change of venue (Friday morning) due to a clash with a Dragon Boat Event had the fleet arriving at England's highest Sailing club of Halifax for the Denholme fixture, and huge thanks goes out to them for accommodating us at short notice and making the fleet feel at home from the start.

Perched on the top of the moors the winds were there but unexpectedly a little fluky in the typical Hot Yorkshire sunshine. Race one saw Simon Hopkins storm up to the first mark, giving the impression he was here to reclaim his title from two years ago. He was followed by Caroline, Jeremy and Penny, who then proceeded to sail through Simon downwind, leaving him to battle with Jason over the remainder of the race.

Penny then proceeded to sail away to a comfortable victory, always finding the breeze whilst the rest of the fleet struggled as the wind lost its early race consistency. Caroline pulled away to 2ns followed by Jeremy in his Giles built MK1A. Simon finally saw off Jason to take fourth.

Race two saw Simon Storm off again, as the wind picked up and the fleet was hiking hard up the first beat. A sudden extreme shift caused a few moments of panic, with Jason who was following fell out of the boat, dropping from second to seventh in moments.

The following run saw the fleet close on Simon who was sensing déjà vu as they turned to the tricky mark number three. Jason had closed back up by now and tacked off down the middle of the lake looking for clear airs, and proceeded to move from sixth to the lead, with words of encouragement drifting across the water from Simon. More encouragement followed as a shift at the mark saw Simon left stranded as Penny, Caroline and Jeremy Sailed through.

Penny continued to pull clear of the pack and close on Jason, however in a remarkable turn of events he stayed clear and the battle over the next three laps saw them continue to pull further ahead of a fleet struggling to find the breeze that seemed to be following the two leaders around the lake. So, Jason first, Penny second and Caroline third and Simon a consistent fourth.

A quick break for a cup of Yorkshire tea and large choice of homemade cakes before a fresh coat of factor 50 and back on the water for race three.

Still giddy from the last race – and huge cake induced sugar rush - saw Jason leading race three to the first mark, with the fleet a little down as they came around. Not used to the rarefied atmosphere, Jason proceeded to weave towards the Leeward mark as he couldn't decide which of the three he could see, was it. Penny closed in and unlike the previous race came under Jason and into the lead. This time it was Jason who played the hunter, but Penny was always in control and after opening a small gap was never in any trouble. Meanwhile behind Jason had Caroline, Simon and Jeremy in hot pursuit and was never sure off second until the final leg. With the winds getting progressively lighter Caroline eased away from Simon to take third with Simon maintain another consistent fourth.

So, the Fleet packed up and made its way to Ulley SC in Sheffield to prepare for day two of the Northerns in time honoured manner, with beer and wine. With Penny victor on day one, and Jason and Caroline second and third respectively.

Day two at Ulley SC

Another glorious Day dawned on a completely different water. From the high peaks where there was wind if a little fluky to a smaller hilly tree lined lake with a forecast of very light winds.

Overnight the fleet had swelled with a few additional local Lightnings, Matt coming up from Essex to join the fun, and former Northern Champion Ian Ranson finally managing to get his garage door open – a long and typical Ian yarn.

As the fleet took to the water the wind picked up and Race 1 kicked off with a bang and Simon shooting into the lead. It was false hope, both for the wind and Simon. As the wind disappeared halfway down the leg, the fleet closed and Caroline, Jeremy and Penny, exploited the conditions better than most to put some distance between them and the rest.

The fleet continued to concertina as different sections gathered the wind at different times and coming into the last mark Penny, Caroline, Jeremy and Simon were only spread over a couple of boats lengths. But this was the infamous Bridge Mark 4, and whilst all four sat almost becalmed Matt and Jason came from a couple of hundred yards down in a veritable gale to sail though on the inside. Jason should have tacked over straight way but by now both he and Matt were also searching for a breeze. Caroline, Simon and Jason found it, whilst Jeremy headed off down the tree lined bank on the shortest route to the finish in apparently no wind what so ever. Penny, who had been leading comfortably approaching the mark was left becalmed but remained the perfect lady. However, we all knew what she was thinking.

Caroline puled away from Simon and Jason, and looked to have it in the bag, but Jeremy had other ideas and had continued to creep up the bank through the bushes and trees and pipped her on the line by less than a second. Simon held off Jason for third.

Race two and the wind was coming and going making any decisions on starting position, coarse etc a bit of a lottery for most. However, Jeremy in his mk1 and Penny in a mk 3 didn't seem to notice as they opened a sizable lead on the fleet over the first lap.

Further back Caroline, Jason and Simon were battling for advantage, all taking different lines down the lake, crossing multiple times as they sought the fastest way up the beat. Simon calling for Starboard had to take action to avoid colliding with Caroline, after which followed a polite on the water conversation and Caroline taking her turns. This may have been a mistake as with the fires lit, Caroline proceeded to storm back and then sail away from Simon and Jason, tracking down the leaders.

Further back Ian, Stephen and John continued to swap places in another battle of the three generations of the Lightning.

By now Caroline and Penny had left Jeremy behind and were trading positions in the shifty conditions. Caroline looked to have had the race sewn up after Penny had again lost her battle with the Bridge Mark. But no... as the wind died Penny found a patch and Caroline was pipped again.

Time for a break and some much-needed refreshments before the deciding race. Could Jeremy win the day for the Mk1's and a pip Jason to a podium in the Northerns, would Caroline finally get a victory, and could Penny actually sail around the Bridge mark.

Another close and tricky start ensued, with Caroline and Penny taking things out, closely followed by Simon, Matt, Jason and Jeremy. As the two leaders pulled away in the light conditions down the run, Jason also broke from the chasing pack and tried to close them down.

But there was little to be done as Penny and Caroline gave a light wind masterclass to the rest of the fleet, who were at least able to top up their tans under the cloudless skies. At the final mark and with the winds almost bringing the fleet to a halt it was still touch and go between Penny and Caroline. Penny had the slight advantage with Caroline attempting Jeremy's short cut this time, only to just miss out again for her third 2nd place of the day, whilst Penny took the victory, the Ulley Open and was crowned overall Northern Champion 2018.

Our next event is on the mighty river Thames at Cookham Reach on 16th June.

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