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Larks at the West Lancs 24 Hour Race

by Will Henderson 18 Sep 2018 22:58 BST 8-9 September 2018
West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race © Will Henderson

The 2018 West Lancs. Yacht Club 24 Hour Race took place over 8/9 September. It was superbly organised and was massive for a 'traditional dinghy' event, with 77 entries and around 1,000 participants.

Five Larks were entered: South Staffs "B "team were in current National Champion Chris & Nicci White's boat. A somewhat older Lark (2157) was sailed by the Merlin Rocket Owners Association. Delph SC were in 2060, the oldest Lark at the event. Bath University were in 2277. Sedburgh School were in the relatively smart looking 2298. The remainder of the 78 entries were made up of GP14s, Enterprises and Fireflies with the quality of the boats and crews ranging from the immaculate to the much less so.

10 boats started at one-minute intervals from midday on the Saturday, sailing until the first time each boat crossed the line after midday on Sunday. Helms and crews could change as often or as little as they wanted to in the pits - quite a spectacle, with boats running alongside the edge, spinnakers up, two people getting out and two getting in, not necessarily in that order. The winner was the boat with the shortest average lap time adjusted for handicap and penalties.

Sailing at night added an extra dimension, though with street lights it never got totally dark. In addition, despite the efforts of the Club and Sefton Council to remove the black slimy weed, it played a significant effect, particularly along the back straight where many boats were sailing with centreboards and rudders well up, even when going to windward.

In medium winds (Force 3-4) at least two of the Larks got off to cracking starts, with both South Staffs B and the Merlin Rocket Owners Association in the top ten. The winds became light to near non-existent during the night and for a few hours blew over the town, making for a very shifty beat in the dark through the weed up the back straight.

The lighter winds appeared to suit the Larks and they went well against the less graceful GP14s and Enterprises, so that at some time in the early hours of Sunday morning South Staffs B had risen to first (albeit only a handicap adjusted 1 or 2 seconds ahead of South Staffs A) and the Merlin Rocketeers had risen to seventh.

With four hours to go it looked likely that there would be two Larks in the top ten. South Staffs B Lark was lying second, not far in time behind the eventual winners, South Staffs A, in a GP14. The Merlin Rocket Owners Association team were a solid ninth. The Delph Lark was proceeding quietly in mid-fleet. The Bath University Lark had capsized, was sinking and had steering troubles, but was persevering - as was Sedburgh School.

At about 8.15 on Sunday, the wind began to pick up. More alarmingly it shifted, making one leg a difficult dead run with shifts both ways. The Merlin Rocketeers put in three capsizes between 8am and the finish at midday, leaving them eleventh, with Delph SC 52nd; Bath University 68th and Sedburgh School 73rd.

However, while even South Staffs B succumbed to a capsize - dropping them from first place - they still finished a highly creditable fourth overall.

It was a hugely enjoyable event, so please make a date for 2019 (14-15 September).

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