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Lark National Championship 2019 - Runners & Riders

by Nigel Hufton 8 May 2019 18:46 BST 25-28 May 2019
Action from the Lark Nationals at Lyme Regis © Pauline Rook

As ever, strong competition is expected at the Lark National Championship (25-28 May) across Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets. The move to Rock, with its beautiful estuary, friendly club and lots of other attractions has drawn Lark sailors past and present, with turnout expected to be 50% up on last year. It is shaping up to be a truly awesome event and the class is still happy to source boats, crews and accommodation for anyone else tempted to come along.

In the Gold fleet, six previous Champion helms are in the mix, with the form-book ranking the Runners & Riders as follows:

Stuart & Nick Hydon Winners in 2016 and 2017 and back in the same boat this pair have brilliant tactics and boat speed. Lightening quick in all conditions and an uncanny ability to sail through the fleet, should they have a bad first beat. The shiftier the better.

John and Megan Brickwood A Lark 'God', John has won the Lark Nationals three times originally in 1986 as a student in Bagheera (a 15-year-old boat at the time). Now sailing with daughter Megan - highly successful in the RYA Youth Squad in her own right they have heaps of experience and talent and will do well in all conditions. The family rivalry with the Hydons adds extra spice.

Ed Bradburn & Holly Evans Ed and Holly are current Lark Inland Champions their strong tactical and boat handling skills bringing them victory against a number of strong contenders. Ed is also an accomplished sailor in the OK class and came second as a crew in the GP14 worlds. Expect race wins and a strong performance from this pairing.

Harry and Gemma Pynn Harry is a seasoned campaigner and won the Nationals in 2010 with Michael-John Gifford crewing. He then trained up wife Gemma to be an excellent crew and took third in 2016. They know Rock well, having made the annual pilgrimage all the way from Waldringfield for decades. Particularly strong if the conditions are light to medium.

James Goss and Chris White Chris won the Lark Nationals last year in convincing style with wife Nic. With a baby due in October, Chris is now hoping to become only the second ever person to win the Lark Nationals as both a helm and crew. Chris is no stranger to the front, having won the GP14 Worlds last year. Crewing for club-mate James Goss an excellent helm - they form a formidable team. Both are strong tacticians. Likely to be good in all conditions and expect some race wins.

Nigel Hufton and Matt Wood Nigel has competed at every Lark Nationals for the last 35 years and won the Nationals in 1994 as a crew to Chris Allen. Many times in the Top 5, he has never actually won the Lark Nationals as a helm. He and Matt went very well last year, coming second in the Nationals and winning Rock for the second year running, so knows Rock well. Strong in all conditions and definitely race winners.

Steve Cumley & Eluned Stewart Winners of the Lark Nationals in 2007, Steve and Eluned have both had a recent break from sailing together but teamed up again last year for Sidmouth, and quickly found their groove. Both are highly tactical and familiar with Rock, while Steve is a strong team racer, so if it comes down to dialling-up at the start (as in 2007), watch out. Strong in all conditions and will should pop up in the odd race or two.

James Stewart & Ruth Johnson James is a crewing legend, but is a top helm in the Lark, too and has challenged for the title in the past. This year he has ex-Champion crew Ruth Johnson, so could be fast in all conditions, but especially any heavy weather stuff. There may also be a bit of family rivalry between James/Ruth and Steve/Eluned if it comes down to them challenging each other for the title.

Emma Harris & Becky Priest Winners in 2002 at Looe, Emma and Becky have both had time out to raise their kids, but they got back in 2311 Bomber last year and showed that time hasn't dulled their competitive edge or ability to challenge the younger boats. Becky also grew up sailing on the Camel Estuary and knows every eddy and wind bend, so tactically expect these two to be right up there. Strong in a range of conditions, and tactically brilliant.

Jane Kearney & Rachael Rhodes Another all girl pairing sees Jane and Racheal back in the boat together, having borrowed Alan Krailing's multiple National Championship winning boat. Historically this pairing was the loudest in the fleet as they laughed and joked their way around the course, or Rachael calling water on all coming into a mark rounding. Their traditional Achilles heel was engaging too heavily in the socials, but young mum Jane has other responsibilities this ywar. Expect good boat speed, and a highly competitive series from this team.

Chris & Kate Holiman - Always Top 10, Chris & Kate love Rock and know it well. Lack of practice due to a new baby - may hamper their chances, but their experience should help them be up there, particularly if it is windy (or very light).

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