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53rd West Lancashire Yacht Club 24 Hour Race

by Alex Halliwell 17 Sep 09:10 BST 14-15 September 2019

It's September, the sun is out and a light breeze is blowing from the south west, it must be time for the Twenty-Four-Hour Race. Yet again we were blessed with lovely warm sunny weather to start our fifty-third race. And at midday on Saturday 14th September a bumper fleet of seventy-two club teams sailing Enterprises, Fireflys, GP14s and Larks made it to the start and the fleet got away without any hitches.

Very quickly a now-normal service was resumed, with South Staffs SC taking the lead with their A team (the first of five teams fielded by this truly talented club.) Indeed, right from the start they took a lead which was never threatened and in only a few hours the GPs of South Staffs SC A and Budworth SC A had taken two laps out of the next group of boats.

The warm autumn sunshine made for great spectating conditions as the bank of the lake was full of sailors and their families catching up with others just recovering from Friday night's social in the club bar and the sounds of 'Hello Felix' and DJ Enterprise in the marquee bar.

As the afternoon wore on the chat turned to the thirty knot winds which many forecasters were promising in the evening. It seemed unlikely as the sun shone and the wind went gently up and down and competitors were able to closely examine how much weed was in the lake this year as they glided round. (NB, not too bad but best to check.)

The wind was up and down, up and down as it went dark and the teams continued to sail and sometimes drift around the confines of the marine lake, which was helpfully lit by the full moon. Then suddenly around 11pm the wind began to increase and became a little erratic - was this the wind on its way? The sailors held their breathe for two laps.... Nope the wind dropped again. What was that forecast all about?

There was lots of chat about fronts and edges and accuracy. Then (forgive me reader) after my stint ended just after 1am I fell into my bed. I did wonder as I headed up the hill if the boats on the lake were moving a little more quickly but I didn't delay. Bed was calling. While I was sleeping, I am told the weather changed. The breeze came in, not quite thirty knots but enough to provide - shall we say - challenging conditions, in the dark.

It certainly woke up the crews and many had a little morning dip to refresh themselves. The rescue teams had to swing into action and were kept extremely busy for a few hours, rescuing everything from the lake including a tent which had come loose. Commiserations to Sheffield Hallam University SC and Crosby Scouts and Guides, Sunderland YC, British Universities S A (BUSA) A and Jumbles SC whose boats didn't recover enough to complete the race.

By seven o'clock, once again in my wetsuit and a little weary I am happy to say that the wind had returned to its previous state although disappointingly the sunshine of the previous day had been replaced by grey cloud and a little light drizzle. The race continued peacefully to the end. Well done to all the ladies who competed in the Heineken Cup; congratulations to Bangor University ladies who were eventually victorious in their Firefly. (You may have had more competition but several teams reported their sailors were 'too broken' to go out.)

Two helms and crews this year must have been grateful to the weather gods for the golden autumnal weather as they planned to sail the full twenty-four hours. Burwain SC B team, who have only been sailing four months, were raising money for Pendleside Hospice through BNI Kudos and Adam McGovern and Chris Robinson from Hollingworth Lake SC were completing the challenge to raise money for St Mary's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a cause very close to both their hearts.

This is not the first time Adam McGovern has completed this trial. He completed the challenge for the first time back in 2007. Adam and Chris managed to sail their GP14 Betsy round for the full 24 hours. To finish the race without your body giving up or going quietly mad is a huge achievement. However, the boys were not content to finish they raced the whole time to finish a quite astounding fifth overall. Congratulations to both of you for surviving the windy spell. To donate to BNI Kudos and Pendlebury Hospice or St Mary's Neonatal unit please visit their Just Giving pages which can be found through the WLYC 24 Hour Race Facebook page:

At the prize-giving the Commodore of West Lancashire Yacht Club welcomed some new teams to the race this year including Bangor University SC, Banbury SC, University of Bath SC, BUSA, Pevensey Bay SC, Sunderland SC, Tamworth SC and Welsh Harp SC. We hope you all enjoyed yourselves and will be back in 2020 with more friends. This year we had to say thank you and goodbye to our friends from Pilkington Sailing Club who have sailed in all 53 races and we can't wait to welcome them back as the newly formed Wigan and St Helens SC next year.

A huge congratulations must go to South Staffs Sailing Club who took control of the race at midday on Saturday and never looked like they would relinquish it. With so many talented sailors who could swap between helming and crewing, watching them change over was an education. Not only must they have the most consecutive wins in the history of the race, they surely must have the most teams entered with three mixed teams, a ladies team and a social team. Thank you South Staffs for your continued support for the race.

An event like this doesn't just happen and a huge thank you must go to all those who work tirelessly throughout the year and during the weekend to make this race happen. We couldn't possibly put this race on without the generous support of our Primary sponsors Marine Supplies Direct, GJW Direct, Robinson's Brewery/LWC Ltd and associate sponsors Monkey's Fist Sailing, Precision Yacht Paint, Green Goblet, Kraken Travel, Halliwell Jones, Skipper for Hire and supporters Unipart Dorman, TEU Containers, Oakhurst, Marlow Ropes and Allen Brothers. See you all in 2020 keep an eye on our Facebook Page for more information.

To keep you going see the video below for Nick Hayes edited version of the race in 2 minutes.

Major Prize Winners:

1st South Staffs SC AGP14 
2ndBudworth SC AGP14 
3rdWest Lancashire Yacht Club AEnterprise 
4th West Lancashire Yacht Club BGP14 
5th Hollingworth Lake SC CGP14 
6thChase SC AGP14 
7th South Staffs SC C (Ladies team)GP141st Ladies team
8thSouth Staffs S C BGP14 
9thWest Oxfordshire SC AFirefly1st Firefly, Winner of flight 2
10thBudworth SC B (Masters)GP141st Masters
12thChester S&CC B (Masters)Enterprise 
15thPilkington SC AEnterprise 
17thMidland SC A GP141st Breakfast Race
21stCambridge Univ CCFirefly1st University
22ndBangor Univ SCFirefly1st Ladies Race
23rdBassenthwaite SCGP14Winner of flight 3
25thExiles SCFireflyWinner of flight 7
26thPlymouth Univ SCEnt1st university Enterprise
28thWest Oxfordshire SC BEntwinner of flight 6
52ndLancaster University SCEntMost Identifiable Boat
57thDelph SC (Masters)Lark1st Lark
68thRudyard Lake SC BEntLast boat to complete the race

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