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Noble Marine 2020 - LEADERBOARD

West Lancashire Yacht Club's 24 Hour eRace 2020

by Rob Pickering 24 Sep 20:38 BST 19-20 September 2020
West Lancashire Yacht Club's 24 Hour eRace 2020 © Virtual Regatta

Having considered all the options in early May West Lancashire Yacht Club made the difficult but, as it turned out, correct decision to cancel this year's WLYC 24 Hour Race on the Marine Lake, Southport. We were determined to be positive and forward looking to find something that would enable us to continue the spirit of a challenging endurance event that could draw together clubs and their members.

Club member, Mike Pickering, came up with the concept of converting the event to run on Virtual Regatta Inshore (VRI) software. He went on to develop the idea by planning 73 eRaces concurrent with eight Special Trophy Events each consisting of a series of nine eRaces. The lack of discards in the main event, and, in the Special Trophy Events, the requirement to complete eight out of nine eRaces to "qualify", certainly bought home the endurance element of the objective.

Also, to keep the challenging element for each eRace we always selected venues that had strong winds. As a result, many found some of the wind shifts "brutal" at those venues. But at least no competitors felt the cold or wet when capsizing in a brief squall at 2am!

We were unable to provide our Marine Lake as a virtual setting so instead we completed a tour of many of the worlds renowned venues: Cowes, Keil; Copenhagen; Auckland; Sydney; San Francisco to name just a few. Each of the eRaces in any one Special Trophy Event was eSailed with the same class of boat; therefore, handicaps were not a consideration. The VRI boats included: Star, Barcolana, 49er, J70, "Ocean Racer", Nacra 17 & Formula 18. All sailed on a similar style of courses but the race course lengths were varied to provide 6 - 10 minutes of sailing per eRace.

The race schedule was based on a new race Warning Signal sounding every 20 minutes ie on the hour, hour + 20mins and hour +40mins. The first race started at Noon on Sat 19 Sept and the last race started at Noon on Sun 20 Sept. Because of the way VRI software works, if a boat was not on the course at the sounding of the Warning Signal they were counted as DNC; however, the Race Management team always started on time whether or not all the teams were on the Race course area.

This was all part of the strategy of providing a challenging endurance race; after all in the real 24 Hr Race if a boat requires maintenance and has to withdraw temporarily from the race they simply loose distance sailed on the water. In our 24 Hour eRace if your computer "glitched" or your WiFi "dropped out" that was the same as having retired for repairs or your replacement crew was not ready - hard rules!

On the day we had twelve teams on the virtual water with some seriously good eRacing sailors as well as some who were trying Virtual Regatta Inshore for the first time. Chester Sailing & Canoe Club have not missed a single WLYC 24 Hr Race since the first race in 1967; they certainly weren't going to allow Covid-19 to break that record. Adam McGovern hot footed back from the GBR eSailing National Championship Finals to join his club (Hollingworth Lake SC). Leigh & Lowton SC entered two teams (Flash 1 plus a youth team) not surprisingly the youth team at times displayed their superior computer gaming skills to teach some of their senior club members a few lessons! Woolverstone Project, who provide sailing opportunities and tuition for those with disabilities with sailing throughout the year, were really pleased to have the opportunity to try their virtual skills over 24 Hours.

Racing was often very close and certainly very tactical. The majority of teams chalked up several 1st places in the 73 eRaces. But this was an endurance race where consistency was the key. With no discards in the overall 73 eRace series, any failure to start or finish (DSQ, DNS, DNC, DNF etc) was a blow hard to recover from. Just like in the "on the water" event any failure - hardware, software, Wifi, or simply human error - could create serious difficulties. Teams needed reliable equipment and facilities, with a resilient operating plan and good communications - Southport SC had a helm (Kim Pickering - no relation to Mike) in the USA, no doubt the club hoped to use time differences to reduce the night time manning / fatigue problems.

Results:

1st Overall - Hollingworth Lake SC
2nd Overall - West Lancashire Yacht Club
3rd Overall - Leigh & Lowton SC (Flash 1)
1st Youth Team - Leigh & LowtonSC Youth
1st Masters - Delph SC

Much credit must go to Ian Brown (Commodore Delph SC) sailing as a "Master" solo in all 73 eRaces for his favoured charity "Sullivan's Heroes". The charity provides so much support and financial assistance for families to help them raise essential funds towards vital home adaptations for a disabled child. After 73 eRaces, Ian came 5thoverall, 1st Master and won the Porter Trophy for the fastest 50th eRace.

He also managed at least one first in every class of boat except the Nacra 17 (although he was 2nd twice in the Forenoon series of eRaces). If you want to donate any funds to his favoured charity please go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/24hoursforthomas

But this simply would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of our prime sponsors Marine Supplies Direct and Kraken Travel.

Overall, it was really important to have the opportunity to maintain the spirit of the WLYC 24 Hour Race. As Richard Catchpole (Commodore Leigh & LowtonSC remarked, "it's great to see people positively dealing with the current situation. I know it brought our club together to run two teams - a lot of fun!"

We look forward to welcoming clubs back at WLYC next year for an "on the water" edition; put the date in your Club Diary now: 11-12 September 2021

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