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Noble Marine 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Noble Marine Lightning 368 Sea Championship at the Lymington Dinghy Regatta

by John Butler 10 Jul 07:14 BST 3-4 July 2021

The Noble Marine Insurance Lightning 368 Sea Championships took place on 3rd & 4th July as part of the Lymington Dinghy Regatta in 12 to 25 knot winds and lumpy sea conditions that proved challenging for all the competitors, especially on the windier second day.

Each race comprised 2 rounds of a trapezoidal course without a sausage, although the strong tide turned one of the downward legs into a dead run which proved tricky for some. The event marked the return to the class of Terry Hunt, the 1996 Lightning 368 National Champion, who was expected to give the circuit regulars some stiff competition.

Race 1

The whole fleet started at the pin end of the line and immediately tacked onto port to go inshore and avoid the strong tide further out. After a long port leg against the current, Simon Hopkins, Terry Hunt, and Duncan Cheshire led, before tacking onto starboard and punching out to the windward mark, cross tide against the larger waves. Simon developed a clear lead, and as they rounded, Terry in second hit the mark, allowing Duncan and Jeremy Cooper to get past him as he completed his penalty.

Simon was well clear by this stage and just extended his lead on every leg. Meanwhile, further back, Terry regained 2nd position on the 2nd beat when Duncan got a knot in his mainsheet which he needed to untangle. Duncan did just enough to hold off Jeremy at the finish.

Race 2

Simon started at the port end, but a big windshift just before the start meant that the starboard end was favoured, and Terry & Jeremy led out ahead after again tacking inshore to cheat the tide. Simon was held back by the high pointing Jeremy, causing him to repeatedly tack off into the tide which allowed Ben Twist past. Terry was still in the lead at the windward mark, with Jeremy holding off Ben & a very frustrated Simon.

On the first 3 downwind legs, the newer Claridge boats of Jeremy & Simon seemed to have an early planing speed advantage over Terry's older Giles boat, and Simon, Ben & Jeremy got ahead of him by the leeward turning mark by going low and fast on the reaches.

On the next beat Simon got away, and Terry recovered to second, holding off Jeremy in third by the time of the downwind finish.

Race 3

The wind increased to close to 20 knots at the start after a 45 minute delay for the course to be reset. It must have confused all of the competitors, as the whole fleet was at least 30 seconds late in crossing the start line.

Terry led out until he and Simon tacked off, and Ben took the lead which he held to the windward mark. The first reach saw the helms blinded by the spray as they planed almost uncontrollably to the turning marks, with some going to the pillar buoy on the faster outer course rather than the inner dumpy ones set for the Lightnings.

With all the Mk3 sailors on their knees on their self-draining cockpits, praying to make it to the bottom of the planing dead run, it proved too much for some, with both Duncan & Jeremy bailing out of the race and heading back to shore. Simon again reigned supreme, with Ben 2nd and Terry 3rd.

Sunday dawned with cloud, rain and the wind strength already up a couple of notches. With a much earlier start in prospect, and the tide ebbing upwind for the first two races of the day, it was hoped that the worst of the stronger winds forecast for later could be avoided.

Race 4

The start was an even affair, with Duncan and Terry initially leading out, but after tacking back Simon was able to clear the pair of them and held his lead to the windward mark.

In an uneventful procession, Simon again extended his lead, whilst Terry held on to second, with Jeremy overhauling Duncan for 3rd by the end.

Race 5

The wind had shifted by 20 degrees by the time of the Lightning start, and as the last of 5 sequential fleet starts the Race Committee maintained the same start line. This ensured that all the boats started at the pin end, sailed about 200 yards, and then tacked and were able to lay the windward mark in one go.

Although Simon was ahead, Jeremy kept him honest throughout the race, never letting him slip away. Ben had another good race, holding off Terry for 3rd.

Race 6

After the 5th race had finished, the skies darkened, a huge storm cloud appeared over the horizon bringing torrential rain, and the wind increased to well over 20 knots.

With 5 first places in the bag, Simon headed back to the club in a cloud of spray and was followed by a number of others who deemed the conditions too challenging.

For those brave or foolhardy ones left, who stayed out to take part in the final race, it was a matter of survival... with plenty of capsizes, boats in irons, and the only thing missing being a pitch-pole.

With all their sails flogging up the beat, it was Terry who established a lead early on, followed by Ben and Jeremy. Once again they set off downwind in a cloud of spray, and Ben was the first to succumb to the conditions with a capsize that let both Jeremy Cooper and veteran heavyweight John Butler through.

Terry disappeared out of sight, but Jeremy was being caught by John on the beat and then took a swim at the gybe mark. Just as John was poised to take second from Jeremy on the second beat, he got stuck in irons in the heavy swell whilst tacking, and Jeremy was able to stay ahead of him and open up a gap. Once Ben got going again after his 1st capsize he was rapidly closing on John, but two further dunkings ensured that Ben stayed firmly in 4th and these 4 were the only ones to finish.

Overall Results:

1st 428 Simon Hopkins (Up River YC)
2nd 226 Terry Hunt (Netley SC)
3rd 410 Jeremy Cooper (Shotwick Lake SC)
4th 435 Ben Twist (Broadstairs SC)
5th 433 John Butler (Sutton in Ashfield SC)
6th 427 Duncan Cheshire (Winsford Flash SC)
7th 325 Paul Beven (Up River YC)

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