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Noble Marine 2022 YY - LEADERBOARD

Noble Marine Insurance Lightning 368 Sea Championship at the Lymington Dinghy Regatta

by John Butler & Maria Claridge 14 Aug 2023 22:03 BST 12-13 August 2023
Maria Claridge during the Noble Marine Insurance 2023 Lightning 368 Sea Championship at Lymington © John Claridge

Following on from the large turnout of over 20 boats at the Northern Championship, it may seem a bit disappointing that there were only 7 entries for the 2023 Noble Marine Insurance Lightning 368 Sea Championship on 12th & 13th August at Lymington, part of the Dinghy Regatta jointly hosted by Royal Lymington Yacht Club and Lymington Town Sailing Club for over 100 assorted classes of dinghies.

Clearly those Lightning sailors of a sound mind had been tracking the long range weather forecast for the weekend, and made last minute excuses such as "even visiting family in Sheffield was better than a washing machine visit to the Solent!"

The expectant sailors who showed up had to wait around on the Saturday morning whilst the Race Committee were checking the anemometer to see if it really was gusting 35 knots!

They wisely decided that gusts of over 30 knots in the middle of the Solent would lead to scenes of absolute devastation, and wisely cancelled all racing for the day as the wind howled in the rigging!

Some of the sailors then chose to undertake some boat bimbling back at John Claridge's workshop, followed by an evening barbeque in his back garden.

Sunday's forecast was hardly much better, but after a wild night the wind appeared to have moderated somewhat by early morning, and was certainly under 20 knots when the assorted dinghy fleets left the slipway and headed the mile or two downriver to the start area.

It was at the mouth of the Lymington river that two of the Lightning sailors decided that the conditions were too much to handle, especially the wind over tide waves with white horses, with a third reaching the committee boat before choosing to turn for home, namely the very experienced local, John Claridge.

That left just 4 helms to start in the West Course start sequence, after the Aeros and the Medium Handicap had got away some minutes earlier.

At this stage the wind increased to over 20 knots, with the wind over tide causing really confused and deep chop conditions for the competitors to deal with.

Race 1

Simon Hopkins certainly misjudged the strength of the flood tide at the start, and was forced on to the committee boat at the pin end, whilst Andrew Yuille and John Butler held back uptide and started close together mid-line with Maria Claridge to windward of both of them. After 10 years out from racing in the class, Maria was the only one of the four who chose to sport the 5.8m2 small rig, racing on equal terms as far as the Championship was concerned, which turned out to be a great decision.

Andrew stormed off into a decent lead over John, whilst Simon was extricating himself and taking his penalty. John proved the benefit of fully reading the sailing instructions and laminating up a diagrammatical course card for his boat, and realised that Andrew was heading for the Alpha course windward mark that the earlier starting Aeros & Medium Handicap boats were rounding, whilst the Lightnings and Slow Handicap were allocated the shorter Bravo trapezoidal course.

John was first to the correct mark, followed by the fast closing Simon, who took John on the first reach. Maria wasn't far behind John, sailing faster, but over-stood the windward mark, finally passing him on the run against the tide down to the bottom two marks.

At the end of the second and final beat, Simon was out of sight about 3 minutes ahead, and sailed up to the committee boat to be greeted by total silence. He hadn't noticed that the "gate" for each lap and also the finish line was on the starboard side of the committee boat, different from the start line on the port side, so was classified as a DNF.

Meanwhile, further back, Maria took a dunking at the gybe mark allowing John & Andrew to pass her, and therefore John inherited a surprise race win finishing over 4 minutes ahead of the recovering Andrew, with Maria third.

Race 2

This was race where all the carnage happened. The wind had risen to over 20 knots and the gusts were even more savage.

Simon had a great start, and his heavy weather prowess was clearly evident as he stormed off in a cloud of spray whilst the others laboured with the wind and waves.

His downfall came at the first gybe mark when attempting to head off downwind. Not renowned for capsizing, Simon got caught out by a large wave and death-rolled, dropping into the drink, never to recover.

Whilst Simon struggled to right and recover his boat, Andrew got to the bottom of the course closely followed by Maria, with John a distant third. All three got to the next windward mark, but John was next to succumb to the conditions, with a windward roll when bearing off around the gybe mark.

That left Andrew and Maria to battle it out. With a loud crack, Andrew's carbon mast broke in two, and that was his racing done, leaving Maria to carry on alone. Maria yet again dropped it in downwind, but was able to get going and finish the race as the sole survivor.

Andrew had to watch the further two races from the committee boat whilst the safety crews coped with fishing out weary competitors and eventually recovering all the boats that got into difficulties back to the shore.

Races 3 & 4

With all her competitors out of contention and having been delivered back to slipway, further out on the Solent it was Maria showing amazing skill and physical fitness to complete the further two races alone, alongside a severely diminished number of slow handicap boats.

She navigated the upwind legs without drama, but admitted that as soon as she needed to gybe downwind to the leeward mark, panic kicked in.

In both races she only managed to land one gybe on each of the second laps, very inelegantly, and apart from that one, she capsized each and every time.

Luckily due to them only happening on the second lap she didn't have too much further to go to the finish.

A huge thank you must go to the safety boat crews from the host clubs for getting all the boats and competitors back to shore safely, and as for the Race Officer and assistants riding out the big waves on the Committee Boat they get our utmost respect.

Overall, Maria Claridge was declared Sea Champion, with John Butler in second and Andrew Yuille third.

Meanwhile Simon has vowed to read and absorb the sailing instructions fully for the Lightning 368 Inland Championship next weekend at Oxford SC, having also missed out on the Northern Championship Trophy a few weeks back by missing the "gate" on that occasion too!

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4Pts
1st427Maria Claridge‑31113
2nd433John Butler1DNF(DNS)DNS18
3rd446Andrew Yuille2DNF(DNS)DNS19
4th428Simon HopkinsDNFDNF(DNS)DNS25
5th447John Claridge(DNS)DNSDNSDNS27
5th325Paul Beven(DNS)DNSDNSDNS27
5th438Carloline Hollier(DNS)DNSDNSDNS27

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