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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

Novice racers shine at the West Kirby Sailing Club Easter Regatta

by Liz Potter 3 Apr 07:59 BST 31 March - 1 April 2024
Angus and Poppy Armstrong take off in their Mirror during the West Kirby Sailing Club Easter Regatta © Chris Gatenby

With Easter falling early this year, it was always going to be a challenge to entice the dinghy sailors out for a blustery first day of racing on Easter Sunday.

Over the Autumn and Winter, great things have been going on in the training room and afloat on our marine lake, to encourage a new group of sailors to take up racing. The club has recognised that new blood is imperative to boost the dwindling participant numbers that many sailing clubs have been seeing over the past few years.

Guided by International Canoe legend Tony Marston, and supported by the club training team and visiting regular racers, the new sailors have shown huge enthusiasm and consistency in attendance even in the foulest of weather! In response to their feedback and concerns, the club has given them their own 'L' flag and a separate start 3 minutes behind the fast handicap fleet. There, they can hone their skills without pressure, whilst getting used to being part of the racing scene with help and support from fellow sailors never too far away.

Despite the inclement forecast, a total of 40 sailors took part in the racing over the two days. The offshore Easterly wind swirled through West Kirby town and over the new flood defence wall, splatting out in wide gusts across the lake. It made for very tricky sailing for all, with gusts over 25 knots and 40 degree windshifts blasting across the course.

Two thirds of the Novice sailors completed the first race in seriously challenging conditions.

The Gatenby sisters, Sophie (13) and Phoebe (11) stepped into a club RS Feva for the first time, after a brief episode in optimists to learn in. They showed impressive skill and teamwork to score three wins on the first day.

Also completing all 3 races were father/daughter team of Pasi Huyrynen and Ester, who made light of the testing conditions with a steadily improving 6,3,2. Eduardo Banito managed two 2nds in the club Laser, before retiring in the third race as the wind picked up further.

Elsewhere, Jude Stratton abandoned her Lightening to rescue her stricken husband Richard, also in (and out of) a Lightening. Her brave and stoic deed would reap karma on the second day with a podium performance on the water.

Over in the slow handicap fleet, the only competitor was a Mirror sailed by Angus Armstrong and his daughter Isla. They were invited to join the fast handicap fleet on average laps, enabling them to race against other family members in a three-generation battle of the Armstrongs.

In a Firefly helmed by Chris Kameen, elder junior Poppy Armstrong shared out the first and second places with the Mirror that day. Also in the battle was Grandma Marian, crewed by Mum Tash Armstrong, also in a Firefly, collecting some handy results.

At the end of a tiring and wet day, the competitors were treated to the club's famous Easter brunch, or hot bacon butties, in preparation for the finale on Easter Monday.

17 handicap boats and 9 Novices ventured out on the calmer, but still Easterly-stirred waters for Day 2.

In the Novice class, the Gatenby sisters continued to dominate the top spot, to take the overall win from Pasi and Ester. Jude Straton in the Lightening (one of the 6 competing in the club's newest hot class) put in a great performance with a 1,2,2 to give her 3rd place overall.

In the general handicap, the Armstrongs in their Mirror produced a clear line of firsts after discards and were claimed the Slow Handicap Champions as per the club rules. The winner of the Fast Handicap was then the Firefly, sailed by Chris and Poppy. Liz Potter divided the Armstrong trilogy, by claiming a 2nd overall in her D-Zero "Zippy", with Marian and Tash Armstrong coming 3rd. A fourth prize went to Glyn Purnell in his Laser Radial, who performed well on the first blustery day.

It was a regatta of great diversity and extremes, in terms of weather, boats and competitors; 3 knots to 27; 33 boats across 14 different classes ranging in handicap (Great Lakes) from 940 (IC) to 1380 (Mirror). The sailors ranged in age from 11 to 74, 23 male to 17 female, with the majority of females being in the Novice fleet.

The future is looking bright indeed!

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