For the 5th year Larks joined GP’s and Enterprises to contest the 39th Southport 24 hour race. The wind for the duration of the race came from the West allowing the Larks and GP’s to carry the kite for the long North Easterly leg of the triangular course. Unfortunately the lake has continued to silt up and the competitors were faced with the added challenge of sailing with the already shortened rudder and centreboard half up.
Based on last years result the Lark Association team and South Staffs started in the second flight. Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones in the Association boat picked a gap between the GP’s and led the 2nd flight round the leeward mark. The South Staffs team took a lower route down the reach and squeezed round mid flight. Along the long fetch the Larks faired well picking off boats from the first start but as they rounded the leeward mark for the short beat both boats hard work was quickly undone. Without sufficient centreboard or a chine to dig in the Larks really suffered and places were quickly lost.
As the race progressed, the Larks, including the universities that started in later flights, provided whoops of amusement from the crowd as they repeatedly broached in front of the grand stand. John Billington second into the South Staffs boat sent orders ashore for a replacement rudder and after a quick pit stop they were back out with something even shorter.
One of the great things about Southport is that it all looks so easy from the land. Everybody knows what advice to shout when you are stood in the comfort of your jeans and coat but once you get out there you realise how difficult it is. With the wind flicking and gusting the Association team struggled through the evening. The boat was handed over to Jonathan Lewis/Milly Parsons, Simon Cox/Kelsey Suggitt, Ruth Johnson and Lucy Matthews and finally Smashie and Laura but by 10pm the team had dropped from 10th to 19th place overall.
Lewis and Parsons then took over again with determined faces signalling they were going to do something special… and they did. 3 successive 11 minute laps, 4 minutes faster than anything in the last 3 hours helped reverse the boats downward direction on the leader board. Cumley, Cox and Smashie did long stints through the night with the crews swapping more regularly. This allowed the team to do down wind change over’s enough to get anybodies heart rate racing (try sailing next to a concrete wall in the pitch black on a broad reach with your rudder half up in a force 3 – with dainty Simon Cox running after you and hurling himself into the boat next to you!!),.
The universities were having there own battle further down the field. Manchester decided to go for a cut down main as it started to get dark which proved a costly mistake because as the night progressed the wind eased slightly. Lancaster and Leeds were swapping places regularly but it was eventually Leeds that got the hang of the conditions and started to move up the leader board.
South Staffs lost a lot of ground early on in the race whilst they changed rudders and recovered from a capsize (Dave Young) however with some determined night time sailing and with some back up assistance in the morning from Mike Owen the team ended 2nd Lark and 31st out of 77 finishers.
The Association team finished 12th overall which was a very creditable position given the conditions. We would all like to extend a big thank you to the many volunteers from Southport that make the event so organised, however from the point of sailing quality please can we beg you to ask the council to dredge the lake.
Next year is Southport’s 40th which is sure to be big. Will South Staffs continue its dominance as the number 1 Lark club or will there be a challenge from the likes of Waldringfield et al?
If you would like any information or tips about setting up a Lark team please contact Simon Cox on email@example.com or Steve Cumley on firstname.lastname@example.org