It was a cold and murky day when the Larks arrived at Datchet on the weekend of 17/18 May for their Inland Championships, with a light north easterly breeze. PRO, Peter Short, set a long Olympic course, befitting a championship, and was tested all day by 30-40 degree wind shifts.
After an almost traditional general recall on the first start, the fleet got away, with Richard Adams and Paul (Nobby) Noble popping out in front at the first mark. Hot on their heals were Emma Harris & Becky Priest and Richard (Smashie) Bennett and Nicola Booth. With some tricky wind shifts, Harris & Priest managed to sniggle ahead of Adams and Noble by the end of the second beat and led to the finish. Behind, Stuart and Julia Allen played an awesome beat to break through to second with Kelsey Suggitt and Josh Stuart eventually finishing strongly in 3rd.
Race 2 was sailed in similar conditions, with a shifty NNE F2. Bennett & Booth led at the first mark and spent two laps swapping places with Suggitt & Stuart and Harris & Priest, all of whom took the lead at some stage. By the end though, Bennett & Booth won by 3 boat lengths from Harris & Priest, with Stephen and Christopher Videlo just getting water at the finish on Suggitt & Stuart.
The third race of the day saw the breeze pick up to good F3. Chris Whitehouse and Jane Alexander, having started early and returned to the line, got lucky and caught a huge right shift which took them to the mark in first, which they held to the finish. Behind them, the race was on for 2nd, with Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones and Chris Fish and Mike Gilson and the young Videlos battling it out. It ended with Cumley/Jones in 2nd and Fish/Gilson in 3rd.
Sunday dawned much brighter, warmer and windier; same direction, just up a few knots, with some healthy top end F4 gusts. The wind shifts were still very much in evidence and it took a lot of concentration to get the better of them (something which was lacking in many after the over-indulgence of the night before!). Race 4 saw a Battle Royale between Bennett & Booth, who'd rounded first, Dave Young and Nicola Attwood, "P&B Boys", Steve Hall and Simon Haughton and Harris & Priest. It was to be Hall & Haughton's race, though, feeling much more comfortable in the heavier breeze. Meanwhile, on the starboard reach, Cumley & Jones had a huge gust which gave them water at the wing mark, overtaking several boats to gain 3rd. Harris & Priest just managed to stay ahead to take 2nd at the line.
Rounding in first and second, Fish & Gilson and the Videlo boys, got clean away on the first reach of Race 5, leaving the rest of the fleet half a leg behind. Sadly, the Videlo's main halyard broke on the second beat, putting them out of contention, but Fish & Gilson were never to be seen again, finishing so far ahead that they could have nipped back for a quick cuppa before Race 6. The "minor" places were taken by Hall & Haughton in 2nd and Harris & Priest in 3rd.
Finally onto Race six and with a steadily backing wind, the fleet were given two general recalls before finally getting off. This time, it paid to bang the left hand corner with a massive left shift coming in. Those that did, came out smelling of roses; those that didn't were seriously in the myre. Again, it was Whitehouse & Alexander who got it right, with Cumley & Jones and Young & Attwood, tailing them. The fleet spread out hugely, the leaders got away and these places never changed.
In the end, though, Harris & Priest, who had hit the "self-destruct" button in the last race, had won the Championship with a race to spare. The shifting breeze had made consistency difficult as was evident in the high scores, with several different race winners and so many names in the top 3 of each race.
The Larks would like to extend a huge thank you to Datchet Water SC for laying on a memorable Inland Championship event; and also to both North Sails and Pinnell and Bax, who sponsored the prizeware.
1st Emma Harris & Becky Priest, Waldringfield SC, 16pts
2nd Steve Cumley & Eluned Jones, Barnt Green SC, 19pts
3rd Chris Fish & Mike Gilson, Waldringfield SC, 21pts
4th Richard Bennett & Nicola Booth, Staunton Harold SC, 22pts
5th Chris Biglin & Anne Biglin, Shustoke SC, 25pts
6th Stephen Videlo & Christopher Videlo, Waldringfield SC, 27pts
7th Chris Whitehouse & Jane Alexander, Ranelagh SC, 28pts
8th Dave Young & Nicola Attwood, South Staffs SC, 36pts
9th Steve Hall & Simon Haughton, Northampton SC, 39pts
10th Kelsey Suggitt & Josh Stuart, Barnt Green SC, 43pts
1st Silver Fleet: Kelsey Suggitt & Josh Stuart, Barnt Green SC
1st Bronze Fleet: John Crooks and Helen Winward, Waldringfield SC