A true silver fleet battle commenced as a small number of hardy Lark helms and crews were greeted by a force 5 and intermittent showers upon arrival at Datchet SC on Saturday 6th October. Thirty symmetrical hiking boats, including a number of Scorpions, Kestrels, Wayfarers and Flying Fifteens, entered for a weekend of six pursuit and handicap races run over trapezoid courses.
The Larks followed the Wayfarers as the second class off in the pursuit races - the shifty and poignantly gusty breeze meant that there were many gains to be made upwind and keeping the mast in the sky down the reaches and run was a must to secure a good result. Tim Vick had to make a trip to Pinnell & Bax to pick up a mast en route to the event seeing him and Saturday's crew, Ellen Milner, arrive a little late for the start and play catch up - meanwhile Holly Hewat & Ruth Johnson sailing a Lark together for the first time led the Larks home.
Saturday's handicap races saw many capsizes throughout the symmetrical hiking fleet and disaster struck on El Grouso when upon capsizing James Ward found himself caught on the spinnaker pole beneath the upturned hull and, as any truly masculine Lark sailor would, ripped his buoyancy aid from his being and swam free. Nevertheless, the event forced the ship to return to shore to enable Ward to fetch another buoyancy aid, whilst Hewat & Johnson won the battle of the remaining Larks.
The second handicap race began and was proving somewhat more tightly fought - Vick & Milner hit hard left up the first beat and were lifted into the windward mark with James Ward and crew Katie Haighton not far behind. A brief dip on the part of Ward & Haighton saw the crew of Ermintrude chase the leading pair into the final gybe mark when Vick & Milner thought they'd practice their breaststroke, giving Hewat & Johnson their third Lark win of the day.
After a pleasant pub dinner in a nearby village and an early night for the Lark campers, Sunday dawned drizzling and saw a slight decrease in wind strength to a force 4, yet the violent shifts and gusts remained. The pursuit race saw Ward & Haighton lead from the windward mark to score their best result of the weekend - 8th overall and first Lark, followed by Vick and Sunday crew, Jon Carkeet.
Sunday's second race saw the only general recall of the weekend with a number of bows over the line. The next start got away cleanly and saw Hewat & Johnson return to form and lead the Larks to the finish - meanwhile a contest ensued between Vick & Carkeet and the crew of El Grouso, this time seeing Vick & Carkeet reign supreme.
The sixth and final race of the weekend saw Ward & Haighton fall foul at the start and have to return as the individual recall flag was hoisted. The girly team of Hewat & Johnson concluded a good weekend crossing the line as the first Lark, after battling with the Scorpions. Ward & Haighton continued to work their way through the handicap racers, yet ran out of time to catch the team of Vick & Carkeet, leaving them to take the place of second Lark.
After all six races Hewat & Johnson finished the weekend as first Lark, followed by Vick & Milner/Carkeet in second and Ward & Haighton in third place. Many thanks must go to Datchet SC for hosting the event - the races were turned around very quickly and the sailors left with little time sat waiting. Evidently the forecast saw a number of regular circuit goers miss a great event, which as a class we should certainly endeavour to attend in future years.
1st Holly Hewat & Ruth Johnson
2nd Tim Vick & Ellen Milner/Jon Carkeet
3rd James Ward & Katie Haighton