Lark report as part of Fast Handicap Fleet.
Sunday 7th August.
A brisk breeze welcomed the fleet for the 1st race. With an incoming tide the fast boats all had an advantage to hit the edge of the estuary first and so giving lots of dirty wind for the slower boats, of which the Larks were the slowest! However, Chris Ellis and Natalie Hawes in 2469 made a great start and were in amongst the RS 400’s and Merlins at the first mark. Although the RS’s were in a separate race they were on the race course with the Fast Handicap Fleet and so were an obstacle to progress! Unfortunately Mark and Jill Ampleford in 2502 did not make the start line in the first two races and so it was up to Tony Hotchkiss and James Croxford in 2468 to try to challenge 2469. After a hard race with some strong gusts, Chris and Natalie in 2469 finished 4th with Tony and James in 2468 finished 9th overall.
Monday 8th August.
Another day of strong winds and sudden gusts. However the North westerly wind meant the estuary was quite sheltered and a last minute decision by the race officer changed the first leg to a sail with the incoming tide up stream. Although Tony and James made a great start it was Chris and Natalie who really got the bit between their teeth and powered around the course taking advantage of the very shifty wind through the main estuary. Although in sight of Tony and James after the first lap, 2468 failed to find the wind at one point and so trailed in 6th to be well beaten by Chris and Natalie who took an easy win on corrected time.
Tuesday 9th August.
A moderating wind from a more northerly direction and fairly slack water again gave the first beat inland. Tony and wife Brenda in the sharp end this time, took an early lead but Chris and Natalie soon went passed and gradually pulled well infront. However, the wind was again very shifty and on the long beat inland Mark and Jill (in their first outing of the week) moved past 2468 and stayed there until both boats returned to the main estuary. Here the wind became very fickle and Tony and Brenda pulled well away from Mark and Jill and then caught and passed Chris and Natalie before stopping as had their portion of the fleet. Whilst all these boats were stationary, Mark and Jill came up on wind and passed the group to move into 1st Lark. On the return leg down the estuary Tony and Brenda picked the right side and sailed through to finish first Lark with Chris and Natalie just beating Mark and Jill.
Wednesday 10th August.
Slightly more wind and from the south west ensured that the lottery of the previous day was a thing of the past. With the end of the ebb tide the beat towards the sea and the first mark, the fleet could use almost the full width of the estuary. Mark and Jill had a great first beat and were well infront on the run back inland. However, by Snapes Point the three Larks were running neck and neck and it stayed very close through the next fetch to Crossways, before the long reach inland to Gerston. This open area allowed the wind uninterrupted access to the course and the reach into and away from Gerston was the highlight of the week to date! By this time 2469 had pulled infront of 2468 who were now infront of 2502 and it stayed this way to the finish with Chris and Natalie 7th , Tony and Brenda 8th and Mark and Jill 11th overall.
Thursday 11th August.
Gales from the southwest were forecast and so a somewhat depleted fleet made the starting area. Just to add to the difficulty the Lifeboat launched as the 5 minute gun was fired and so the natural waves were multiplied by several factors as their engines opened up! The first beat to the sea and Blackstone rocks was a mixture of fortunes after Chris and Natalie made a great start and were then knocked badly allowing Tony and James (back in harness due to the stronger wind) to keep in contention. Mark and Jill were persuaded that it could be quite formidable and so sat the race out only to watch and regret not having taken the plunge. Although windy it never reached the predicted wind strength and so a hard sail was enjoyed rather than endured. Having said that Chris and Natalie did manage a capsize when a sudden gust hit them in the notorious “bag” but despite turning turtle they made a remarkable recovery to stay in the race. The reach to Gerston mark was even more exhilarating than the previous day to convince James that he had not missed out on this total wetting!! Tony and James stayed as first Lark to finish 5th with Chris and Natalie following in 8th overall.
Friday 12th August.
With the wind having abated a very moderate day was anticipated to finish the week. Both Chris and Tony had to work the logistics to be out of their apartments and to still sail! With this going on Brenda opted not to sail and so James teamed up with Tony again. By the first mark the 3 Larks were virtually neck and neck and so it became a battle of wits to find the best route and wind! At some point each team took a turn at being front Lark but Tony and James found the best route through the “bag” to take the lead. They stayed infront until the end of the final run when Chris out manoeuvred Tony to get inside at the mark and so pull away up the final beat to the line. This gave 2469 a 6th with 2468 a 7th and 2502 a 9th overall for the race.
Although the Lark fleet did not feature in the overall results this year (the first time they have not for many years), the week was great fun with really close competition. Chris and Natalie in 2469 finished in a creditable 6th with Tony and Brenda/James in 2468 finishing 9th and Mark and Jill in 2502 in 13th having to count two DNC!