With an impressive number of Youth sailors within the club, South Staffs Sailing Club were delighted to host this year’s Lark Youth Championships. Almost ideal conditions welcomed the 17 boats and the club were particularly pleased to see Emma & Matt White from Waldringfield, who made the long trip to defend their title they won last year at Fishers Green.
4 races were scheduled for the day and with a consistent force 2 / 3 wind forecast it looked as though there would be no problems in fitting them all in.
Race 1 got underway first time but with a few boats recalled. Eleanor Davies & Nic Booth from the home club made the best start, closely followed by Emma & Matt White, Connie Hicklin & Chris Cook also from SSSC and Will Kennedy & Rhos Hawes from Fishers Green, who were sailing the Ovi Lark on loan from the Association. On the final reach of the first lap, Eleanor & Nic had a big argument with the spinnaker which went to hide under the boat! This lost them several places and it was Will & Rhos who took the most advantage to move into a commanding lead. They were followed by Emma & Matt and they became involved in some really close racing which included Sam Blocksidge & Alison Norbury who had recovered from their recall at the start. With a lap to go, Sam & Alison broke away from Emma & Matt but the substantial wind shifts made for some dramatic place changes towards the end. Despite this it looked as though Will & Rhos would be safely first but as they approached the line a gust caught them unawares and their capsize gifted the win to Sam & Alison with Eleanor & Nic in 3rd.
Race 2 started soon after the last boat finished and a neck & neck run from the windward mark gave Sam & Alison the chance to go low and take an early lead. The next windward leg produced some big shifts and it was Ryan Padro & Nick Hydon from Shustoke / Midland that gained the lead for the next spinnaker reach. Unfortunately the slightly changed course from the first race caused them to round the mark the wrong way and they failed to unwind themselves properly so effectively ending their race. It was Will & Rhos that fought their way to the front and this time they made no mistakes and held the win at the finish. Sam & Alison were always challenging and they were joined by Sarah Norbury & Sarah Davies from SSSC who looked as though they could come and spoil their 2nd place but this was not quite to be.
After a welcome break for lunch the fleet was far too keen to start and two general recalls led to the black flag! This time they all complied and it was again Sam & Alison who soon got into the lead. They were pushed hard by Eleanor & Nic with Emma & Matt just behind. Will &Rhos got caught further down the fleet and never managed to break free, so once again it was left to the two Sarah’s to push for 3rd spot. However, they could not quite break the stranglehold the two leaders had and this time Eleanor and Nic sailed brilliantly to get in front and stay in front of Sam & Alison.
Any one of four boats could still win the meeting. The clean start got the race underway with Eleanor & Nic rounding the windward mark in front of Sam & Alison so the battle was on! Once again Will & Rhos were rather buried and they had to work hard to pull a reasonable result. For a long time Rory McKenzie & Seonaid Fleming from Ogston & SSSC held onto 3rd but eventually they were worn down and it was the two Sarah’s that battled into 3rd place. This time the first two were never seriously challenged and it was Sam & Alison that overtook and pulled away from Eleanor & Nic to win the meeting.
Although the helms had to be 21 or under on the day, there was no restriction on the crew. However, it was great to see that the 1st & 3rd boats were totally sailed by youths and even the 2nd & 4th boats only had slightly older crews! Prizes were awarded to the first boat with an all under 16 team and this was won by Will Hawkins age 13 & Megan Hicklin age 14 who put up a very creditable performance in the gusty and shifting wind. The standard of sailing throughout was very high as befits a Championship and it would be great to see this continue as a major Youth event in the sailing calendar.
1st Sam Blocksidge & Alison Norbury - South Staffs S C
2nd Eleanor Davies & Nic Booth - South Staffs S C
3rd Will Kennedy & Rhos Hawes - Fishers Green S C
4th Sarah Norbury & Sarah Davies - South Staffs S C
5th Emma & Matt White - Waldringfield S C