On Saturday 27th November the Lark Owners Association held their annual Laying Down Supper and end-of-season prize giving at Northampton Sailing Club. The Lark ranking ladder, called the Belle Isle, is calculated using each helm and crew's best five open meeting results from the 2004 season. At least one of the events sailed must be an inland venue and at least one must be a sea venue, meaning teams have to be good all-round sailors to do well overall.
Analysing the statistics from this year's season makes interesting reading and goes to show just how strong the Lark class continues to be. In total, excluding the Nationals, exactly 100 different pairings from 27 different clubs took part in at least one event during the season. As a testament to the competitiveness of racing in the Lark fleet, there were 22 different helm and crew combinations who made it into the top three in at least one of the 16 events. Incredibly, there were nine different open meeting winners, with the most wins by any one boat being only three!
Clubs from as far afield as Penzance, Waldringfield in Suffolk and West Kirby were represented through the year but it was Waldringfield Sailing Club's representatives that notched up four top ten places, including 1st, 2nd and 4th. and took the "Best Club" award.
The season also saw a wide range of ages of both crews and helms, with many young teenagers competing against several white-haired gentlemen (who's ages are a well-kept secret!). David Marlow, crewed by his father, Nick, and winner of the U21 prize, continues to show great promise and is regularly seen at the front of the fleet (even winning a race at last weekend's Winter Champs!). As his results become more consistent, he will surely be a major contender in the fleet - a star for the future?
The Silver Fleet sailed into its second year and was won by Chris and Ann Biglin of Shustoke SC in their new graduated purple boat (unmissable on the race track!). Their campaign culminated in an excellent win at their home club's open and now they have their teenage son, Ben, fully installed at the helm of their "second" Rondar Lark! Another future hopeful!
In the Gold Fleet, it was the all-female pairing of Emma Harris & Becky Priest, who eventually took the Belle Isle title for the second time, having won the Inland championships, Rock and West Kirby opens. This capped off an excellent year for the girls of the fleet - Sarah Richards having won the National Championships, crewed by brother, Nigel Wakefield, and finishing 3rd in the Belle Isle.
On the committee side of things, Nigel Scott stood down from being Chairman at the AGM in the summer - a role he occupied for 6 years. The class owe an inordinate amount of thanks to Nigel for his hard graft, especially successfully steering the fleet through a very low point in the late 90's. His commitment and enthusiasm will be hard to match. However, new Chairman, Steve Cumley is already proving more than capable and has thrown himself at the task with verve, already coming up with some great ideas to move the class on in the future and whipping the committee into action!!
As ever, thanks must go to the whole Committee for helping the Larks go from strength to strength, and especially to Ruth Johnson who organised such an excellent season's circuit.
Best Club, Waldringfield SC
Best Improver, Andy Cox and Vikki Wanstall
Best Under 21 Helm, David Marlow
Best Female Helm, Emma Harris
Best Newcomer, Michael-John Gifford and Kirsty Phipps
Gold Fleet 1st overall, Emma Harris and Becky Priest
Gold Fleet 2nd overall, Alan Krailing and Gemma Thompson
Gold Fleet 3rd overall, Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield
Gold Fleet 4th overall, Harry Pynn and various
Gold Fleet 5th overall, Bob and Kelsey Suggitt
Gold Fleet 6th overall, Nigel Hufton and Chris Whitehouse
Silver Fleet 1st overall, Chris and Ann Biglin
Silver Fleet 2nd overall, Michael-John Gifford and Kirsty Phipps
Silver Fleet 3rd overall, Dan Smith and Amy Richardson