© Chris Bowen© Chris Bowen

Thrills & spills at the Lark Winter Champs

Neil Firth - 11th November 2018

Larks from as far afield as Waldringfield and West Kirby ventured to Northampton Sailing Club for their 2018 Winter Championships on 3-4 November. They were greeted by a fresh southerly wind, gusting to 35 knots, with day one dominated by those able to handle the challenging conditions.

Race 1 saw Nigel Scott and Paul Gardner with an early lead and good speed, only to be reeled in by Steve Chatten and Ruth Johnson from Netley SC who went on to take the win. Dan Watson and Dave Thompson from Waldringfield SC were third. By Race 2, Scott/Gardner were mastering the conditions better than most, with both Chatten/Johnson and Watson/Thompson taking a swim. That left Neil and Sue Firth from Banbury SC to come through into second, having cautiously left the kite in its chute. Just five boats had the stamina to start race 3, and once again it looked like Chatten/Johnson against Scott/Gardner for the heavy weather honours until Chatten/Johnson suffered a catastrophic shroud failure under full sail, with the mast snapping clean off at the gooseneck! Watson/Thompson hung in there, but Scott/Gardner prevailed and so held the overnight lead by some margin. Kate Merritt and Karen Alexander from South Staffs SC were in second place overnight, as the only other boat to have survived all three races.

Day 2 was more benign, and saw some different teams coming into the fray. In Race 4, the Firths found the best shifts and pressure, breaking away for an early lead and holding on for the win. Behind them places changed regularly in the shifty conditions, with Simon Cox and Smashie Bennett from Waldringfield SC finishing in second, ahead of Chris Ellis and Judith Young from Frensham Pond SC. Watson/Thompson took a significant lead in race 5 after finding some illusive pressure up the first beat. The Firths gave chase, bridging the gap from the chasing peloton and, ultimately, sneaking through on the final lap to take the win. Scott and Gardner emerged from the following pack to take third. That left Race 6 as the championship decider, with one point separating Scott/Gardner from the Firths. The Firths looked to have blown it after taking a penalty for an infringement approaching the first windward mark. The fleet split left and right on the subsequent run, with the Firths somehow finding pressure straight down the middle and moving into second behind Julia Neal and Michele Noronha from West Kirby SC. By the leeward mark, the Firths were ahead and, although Scott and Gardner pulled through into second, it was the Firths who took the final bullet and the championship.

1st Neil Firth and Sue Firth, Banbury SC
2nd Nigel Scott and Paul Gardner, RYA
3rd Dan Watson and Dave Thompson, Waldringfield SC