41 past, present and future Lark sailors descended to their lounges, home offices and dining tables to participate in the latest event on the Lark circuit. With the use of the Inshore Virtual Regatta, various devices and some suspicious broadband connections the action commenced on the afternoon and evening of Sunday 3rd May, with 3 qualifying 5-race heats to determine who would fight it out in the evening's final showdown.
Competitors came in all shapes and sizes with a 44-year Lark stalwart, 8 National Champions, some grandmasters and one team yet to sail their newly purchased Lark due to the lockdown. The entry list was peppered with younger Lark sailors looking to gain an advantage with their sharper reactions, gaming experience and undiminished eyesight making up for their lack of on the water sailing experience.
These skills were proved to pay in Heat 3 where Ben Meeks (13) cleared up with the most impressive set of race results ever seen in Virtual Regatta*, having discarded a 1st & 3rd place result. The younger Jenkins, Dara, out-sailed his father sitting no more than one foot away, qualifying for the finals.
Heat 2 proved to be the most competitive heat, with a large contingent from Waldringfield Sailing Club, testing the limits of Suffolk's broadband capabilities. It was the heat of the fours: 4 different race winners with the top 4 positions split by 4 points, headed up by Jon Fish. His placing was helped by Steve Dunn's 4G connection from the remote countryside letting him down and with junior Tom Krailing 'Tomatron' keen to have a "Laugh" around the course.
The first race of Heat 1 was won by Race Officer, Dan Watson, which raised suspicions of the extra helps made available to the RO. Questions were soon dispelled, when true to form a discard followed in race 2. One noticeable mention must go to Chris Holliman who was late starting, missed Race 1, won Race 2 and then promptly decided it wouldn't get any better, used his very young offspring as an excuse to pack up and head to the bar early. Dan Watson held on to win the heat, but only by count-back with equal points with an ex-Lark Uni sailor Ned Winter. Again the youth were well represented by Robbie Stewart who posted a very consistent set of results.
The finals dawned with hot favourite Ben Meeks starting very well, but soon found that South Devon's internet provider had other ideas and was forced to retire from the final two races. This left the door open for others to compete for the inaugural crown of Lark e-Inlands Champion. It was soon discovered that Heat 2 had been operating at an entirely different level to the others, with winner and runner up of the heat repeating the same places in the Final with overall places not decided until the final gybes on the last run down to the finish line.
Everyone had an awesome time using Virtual Regatta, catching up on Zoom and participating in some friendly, yet competitive racing during these strange times. It was duly noted how quick and easy it was to pack the boat up and retire to the bar for some post race banter.
Thanks to race officer Dan Watson and scorers Neil and Sue Firth, who published the results before the first pint had even been consumed!
[subject to government announcements] The next event in the Lark VR calendar will be the Lark e-National Championships over the late May Bank Holiday, which will act as the Class's qualifier to the RYA eSailing Spring Championships, plus another event in the lead up to the Nationals. Watch this space!