Beautiful sunshine, friendly faces and a shifty and gusty F2-3 greeted the travelling Larks who entered the Lymington Dinghy Regatta hosted jointly by Lymington Town Sailing Club and the Royal Lymington Yacht Club for this 120-boat sold-out event.
The racing was held on two separate courses out on The Solent, with the Larks joining the medium handicap fleet at the second of four starts on the trapezoid West Course. There were 34 boats in the medium fleet, including Merlin Rockets, Lasers, Solos, Phantoms, Fireflies and RS200’s, but this did not stop the Larks having exceptionally close racing all weekend.
The race officer and the shore-based team were incredibly efficient and organised which confused many crews as we were all out on the race course with a good half an hour to spare so the racing got off promptly on time and each start rapidly followed the previous race.
Three races were scheduled for each of the two days. The tide was still coming in but relatively slack for the start of race one. Neil and Sue Firth had a good start and showed their Friday training was not wasted, by leading the Larks round the windward mark. However, Chris and Kate Holliman showed their usual speed and love of a corner to reel them in and take the spoils, finishing this race in 7th overall. Nigel Hufton sailing with Julia Batchelor for the first time, missed the start while removing the notorious Lymington weed from the foils, but showed electric pace up the second beat, overtaking Steve Chatten and Kirsty Phipps, and almost catching Steve Cumley and Eluned Stewart.
The tide had turned in the second race. Cumley/Stewart were OCS so had to fight their way back to the start line to start behind the fleet. The Hollimans lead the Larks round the first lap with the other four Larks doing battle quite a long way behind. Cumley/Stewart went hard right down the first run, overtaking Chatten/Phipps, Hufton/Batchelor, the Firths and hot on the heels of the Hollimans by the start of the second beat. Sadly, a broken tiller extension made the second lap too difficult for the Hollimans and although they did battle on, they were overtaken by the other Larks. Cumley/Stewart continued their electric pace for the rest of the race finishing in 3rd overall, while the other Larks had a real battle, finishing in 17th, 18th, 19th and 21st overall!
The Hollimans returned to shore for the third race, while the other four Larks struggled against a dropping breeze and increasing tide. The tide made a general recall almost inevitable and the race finished sensibly after just one lap. Cumley/Stewart again finished first Lark, in 10th overall.
The fleet returned to shore for their complementary tea and donut. The Royal put on a fun social in the evening including a free raffle (the Firths won a signed Nick Craig book), a magician, dinner and an Oppy full of beer.
Sunday was expected to be very light but again a F2 greeted the fleet. The tide started ebbing just as the racing started so the majority of the fleet headed inshore up the beats for each of the three races. However, the Firths showed that it wasn’t all about the tide and there were shifts to be had, by heading out into the tide and overtaking Cumley/Stewart on the second beat to take the spoils.
The tide was getting stronger by the second race and judging the layline for the windward mark was extremely tricky with some boats taking several attempts at rounding. With odd shifts and pressure differences, it really was a “snakes and ladders” type race with positions changing frequently. One major factor was the weed and mastering the weed removal was essential to a good result. Cumley/Stewart again took the spoils on this one with the Firths and Hufton/Batchelor having a very close race, finishing just one place apart.
The sun reappeared and the race officer threw in an extra lap for the final race. The Larks had a fantastic battle with places changing hands every beat. Cumley/Stewart had a good start and were not ever really in danger but the other three boats continued battling right to the finish, all crossing in quick succession.
Overall, this was a fabulous event and the Larks are keen to return with a larger fleet next year.