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Lightning 368 open meeting at Aldridge Sailing Club

by John Butler 27 Apr 11:10 PDT 24 April 2021

Nine visitors joined the two locals at Aldridge SC in the West Midlands for the first Lightning 368 Open Meeting of the year.

Race 1

The winds were a little puffy and shifty, which made for a preferred port tack off the start line. In a surprising move, John Butler started on starboard at the pin end, tacked immediately onto port and made it to the first mark in one go, being lifted all the time. He rounded ahead of Mervyn Berry, and led at the 2nd mark too. It was then that he failed the Aldridge eyesight test (50mm numbers on a cylindrical buoy from 200 metres) and headed for the wrong mark.

Mervyn initially followed, but then realised John's error, and let Simon Hopkins and John Claridge through. John C briefly managed to get ahead of Simon mid-race at a windless windward mark, but then dropped his tiller extension allowing Simon to regain the lead. Mervyn recovered enough to put John C under pressure, but Simon was away and gone at the end.

Meanwhile the ring rusty fleet was coming to grips with the shifty conditions with varying degrees of success. 1st capsize of the day went to Jason Gallagher, who then found himself at the back of the fleet, wet and smellier than normal thanks to the chemical soup at the bottom of the lake, affectionately called "The Swag".

At the end, Mervyn consolidated third, with Stephen Hodgson a distant fourth, five seconds ahead of newbie Duncan Cheshire.

Race 2

The wind by now was filling in a bit more, but still shifty down the course, and a clean start saw Simon back at the front on the first lap after Duncan briefly established an early lead, followed by Ian Ranson.

Jason's woes continued, hitting a mark (360) again putting him at the back, then getting past 3 boats before hitting the back of Stephen Hodgson trying to undercut him (720) and was at the back again. He finally retired, as the boat was still handling like a pig - despite changing the tiller extension joint on the tiller to one that wasn't just the bit of string holding it together, but he hadn't spotted something else.... more about that later.

Back on the water, Simon pulled out a large lead, with Ian fading badly and Mervyn taking up a distant second, some 90 seconds or so back from Simon. Meanwhile Duncan finally consolidated third around a minute ahead of John C in fourth.

Race 3

With the wind at its fullest for the day, but still shifting, the fleet set off for the final race.

Incredibly Jason along with Simon and John got clean away. However the shifts and fluctuating wind as you came down the lake saw the fleet close up in the proximity of the leeward mark.

Simon rounded cleanly in first with John holding the inside line forcing most of the fleet the long way round. Jason took advantage of losing positioning coming into the mark, and was able to come inside these boats and overlap John before the next mark and jump into second, followed by John and Mervyn all behind the disappearing Simon.

These four sailed away from the fleet with John, Jason and Mervyn battling for position. Jason, feeing generous, proceeded to hit the next windward mark and despite managing to complete his '360' before John got past, had lost sufficient position and momentum for John to sail through him.

Mervyn followed shortly behind as Jason continued to make lockdown induced mistakes and had to perform another 360. Meanwhile Simon continued his serene progress at the front whilst the rest of the fleet battled on fighting what was now becoming apparent - a year of lockdown does not keep old sailors fit, and a number of cries could be heard from muscles cramping, backs aching and mutterings of, "Oh no, not another lap!"

Meanwhile Jason somehow managed to get back to Mervyn, and was wondering how to plot a way past when Bryan Westley and Ben Twist, on their windward leg, were heading for an intersect with them.

With Mervyn and Jason on starboard, they were waiting for the call to come... and waiting... and waiting. When it did come, there was nowhere for Bryan, Ben, and more importantly Mervyn to go. Ben took a dunking, Bryan got tied in knots and Mervyn, using a salty turn of phrase, followed Ben into the drink.

This left Jason to sail round the melee, wondering why Mervyn had waited so long to call "Starboard". A post race discussion determined that Merv "Should have Gone to Specsavers" as he had simply not seen them.

By now Simon was closing in on victory number three, but John was being caught by Jason. An upset was on the cards, however it turned out both were suffering cramps and tired muscles. In the case of John, as a senior sailor, it was nothing to be ashamed of, but a bit of a new experience for the younger Jason. Fortunately for John a further tacking battle was avoided and they crossed the line in that order.

And finally........ upon packing 417 away, Jason finally realised why he'd been struggling to control the boat all day - he'd only got his rudder blade mounted in the stock the wrong way round.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3Pts
1st428Simon HopkinsUp River YC‑1112
2nd427John ClaridgeRoyal Lymington YC2‑424
3rd112Mervyn BerryAldridge SC32‑45
4th257Duncan CheshireWinsford Flash SC53‑78
5th417Jason GallagherDenholme SC7(DNF)310
6th432Chris HillUlley SC‑85611
7th407Bryan WestleyAldridge SC‑107512
8th402Stephen HodgsonDenholme SC410‑1114
9th433John ButlerSutton in Ashfield SC‑96814
10th441Ian RansonBolton SC68‑1014
11th435Ben TwistBroadstairs SC‑119918

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