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Noble Marine Insurance Lightning 368 Northern Championship at West Kirby Sailing Club

by Tony Jacks 25 Jul 2023 22:45 PDT 22 July 2023

In the largest turnout at an Open Meeting in many a year, 21 Lightning 368 sailors, representing 11 clubs, the furthest afield being from Weston SC near Southampton, competed in the 2023 Noble Marine Insurance Lightning 368 Northern Championship on Saturday 22nd July, on the marine lake at West Kirby Sailing Club on the Wirral.

The weather forecast was grim, with heavy rain and increasing wind expected throughout the day, but after the early morning downpour ceased the majority of the racing took place in a moderate breeze with further heavy rain holding off until the end of the afternoon.

Race 1

Simon Hopkins, who had travelled up from Up River YC in Essex, immediately won the jostling and shouting melee in the battle for position at the pin end of the start line, and pulled away from Jeremy Cooper, Caroline Hollier and Tony Jacks up the first upwind leg and into an impressive lead.

These 4 were to be the main protagonists for the whole event, and competition between them was fierce, but none of the others were close enough to Simon to tell him that on his 2nd lap he had missed the outer distance mark on the finish line gate that all competitors were required to pass through each time.

He was not the only one, as 3 others suffered the same fate and were disqualified, and a couple more had to track back after realising their error.

Once Simon realised his mistake there was no realistic way back to unwind himself, so he retired to let the others battle it out at the front, and cursed his stupidity!

Emerging from second to take the lead was Jeremy, who held off Tony & Caroline in the ensuing 3 laps without establishing a comfortable lead, while John Butler worked his way up to a distant 4th after recovering from a poor start, to head up the second hotly contested contingent.

Race 2

After a break for a welcome hot lunch, Simon, ruing his error in the first race, absolutely nailed a port end start this time, and rounded the windward mark in the lead. Positions were the same after the run, but on the second beat Caroline went left to the shore side, picked up a lift and got ahead of Simon by the windward mark, which she then touched and had to do a penalty turn.

Simon was not to be denied, however, and after that he was never headed in conditions that had by then increased a notch or two in wind strength.

After recovering from her error, it was Caroline and then Tony who gave chase, but Jeremy suffered a rare halyard failure and retired to the shore for repairs. Whilst Simon was unassailable up front, Tony increased the pressure on Caroline and got past her into second on the final leg by being directly on her transom at the bottom mark and denying her the ability to tack off for the finish, and then peeling off to cross the line ahead.

Meanwhile, John was again in 4th after a better start this time, and having a battle royal with the leading Junior sailor, Clayton Parker, and his older rival Ian Ranson. The final victor of the second group was Ian in 4th, followed by Clayton, with John fading to 6th on the last lap.

There were a considerable number of capsizes in this race, notably Duncan Cheshire in his bright orange appropriately named boat "Tango'd". His pirouette was much admired!

Race 3

The wind strength was breezy again at the start, and this was to be an eventful conclusion to the Championship. There was some confusion in the fleet after a postponement, so when the start sequence recommenced half the competitors were well over the line a minute before the start and a general recall was posted at the actual start time as a lot of boats were returning to the line when the gun went.

A number of the inexperienced helms appreciated a slight lull in the wind once things eventually got back under way. Simon started slightly late, but was able to tack onto port and head right to the estuary side, which was the way to go this time.

He rounded ahead of Jeremy, Tony and John, with Caroline a bit further back. Caroline got past John on the next downwind leg and started pulling back to the leading 3 up the next beat.

While it was looking to be a predictable procession, all of a sudden the unexpected happened.

The wind shifted a full 180 degrees, turning the next run into a beat. Simon stopped dead close to the promenade shoreline, whilst Jeremy was first to adjust to the change and got to windward of Simon to round the bottom, now windward mark, in the lead.

In what was now a run rather than a beat through the start line back to the club end turning mark Jeremy was able to pull away, and a procession of Simon, Tony & Caroline proceeded in that order to the final downwind finish after another beat to the far end bottom turning mark.

Another casualty of the big shift was John, who forfeited 5th to Ralph Drew, who capitalised enough in the wind shift confusion to give Caroline a challenge for 4th in the final stages. John's demise was compounded by missing the distance mark on the now run through the line, dropping him to 9th after realising and correcting his mistake. That was to the advantage of Ian Ranson who finished 6th, which also counted in his favour in the final rankings on countback.

Despite his 2nd race retirement, Jeremy Cooper from just down the road at Shotwick Lake SC, was therefore declared the Northern Champion, with Simon Hopkins in second and Tony Jacks third overall.

The first lady was Caroline Hollier in 4th, and the Junior Northern Champion was Clayton Parker from Winsford Flash SC in a competitive 8th overall, scoring 5th, 7th & 8th places.

Juniors Georgie Parker and Elanwy Hopkins were also each awarded Endeavour prizes for finishing all three races in their first ever open meeting, notching up 15th & 17th places respectively overall.

A huge thank you must go to the team at West Kirby SC for such an enjoyable, friendly and well organised event, and also to locals Jude and Richard Stratton who have started to build up a fleet of Lightnings there, and enthusiastically cajoled everyone to attend.

Overall Results:

PosBoat NameSail NoHelmClubAge GroupR1R2R3Pts
1st 410Jeremy CooperShotwick SC 1(DNS)12
2ndMjoinir428Simon HopkinsUpRiver YC (DNF)123
3rdOlivia444Tony JacksBartley SC 22‑34
4thAurora438Caroline HollierWest Oxfordshire SC 33‑46
5th 441Ian RansonBolton SC ‑94610
6thAmadou433John ButlerNotts County SC 46‑910
7thMcQueen429Ralph DrewWSC 6‑9511
8thThunderstruck257Clayton ParkerWinsford Flash SCunder 18‑85712
9thSeaBee402Stephen HodgsonDenholme SC 57‑1112
10th 147Mark HeatonShotwick SC (NSC)8816
11th 104Duncan CheshireWinsford Flash SC 7‑101017
12th 407Bryan Westley  (NSC)111223
13th 95Richard StrattonWKSC 1112(RET)23
14th 228Steve AshtonShotwick SC 10(NSC)1424
15thMr Fahrenheit298Georgie ParkerWinsford Flash SCunder 1812‑151527
16th 334Allison HopkinsChase SC (NSC)141327
17th 167Elanwy HopkinsChase SCunder 181317‑1830
18thMike's Boat331Sally LewisWKSC (DNF)161632
19th 439Judith StrattonWKSC (DNF)13RET35
20th 175Spencer HopkinsChase SC (NSC)NSC1739
21st 419Michele NoronhaWKSC (DNF)NSCNSC44

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