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Lightning 368 Rum & Mince Pie open meeting at West Oxfordshire Sailing Club

by John Butler 13 Nov 2023 00:38 PST 11 November 2023

The traditional Rum & Mince Pie season curtain closing event of the 2023 Noble Marine Insurance Lightning 368 Travellers Trophy series took place at West Oxfordshire SC on Saturday, the 11th of November.

Yes, both a tot of Rum & a Mince Pie were appreciated on a cold but clear November day!

2023 National Champion, Simon Hopkins, had already wrapped up the Travellers series with his consistent performances and number of wins across the whole season, so the only trophy still up for grabs was in the Silver fleet and the Rum & Mince Pie Trophy itself.

The event saw the return of 2022 national champion, Robbie Claridge, after a significant period away in Japan, staying with family over the whole summer and early autumn.

After a 2 minute respectful silence was observed for Armistice Day, the fleet of 20 Lightning sailors were briefed about the day's racing, which turned out to be in light, fickle and eventually little or no wind by the end of the day.

Race 1

In a reasonable 6-8 knots of wind, Simon Hopkins and Penny Yarwood had the best starts towards the pin end of the short and very port biased line, and headed up the left side whilst Robbie Claridge went up the middle of the beat.

Simon cleared the fleet on port, and rounded ahead of Robbie and then Penny, and maintained his lead after the first reach, but the weight difference told, and Robbie soon took him down the run. Robbie went on to extend his lead, whilst Simon dropped back significantly after a couple of poor upwind legs, allowing Caroline through to join battle with Penny in second.

Penny & Caroline had a close battle for the remainder of the race, with Caroline closing to about 10 metres behind Penny and all 3 of them including Robbie sailed well clear of the chasing bunch.

Further back, both John Claridge and John Butler were now tussling with Simon. After John B briefly took 4th it was John C who got clear, and Simon was left to fight it out with John B for 5th, which he claimed by a boat length at the finish.

Race 2

Despite another heavily port biased line, with Duncan Cheshire a premature starter, most of the fleet went left, with Robbie starting in the middle and outpointing those around him to pull clear in the the centre of the beat. Penny was leading as she approached the windward mark on port, but got caught port/starboard on the mark by Robbie who gained from a late shift, forcing her to tack off and thereby letting Robbie through into the lead where he found a gust that took him into a clear lead. Penny lost all momentum at the mark, and Caroline sailed over her before she was able to get going again.

Some of those behind, including Duncan who had absolved himself of his misdemeanour, went to the right side of the beat, and were also favoured by the late shift at the mark, which meant that Ben Twist rounded in 3rd, closely followed by Duncan, whilst the others coming in on port were headed.

Penny eventually recovered to pass Duncan & Ben offwind, but by then Robbie and Caroline were clear away, leaving the only real contest between Ben & Duncan for 4th. Despite a strong challenge, Ben held off Duncan until the end.

Race 3

After a break for lunch, and with the lake looking like a millpond, 16 of the 20 sailors were tempted back out on the water for the final race of the season.

In a total drifter, it was junior Clayton Parker who crossed the fleet on port from the pin end of the line, whilst Robbie was behind him but still in contention. Also in the hunt was Bryan Westley, who was intent on keeping Simon behind him.

Meanwhile, John C went totally left away from the majority of the fleet, and on the approach to the "windward" mark was clear ahead on his own. The wind dropped totally by the mark, and John spent an agonising few minutes watching both Clayton and then Robbie drift back towards him.

With Penny & Caroline nowhere in sight at this stage, it was Simon who made the most of being behind on the run to close on the leaders, so by the bottom mark it was John, Robbie and Bryan, with Simon getting water on Clayton in a mark rounding melee.

With the rest of the fleet parked at the windward mark, in the leading bunch it was Simon, sailing on the apparent wind on both legs, who moved to the front and held it to the finish, lapping the fleet in the process. Robbie claimed 2nd, whilst Clayton grabbed a well deserved 3rd from Bryan in 4th, with John dropping to 5th.

With 2 wins it was Robbie Claridge who retained the Rum & Mince Pie Trophy that he won last year, followed by Penny Yarwood in 2nd, and local helm Caroline Hollier in 3rd.

Back in the Silver Fleet, 4 helms were in with a shout of seizing the Silver Travellers trophy. John Butler and Duncan Cheshire were within a point of each other going into the event, but it was Duncan who clinched the title on the day counting a 4th and a 7th, as opposed to John's 6th & 8th.

With a much higher participation of Lightning sailors at the season's open events, and the best attended National Championship in over 20 years, 2023 has proven to be an outstanding year for the Lightning 368 class.

Competing at West Oxfordshire was a Giles built Mk1 Lightning number 49 built in 1981, and John Claridge's Mk3 Lightning 447 from 2022. The respectful way in which the older heritage boats haven't been outclassed by later revisions to the build & deck layouts in the Mk2 & Mk3 boats has ensured a healthy secondhand market for the older boats, some of which have been recently upgraded with all-carbon masts and booms, and are still capable of being sailed competitively in the right hands.

With a sensible price point for people to buy and then compete in older boats, the class looks forward to the continued influx of new sailors, resulting in renewed, healthy competition in 2024, when the Lightning 368 National Championship will again take place in mid-September at Chase SC.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3Pts
1st427Robbie ClaridgeRoyal Lymington YC11‑22
2nd425Penny YarwoodUp River YC23‑65
3rd438Caroline HollierWest Ox SC32‑135
4th428Simon HopkinsUp River YC5‑616
5th447John ClaridgeRoyal Lymington YC4‑759
6th416Duncan CheshireWinsford Flash SC75(DNS)12
7th435Ben TwistBroadstairs SC‑134913
8th433John ButlerNotts County SC68(DNS)14
9th257Clayton ParkerWinsford Flash SC‑1512315
10th325Paul BevenUp River YC‑1210717
11th407Bryan WestleyChase SC‑1914418
12th430Graham LazellUp River YC8‑171018
13th49Mark GoddenWest Ox SC99(DNS)18
14th298Georgie ParkerWinsford Flash SC10‑131121
15th337Paul TaylorPaul Taylor1111‑1422
16th402Stephen HodgsonDenholme SC‑1615823
17th441Ian RansonBolton SC14‑161226
18th321Larraine CotterallWest Ox SC‑20181533
19th67Marion TurberfieldWest Ox SC17‑191633
20th95Richard StrattonWest Kirby SC1820(DNS)38

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