63 Larks gathered in Abersoch on July 10 for the 2005 National Championships. Muc-Off, Douglas Gill, Holt and Dyson kindly sponsored the event adding to the quality of the prizes and socials. Muc-Off launched a new marine cleaning product at the nationals so it was 63 very shiny boats that set off from the beach for the practice race.
As few boats had found time to read the sailing instructions, the practice race was chaotic. Half the fleet incorrectly chose to bear away onto a run after the first beat and half correctly going down the reaches. Everybody seemed to sail the same distance so there was little complaint from the fleet, although officially it was Matt White and Clare La Forge that were crowned winners after being the first boat to complete the correct course.
The start of race 1 got away with an individual recall, resulting in 6 boats peeling off after finding they were OCS. Sarah Richards & Nigel Wakefield found themselves with a large lead that they held until the finish. Alan Krailing & Ed McArdle fought hard to take second from Emma Harris & Becky Priest. Harry Pynn & Clare Gosling followed to finish fourth.
Chris Fish & Beth Condie led to the windward mark in race 2 but were overtaken down the run by Richards & Wakefield who then led until the finish. Nigel Hufton and Chris Whitehouse sailed solidly to finish ahead of Ruth Johnson and James Stewart in third. Jon Lewis and Milly Parsons took fourth.
Day 2 of the championships brought a force 2 and a calmer sea. With the wind flicking 10 to 15 degrees the PRO decided to use a gate start to get the fleet away. All of the early starters looked good up the first beat and it was Jonathan Lewis/Milly Parsons that emerged to lead the fleet round the first mark. Jonathan and Milly sailed off to a comfortable victory from Chris Ellis/Kathryn Young in second. Down the final run the wind shifted 40 degrees and filled in from the left making for an exciting and close finish for the pack. Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones held there nerve and managed to squeeze past two boats to scrape 3rd place.
Race 4 had been scheduled for immediately after race 3 however the wind died so the PRO made the very sensible decision to postpone the race to the next day and give the competitors an afternoon of sunbathing on the beach.
As we launched on day 3 it was clear that the conditions were almost perfect. The wind had backed to a westerly force 3 to 4 and with glorious sunshine and a 2 foot swell - we all had high expectations. As is custom when a race is postponed the scheduled race is sailed first. Again using a gate start the PRO chose to adopt a trapezium course for Race 5. Left paid up the first beat enabling early starters, Cumley and Jones to lead round the first mark from Nigel Hufton and Chris Whitehouse. Both boats split gybes at the top of the run and it was Hufton and Whitehouse that found more pressure to slip past Cumley and Jones. By the end of the next beat Hufton still led from Cumley and Sarah Richards/ Nigel Wakefield had moved up into third ahead of John Fish/Toby Lewis in fourth. These positions remained the same until the finish.
The same course and start format was used for the postponed race 4. Gate boat Emma Harris and Becky Priest looked good initially as they were headed for most of the starting period. An incident just after the start line gave Steve Dunn and Tegwyn Roberts the opportunity to take the lead, which they extended throughout the race. Nigel Hufton and Sarah Richards were locked in battle for second place giving Simon Cox/Anna Hotchkiss and Steve Cumley/Eluned Jones the opportunity to close the gap. On the final beat Richards tacked-off early and overtook Hufton whilst Cox/Hotchkiss held on and read the wind shifts perfectly to cross both boats and steal second place.
Race 6 was the windiest race of the week. With a steady 20 knots and 1 metre swell boat handling became the name of the game. Sarah Richards led around the windward mark, however confusion reigned when everybody realised that they couldn’t see the gybe mark. Jonathan Lewis and Milly Parsons were one of the first boats to go for the kite and disappeared in a ball of spray closely followed by a pack of similarly enthusiastic sailors. Further back the reaches turned into assault courses as boats fell in with increasingly dramatic style. Sarah Richards managed to sneak an inside overlap at the last gybe mark to take the lead from Lewis/Parsons. Dunn/Roberts held the spinnaker down the last reach towards the finish. Although not making the buoy end of the line, they flew towards the boat end. Dunn/Roberts narrowly failed to take line honours from Richards/Wakefield but were rewarded by overtaking Lewis/Parsons.
Race 7 was started in a reducing and shifting wind. The wind started swinging left during the first downwind legs. At the leeward mark, boats rounding on port could be forgiven for thinking they were on a lift. Boats forced off on starboard found themselves on the inside of a bend and ahead of the leaders. Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield were not phased and they sailed a very clever race to come home 2nd behind Ian Sharps/Eleanor Martin. Chris Ellis and Kathryn Young lead a championship race for the first time and eventually finished 3rd.
Going into day 5 Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield had a commanding lead over second place Steve Dunn/Tegwyn Roberts. Anything inside the top 10 would be enough to claim the title. The PRO adopted a line start and the black flag claimed some of the leading contenders including Nigel Hufton and Steve Dunn. The lead changed a few times, with both Fish brothers featuring at the front. However, Laser sailor Ian Sharp made the best use of his toe straps and went on to win his second race in a row by some margin. Alan Krailing/Edd Mcardle sailed up through the fleet to take second from Sarah Richards on the finishing line.
So as the fleet went ashore the title had been decided. 2nd to 10th was still very tight, Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones reaped the benefits of consistency and the second discard to move into second overall. Jonathan Lewis/Milly Parsons and Emma Harris/Becky Priest were close behind in 3rd and 4th overall.
Race 9 was sailed in a steady force 3 to 4 from the North West. Right paid off the start line burying a lot of the overall contenders who had chosen to start at the port end. Jamie and Geoff Mayhew led around the first mark followed by Michael John Gifford and Kirsty Phipps who had managed to return to the start line after being OCS. By the end of an exciting pair of reaches Fish had moved into the lead and Cumley/Jones, needing only a 7th to take 2nd overall had moved into 3rd. Up the next beat Cumley took the lead and led from Fish down the run only to lose the lead back at the leeward buoy. With the wind shifting anything up to 20 degrees the race was a real game of snakes and ladders and it was Emma Harris/Becky Priest that charged through the fleet to join the front pack. After a gruelling 1˝ hour race Jon Fish led at the finish from Emma Harris in 2rd and Ian Sharp in 3rd, Michael John Gifford in 4th and Steve Cumley in 5th.
Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones had done enough to secure second behind Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield. Emma Harris and Becky Priest moved up to 3rd with their 2nd place in the last race and Jonathan Lewis finished 4th overall.
1) Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield. Newport Boat Club 13.25 points
2) Steve Cumley and Eluned Jones. Northampton S.C. 37 points
3) Emma Harris and Becky Priest Waldringfield S.C. 41 points
4) Jonathan Lewis and Milly Parsons Burghfield S.C. 44.75 points
5) Steve Dunn and Tegwyn Roberts Waldringfield S.C. 47.75 points
6) Jonathan Fish and Toby Lewis Waldringfield S.C. 49.75 points
First Female Helm Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield
First Student Jamie Mayhew and Geoff Mayhew
First Student in a student boat Chris Holliman and Chris Robinson
Most improved since last year Howard Enkel and Micky Wright
Best Maiden Lark Championships Ian Sharp and Eleanor Martin
First helm over 35 Emma Harris and Becky Priest
First Club Waldringfield S.C.