South Staffs SC have been one of the most persistent supporters at the Southport 24 hour race and after 41 years of trying have finally won the event. It did not come easily and for many hours it looked as though it would be the South Staffs GP that took the honours. How is that for strength in depth!
The race started at midday on Saturday with 10 boats in each flight. The weather was light but better than the forecast thanks to the sea breeze that started to kick in. However, the early southerly gave all the competitors a running start and John & Sue Billington from South Staffs in flight zero, set the mood with a great start up the marine lake. This year not only was the lake full but the weed was not the issue of previous years, although there was enough to catch the unwary!
John & Sue built on their great start even though the GP of Bolton SC had passed on the returning beat. The GP from South Staffs also made a great start from flight 1 and were up to 5th by the end of the first lap. Thereafter it was a head to head for many hours with ideal sailing in glorious sunshine. After some 4.5 hours the South Staffs Lark made their first change and Will Croxford and Heather Jones came on for the late afternoon and early evening. However, once the wind died their light weight and the shifting wind gave the Lark its first slight advantage and they sailed past Bolton to take the lead. After some 6 to 7 hours they were relieved by Neil Goodhead and Nic Booth who saw out the midnight shift and early morning drift in virtually no wind.
By this time several teams had been penalised 1 lap under Rule 42.2. (a huge penalty in such light airs). To show no bias West Lancs YC were the first team to suffer, so everyone knew they had to be on their guard. Come 4.00am Dave Young and Seonaid Fleming took over the boat in the first breeze of the morning and although keeping infront of everyone else, couldn’t prevent their club mates in the GP from pulling away into a healthy lead. So for hours the two South Staffs teams sat comfortably in first and second but with the ever present GP from Bolton ready to pounce at any moment. With the light winds the threat from the Enterprises could not be ignored but by dawn the wind returned and it became a battle between the South Staffs Lark and the GP’s.
By 8.00am the Lark team had almost resigned themselves to a fight for 2nd against Bolton. However, the bombshell of a rule 42.2 penalty for the South Staffs GP changed all that. Adam Parry and Eleanor Davies took over the Lark at that point and in a strengthening breeze had 4 hours to fight off the power of the Bolton GP! The sub text was that the South Staffs GP were also trying to unwind their lap penalty to get back into 2nd slot!
After a very tense few hours Adam & Eleanor brought the Lark home with the required time buffer on Bolton to take a really well deserved win. Bolton held onto their second and the South Staffs GP finished 3rd after a superb fight back.
Will this second event win by a Lark tempt more to enter the 43rd event next year? From the 69 entries there were only 5 Larks with GP’s and Enterprises represented in fairly equal numbers. It was wonderful to see the great support from Dinghy Magazine and there must be a big thanks to Chris Biglin for sharing his boat with them and the Association Team. They all seemed to have a great time and it will be a treat for all to get their insiders view of the event in the next edition of Dinghy Magazine. Another reason to tempt more larks to Southport in 2009. As ever West Lancs YC did a great job in the organisation and we will all be back next year.