With a typical bank holiday forecast for a wet and windy Saturday, 7 boats intrepidly rigged in Penzance before heading into the club for the briefing to see what if any sailing would be happening on the first day of the inaugural Penzance Lark Open kindly sponsored by Intersys. The only memorable bit of the briefing being that the wind was forecast to build from the present 20mph towards the low 30’s with the race officer deciding that “we’d see how it goes”.
Once out of the harbour was where the action started! The wind being off shore the waves were nothing more than a short chop and not the large rolling waves that are often in Penzance with an onshore breeze. One of the first boats out was locals Des and Chris Menear who upon getting to the start area unfortunately broke their rudder and took no further part in the sailing. Others took the opportunity to do some pre-race checks and practice, with kites going up and a few tacks and gybes in the waves. Steve Chatten took this to an extreme, Kite up - check, gybe - check, capsize – check, all ready for the 1st race!
6 boats were on the start line for race one and got away first time, beating from the mount back towards Penzance in a now 25mph to 30mph wind. Most of the fleet opted to go left up the first beat, but Tim Vick and Rebecca Marks tacked off early, heading towards the shore. Right either paid or Tim and Becs just had better pace and rounded the windward mark 1st with a comfortable lead that they would hold to the finish. Steve Chatten and Helen Windward rounded 2nd closely followed by locals Mike Williams and Mark Chadwick, Joe Chadwick and Dan Sells, Kate Merrit and Karen Alexander, with Laura Mitchell and Becki Pastor in hot pursuit. All 6 boats hoisted their kites, flying off downwind to complete the first triangle. Places were to be largely the same at the finish of race 1 but that is not to say there was no changing of places during the race.
Steve Chatten after his pre-race warm up capsized as he was closing in on the leeward mark allowing Mike and Mark through to 2nd. Kate and Laura would exchange places on the way round as one boat capsized and then the other. With the wind now gusting up to 33mph the fleet rounded the windward mark for the final time in race 1 and held on for what was going to be a potentially fast but definitely wet ride to the gybe mark and on to the finish. Those who kept their boat upright went very fast and got very wet, those who didn’t went slightly slower and maybe actually got slightly less wet! This is quite possible the fastest I have ever been in a Lark in what was an amazing ride down to the finish.
Mike and Mark held onto their 2nd place until the final gybe of the race when the now strong wind blew them over allowing Steve to pass them and reclaim 2nd place which he held to the finish. Joe and Dan started there unlucky run of the weekend capsizing and losing all there rig tension allowing the mast to damage the deck, forcing them to retire for the day.
After a lot of looking around at other boats wondering if there would be a second race, the first gun went confirming we would be going round again. All 5 remaining boats were on the line and got away cleanly. Steve Chatten had now seamed to master the conditions, sailing out from below Tim Vick with great upwind boat speed. Steve and Helen rounded the windward mark 1st closely followed by Tim and Becs, Mike and Mark, Kate and Karen, with the light weights Laura and Becki again battling though the conditions. No boats chose to hoist their kites on the first triangle as dark clouds lay ominously just upwind of the race course reminding the fleet just how windy the last reaches had been! Positions remained unchanged to the finish.
All sailors then retired to the club to be greeted by warm sunshine and some tasty food followed by a great evening of larking in the bar. The live band played, many drinks were drunk, dances danced, the crowd surfed and a game of twister thrown in for good measure before we all headed into town to sample the local night life.
Sunday morning greeted the fleet with warm sunshine and much lighter force 2 to 3 winds from the south west. The first race was slightly delayed because the “slip was blocked by locals” (none of us were ready).
Yet again the fleet got away first time with Tim and Becs making a good start closely followed by Steve and Helen. Light weights Laura and Becki then came into their own in their conditions sailing faster than any of the rest of the fleet and quickly took the lead. They would hold this lead until closing in on the windward mark when the wind cruelly shifted dropping Laura and Becki to 3rd behind Tim and Becs followed by Steve and Helen. Katie and Karen lead the next bunch round the mark closely followed by Mike and Mark and Joe and Dan. Positions remained largely unchanged until rounding the last windward mark for the last time, Tim and Becs and Steve and Helen hoisted their kites and struggled along what was now a tight reach. Seeing the lead two hoist, Laura followed suit only to realise there was no way they would make it with the kite. Seeing this unfold ahead Kate and Karen kept the kite in the boat and two sailed over the distraught Laura and Becki into 3rd and very nearly catching Steve and Helen.
With the wind shifting slightly to the left there was a slight delay to re-lay the course before the next race got away in a now force 3 breeze. Kate and Karen decided left was the way to go up the first beat and went for it with only one tack on the port lay line. They rounded the windward mark 1st leading by 4 or 4 boat lengths from Tim and Becs, who were closely followed by Steve and Helen, Mike and Mark, Laura and Becki and Joe and Dan. Kate and Karen held their lead until the gybe mark where Tim and Becs gybed inside them and took the lead, with Kate and Karen holding onto 2nd at the leeward mark. With their previous success Kate and Karen went left again seeing them back in the lead at the windward mark. Tim and Becs more conscious about beating Steve and Helen for there over all position loosely covered Steve who went right. Right did not pay seeing Steve drop from 3rd to 5th. Seeing how left had paid on the 1st beat, Laura and Becki followed Kate and Karen to pull through the 3rd at the windward mark. Tim and Becs passed the chatting girls on the run and held the lead to the finish. The lightweights again came into their own on the second triangle reeling in Kate and Karen and over hauled them on the last reach to the finish when the chatting girls left it late to luff to defend their position, Steve and Helen sailed back through to finish 4th closely followed by Mike and Mark. Joe and Dan had more misfortune during the race with their rudder now being the issue, falling off several times often leaving them head to wind with the kite up!
Having already won the event with a Tim and Becs went for a port end flyer, narrowly crossing the fleet and lead to the finish, closely followed by Steve and Helen throughout. Joe and Dan making a great start at the pin end rounded the windward mark closely behind the lead 2 and catching until disaster struck again with the rudder falling off again. Few places changed from then on with Tim and Becs coming home 1st, followed by Steve and Helen, Kate and Karen, Laura and Becki, Joe and Dan (with their rudder back on) and finally but not least Mike and Mark.
A massive thank you must go to all the volunteers at Penzance Sailing club for making us so welcome and making this a truly great weekend of sailing. Thanks must also go to Intersys for sponsoring this event and GJW Direct supporting the 2012 Belle Isle series. We for one can’t wait to go back next year.
Over All Positions
1st Tim Vick and Rebecca Marks
2nd Steve Chatten and Helen Windward
3rd Kate Merrit and Karen Alexander
4th Laura Mitchell and Becki Pastor
5th Mike Williams and Mark Chadwick
6th Joe Chadwick and Dan Sell
7th Des Menear and Chris Menear.