The Larks have visited Felixstowe twice before, in 1986 and 1999, but despite being separated by 13 years, they produced the same winning helm, albeit with a different crew. In ’86 ‘Lark-God’ John Brickwood won the first of his three Championships - while still a student - sailing with Andy Hicks. Even more amazing, he did it in one of the oldest and bendiest boats in the series, Lark 1473, it being rumoured that his great upwind speed was due to his boat getting narrower upwind when the rig tension was on. With the great Dave Smithwhite and Paul Raby now having retired from Lark sailing (even 35 was thought of as being too old for Lark sailing then), Brickwood took his chance. Tim Fells came second and a youthful yours truly came third crewing for future 505 champion, Paul Towers.
While the sailing was the usual Felixstowe full-on sea sailing, it was off –the-water events which stick in the memory. The venue was chosen to support the increasingly strong and enthusiastic fleet at Waldringfield, who organised some cracking socials. Indeed one of their number, Ian Bowles, drove Lark sailors around in a mini-bus himself. However, it was on one such night – in a windy barn – that worries were raised that the campers might be in for a stormy night, as hurricane Charlie came on the radar. These were temporarily forgotten on the way back to the club, as the double decker bus swayed from one side to the other due to the mob of drunken Larkies trying to capsize it by running from one side to the other. However, on returning to the campsite, it is was somewhat sobering for them to find their tents either pinned to the hedge or in a soggy heap at the far end of the field (so take good pegs you campers).
The Larks returned in 1999. In initially light winds, there was more worries about being able to sail up-tide. However, then came big Wednesday. There was a time when every Lark Nationals had a big Wednesday, but this was big in every way. In huge long waves, my abiding memory is of sitting at the back of the boat, trying to round the gybe mark, but not daring to gybe, as we hurtled down a wave, the view to the front being like looking out of a block of flats. John and Vicyk Brickwood went on to win three races on the last day, beating Spike Daniels/Richard Dowsett into second and Steve & Karen Bolland (2000 champions) into third.
Off the water was also a treat, with the fancy dress theme of ‘kitchenware’ drumming up a roaring trade for the local ironmongers and some notable outfits, including Geoff Mayhew’s awesome model oven attached to his front. Dougal Scott was kept very busy nominating the Duckhams winners that year!
So look forward to some great sailing and friendly socials again this year!