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Salcombe Brewery 50th Lark Masters

Clive Eplett - 17th October 2017

The results are in, after fifty years of thorough testing. The evidence is conclusive. The elixir of youth, with elements of love-potion and time travel, does indeed exist. Forget over-priced bottles of pseudo-science goop from high street stores though. Or figments of JK Rowling’s imagination. The secret is actually quite simple; Lark sailing.

For the presentation of these findings legendary (ex-) class chairman Tim Fells pulled out all the stops for the Lark Class 50th birthday party Masters event at Salcombe YC on 14 October. Even the weather wanted to celebrate, promising wall to wall sunshine and a perfect F2-F3 blowing straight up the estuary.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Larks always give more. Once the out-in-force tractors, crawling the A303, had been negotiated, came Friday’s amuse-bouche. Just a gentle gathering in the Victoria Arms, disperse for dinner somewhere, then back to the YC. And you know, we haven’t changed a bit. Well OK, pipe down at the back, I concede the occasional incidence of male-pattern baldness is a contrast to 40 years ago, but testosterone is fast, right? But the joy, the atmosphere, the mickey-taking. The same.

I tell my kids that age is an attitude and here is the evidence. A good dose of Lark sailing has kept us young whilst teaching us much. The latest in a massively long list of Lark-ist achievements must be Mr Fells victory this year at Salcombe Merlin Week (so no pressure, Tim).

A host of class superstars gather in 34 Larks for Race 1. There's no sign of the sun but my brother’s prayers are answered; insufficient wind to need to hike. It's a port biased line but more pressure on the right. Fells is seemingly buried off the start at the port end. Local knowledge manifests itself elsewhere in the form of Will Henderson who gets onto port tack from two thirds down the line and looks comfortable ever after, taking a seemingly easy bullet. The wizard that is Bob Suggitt and his young apprentice, current national Champion Stuart Hydon, cross the line in a comfortable second. To silence. Oops, OCS, promoting Andy and Katie Shorrock who had crossed third with Fran Gifford James Ward next.

Race 2 and much of the fleet has twigged that the starboard end actually has wind. Fells is early to win the starboard end but saves it by hooking the club frape (calm down, it’s a running mooring, not a facebook hi-jack). Meantime Jason Andrew and Zeb Elliot (or was it Clark Kent) had been paying attention, imitated Will’s race 1 start to the same effect. This time the Wizard stays behind the line to actual get a second on the scoreboard, with current chairman Dougal and Helen Scott third.

In race 3 Jason and Zeb have to do some chasing down, but despite the saga of the floating/moving leeward mark grab another win. The Shorrocks take another second, saying later that if they’d known about Bob’s OCS they might have tried a bit harder. The only person ever to win the Lark Nats at both ends of the boat, Chris Allen, sailing with Ally Hall, takes third.

Overall, Jason and Zeb win and are first apprentices. The Shorrocks take second (and first masters) and under-the-radar John and Vicky Brickwood third, counting two fourths. Bob and Stuart get fourth and first grand-master (hereafter “legends” apparently).

Notwithstanding the sailing, there is a oft-missed clue in “Lark Class”. The second word gets overlooked. At the evenings fab black-tie dinner, of course we all heckled and barracked the master-of-ceremonies ex-chairman. But the speech of the night was from John McLaren, who, to rapt attention, recalled how his sadly departed father Ian, Julian Hereward (who, together with his young crew, a certain Cathy Foster, rightly received a standing ovation) and others at Frensham Pond SC conceived and developed the Lark Class we all love. Thank heavens they did. Thankyou.

It will be hard to top the weekend’s celebration, but rest assured we’ll all be up for it.

Full results