The 82 teams at the West Lancashire Yacht Club 50th anniversary 24 Hour Race were certainly blessed with good weather over the weekend of the 17th and 18th September 2016. In fact the sun shone solidly for the whole weekend and turned the marine lake in Southport into something which resembled the Med.
Entries were certainly up this year, it must be more than twenty years since we had such a high number of boats on the Marine Lake at Southport. It was fantastic to see that the recently re-introduced Firefly class was well represented this year, with a total of 12 boats. This has allowed many Universities to come back and compete in a race which was originally intended to include them. We were also happy to welcome many 'old' faces from the race, some of which have been named and shamed in the photographs we have been sharing in the run up to this year's special race. We were honoured to be joined once again by the legendary yachting journalist Bob Fisher, who assures us he is preparing to share his views of 50 years of the race with you all.
Despite a blustery few days before the race and the rumoured introduction of a further fifth 'marquee class', on Social Media, (Burwain SC's team HQ lifted off in a gust somersaulting over a Range Rover before sailing serenely down the lake.) Saturday dawned bright and sunny with a light but building breeze.
There were many sore heads after a late party on the Friday night, with sailors either choosing to reminisce in the club bar or hit the dance floor hard, like the 'Police' team from Lancaster University SC who were sighted enjoying the band 'Elephant juice' and Steve Blackburn's now legendary disco.
As is the tradition the race got underway at 12 noon on Saturday and was not completed until after midday Sunday, with teams battling hard over the intervening twenty-four hours to beat their personal best and to have a go at winning many of the special races.
Long time absentee Neil Marsden and his Blackpool & Fleetwood YC A team started with intent managing to win the Radio Merseyside Cup for the fastest first two laps and to take an early lead, with the Enterprise of Red Wharf Bay S &WC in hot pursuit. However, by 4 o'clock in the afternoon they had been overhauled by the GP of South Staffs B team who were an average of 26 seconds a lap faster. The Lark of South Staffs A team had also risen up the leader board into 3rd place.
Saturday afternoon had two more special races than usual, keeping the scorers very busy. The first was a special race for helms and crews or helms, who had competed in the very first race in 1967 - 'The Golden Oldies!' We had 8 teams racing including Rudyard Lake Sailing Club who are one of a handful of clubs whom have sent a team to all 50 races. It was lovely to see the Hotchkiss's originally from Midland SC, now South Staffs SC take the line honours for the fastest lap at 4 o'clock.
This year the race fell on the same weekend as Bart's Bash. Winning the fastest qualifying lap for this race was the GP of South Staff's B team.
As the warm and sunny afternoon wore on the once relatively stable breeze, which was allowing some planing, began to drop away and fears started to grow for a windless night. By midnight the race had turned into a drifter, as the wind swung to the east. Lap times crept up and the race turned into one which required teams to have a great deal of patience, warm clothing and the ability to sit very still. These windless conditions did however, suit the Fireflies. Perhaps it was the well developed night vision and ability to be alert in the middle of the night which helped the Firefly of Nottingham University SC to win the Midnight Cup for the fastest lap at midnight.
By this time the ever dominant GP and Lark teams of South Staffs SC B and A were controlling the race. The home team of West Lancashire A in an Enterprise had managed to claw their way back from 15th to 3rd, after some early gear failure. But they were looking nervously over their shoulder at the GP of Blackpool & Fleetwood YC A. With 12 hours left anything could still happen.
As the night wore on the full harvest moon helped to light the way and a light breeze began to fill back in, keeping the boats ghosting along. It was key to take the right lines staying away from the shallows off the islands and the wind shadow of the theatre and Ramada Hotel, as many teams found to their cost.
Sunday morning dawned with Blackpool and Fleetwood YC A winning the Dawn Race for the fastest lap at 6 am. The wind remained light and began once again to die right back.
The Heineken Cup at 10 o'clock for the fastest lap by an all lady crew was won by West Kirkby SC B team in another Firefly, in painfully light conditions.
By now we were into the last 90 minutes of the race and South Staffs A and B took their gloves off both determined to win this special race. But at midday it was the GP of South Staffs B which took the win with an average lap time of 6 seconds faster than the Lark team. This is quite an achievement over the space of twenty-four hours. In fact South Staffs Sailing Club are becoming a very dominant force in this race. Winning the last four races in either their GP or lark and winning a total of 6 races in the last 10 years.
This year to celebrate the fiftieth race South Staffs brought a record 5 teams and 80 sailing members to the event representing three of the four different classes. We hope you all enjoyed yourselves and will come back in 2017!
This year two teams from Southport Sailing Club and Hykeham Sailing Club chose to sail the full twenty four hours with just two crew to raise money for Southport Stroke Club and the RNLI. Well done, I'm sure you are still recovering now!
Faithful supporters of all 50 races Chester Sailing & C.C. presented a special award to Jackie Finch who has sailed in all 50 of the races. You must have seen some real sights over the years Jackie!
Now the race is done for 2016, West Lancashire Yacht Club would like to thank all the clubs for their support and all their members and friends of the club who gave up their time and great energy in order to run this monster of an event. We couldn't do it without you. We would also like to thank our many sponsors including Marine Supplies Direct, GJW Marine & Dream Yacht Charters for their help. Without our sponsors it would not be possible to run such an event.
We would love to see you all again next year in 2017 for the 51st race, which will be held over the weekend of 9th and 10th September 2017. Contrary to rumours on social media the race will go on and the dates for the next 5 years are currently being prepared for release.
West Lancashire Yacht Club
would like to thank all our valued 24 Hour Race sponsors for their continued support
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(please remember to mention you found them via West Lancashire Yacht Club when buying any of their products)