Busy scenes during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
An increased entry of seventy-seven teams braved the 52nd edition of this marathon dinghy race. This included entries from 55 different clubs and 12 university teams (which was the highest for many years).
Despite forecasts of strong winds and torrential rain Saturday dawned cool, grey and rainy, but without the stiff breeze which had been forecast. Competitors nervously waited for the breeze to come as they tried to finalise team running orders whilst continuing to check the forecast. Just before the start it seemed the wind was finally on it s way as it swung and built to a force 3.
As the countdown to the start at midday got underway it became clear some teams had left it a little late to launch and were unfortunately caught out by going through the out of bounds area in the final 5 minutes before the start. This meant sadly they incurred quarter lap penalties. Perhaps they were a little too bleary eyed to read the sailing instructions after enjoying the legendary party in the marquee on Friday night, featuring 24 Hour Race favourites, the band 'Elephant Juice' and Steve Blackburn's disco.
Budworth SC A and B Teams during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
As the fleet started the wind began to drop and it was the GP of Budworth SC A team which stormed off the start to complete the fastest first two laps of the race and win the Radio Merseyside Cup. The boats in the leading pack were looking round for boat number 1 which was not in there and the sailors were starting to wonder what had happened to the dominant GP of the South Staffs A team. Perhaps this was not going to be their year? Did they forget to check for weed? Were they going to let South Staffs B in the lark beat them? But I think perhaps they were toying with us; as after around 6 laps they put their foot on the accelerator pedal and began their challenge for the lead.
Bath University during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
As the afternoon wore on the wind continued to drop and the rain eventually stopped, much to the relief of everyone. But this was not the forecast, where were the 14 knots + which were being promised on all the different websites? In fact the wind dropped so much the boats were almost drifting round with some falling foul of the weed on their centreboards which stopped them completely. A big thank you to Sefton Council who have assisted us by topping up the lake with salt water to help reduce the high levels of weed which we had early this summer. What was going to happen next? Where was the wind?
52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
As the afternoon and evening wore on the GP14s dominated the top positions with 2 Larks and a couple of enterprises making the most of the shifty conditions. The GP of Budworth SC B Masters team took the fastest lap at 8pm winning the dusk race. As the sailors tried to get some sleep in preparation for their night shifts the wind was up and down and the rain was on and off with some more heavy showers. But not what was forecast.
Delph SC during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
New to the race this year were the SailRacer GPS trackers, which were used to show the exact position of each boat on the course, as a bird's eye view. The results of which were displayed on a large screen in the clubhouse. It was also possible to view the race online, in real time, from the comfort of your own team HQ, tent or home. The data produced by these trackers will provide useful data for teams to analyse their performance. We would like to thank GJW Direct, Allen Brothers and Precision Yacht Paint for their support as we continue to bring the race into the 21st Century.
National Firefly Association during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
As dawn came on Sunday it revealed a light breeze which appeared to be once again dying. Perhaps the big breeze forecast for Sunday would fail to materialise and all thoughts of this being the first big wind race since the nineteen nineties began to fade. The enterprise of Glossop SC A took the dawn race at 6am and the GP14 of Midland SC A was enjoying the conditions and completed the fastest lap at 8am. But this is not known as an endurance race for dinghies without reason and the 'fat lady had not sung' at 8:30am the breeze truly kicked in giving sailors a rather rude and for some wet awakening.
The perilous run to A mark during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
Gusts of 20+ knots came rattling in from the south making the long run down to A mark particularly hazardous and several gybes were needed to make it to the other end. It was what the spectators were waiting for as teams had to take the gybe mark in front of the grandstand. The rescue teams kicked into action providing support to tired sailors and tired boats.
52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
The Heineken Cup for the fastest lap by an all lady crew at 10am was won by the GP of South Staffs C team in testing conditions. Places started to change in the top 10 with many teams having an unscheduled swim or suffering gear failure. Teams had to wait until prize giving to find out exactly where they had finished, with some opting to wait to cross the finish line at midday so they wouldn't have to complete another risky lap.
Apologies, if I have missed your club off this long list of winners.
The winning GP14 of South Staffs A Team during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
South Staffs SC A team in a GP are showing they are the club to beat, winning 6 years in succession and 8 times in total. They had 5 teams in total with 3 inside the top 12. This is quite an achievement! Perhaps your club can use the data from the trackers to create a team performance to knock South Staffs off their pedestal. If you start training now it could be your club next year...
This year a team from Cumbria Youth sailed the race to raise money for the Andrew Simpson Foundation in memory of their friend Holly. Their JustGiving page can be found here.
Sail 4 Holly Cumbria Youth during the 52nd West Lancs Yacht Club 24 Hour Race - photo © Paul Hargreaves
Now the race is done for 2018 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 sponsors including Marine Supplies Direct, GJW Direct, Robinson's Brewery & The Waterfront (Bliss Hotels), Monkeys Fist Sailing, Precision Yacht Paints, 1st Mark Chandlery, Allen Brothers, Tim Harper, Marlow Ropes, Unipart Dorman, TEU Containers & Oakhurst for their help. Without our sponsors it would not be possible to run such an event.
Put the date in your diary now for the 53rd race, which will be held over the weekend of 14th and 15th September 2019.
To find out more about the race go to www.wlyc.org.uk or relive this year's race on the WLYC 24Hour Race Face book page or our Twitter page. Paul Hargreaves has also taken some amazing photos of the event which can be found here.
See you all next year!
West Lancashire Yacht Club
would like to thank all our valued 24 Hour Race sponsors for their continued support
(click on any of their logos to be redirected to their own website)
(please remember to mention you found them via West Lancashire Yacht Club when buying any of their products)