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South Staffs wins 24 Hour Race, again!!!

The Race Report

For an unprecedented fourth year in a row South Staffordshire Sailing Club, near Penkridge, has won the prestigious 24-hour Race battling it out against 81 other teams from all over the country.

West Lancashire Yacht Club run the annual 24-hour endurance race, which takes place in on at Southport's Marine Lake, with this year being the 50thanniversary of the event.

The event is unique with participants from sailing clubs, class associations and Universities across the country battling it out for first place in the triangular course whatever the weather, day and night for 24 hours.

The event draws huge crowds and they watched on as winners South Staffordshire Sailing Club crossed the finish line 1st, 2nd, 27th, 32nd and 52nd.

Reflecting on the event, South Staffs Commodore Annette Fitzpatrick said:

“There was an exhilarating atmosphere within the South Staffs team tent. All members really got involved and everyone felt a part of our success, on and off the water.

“The Club sent five teams of sailors this year, our most ever. This allowed as many members as possible to take part, from our beginners to our elite, from young to senior members. With friends, families and spectators we had over 80 people supporting the Club.” 

Speaking after the win, team captain Mike Senior said:

“It was very competitive this year. All the usual teams were there but given it was a special year there were more than in recent times. We expected and planned for this though with our training and team selection.

“It meant a lot to win, not only because it was the 50th year, but because it was our fourth time in a row and second successive year finishing first and second which I don’t think has been done before.”

Some 82 boats took park in the competition, with the Midlands-based club ensuring its younger sailors got an opportunity in all teams, including the winning team. The Club’s youngest competitor was twelve year old Tom Temple with the youngest combined pair who took to the water fifteen year olds Kamila Czartolomna and Mya Peterson.

“Youth participation is extremely important,” continued Mike. “Any team, event or class will not survive unless you get the next generation involved. Also, getting a good result at the 24 hour race is all about sailing fast for long periods, sailing on instincts and having a laugh. The younger sailors generally have all of these qualities and they are also lighter and fitter. That combination with experience is dynamite.”

Annette sums up the achievement: “I am extremely proud of the Club, this is a remarkable achievement and has already inspired future generations to want to take part. South Staffs has taken part in every 24 Hour Race to date but it took us 42 years to get our first win in 2008. Since then we have won an incredible six times. For any club out there aspiring to win our message is never give up!”

The Rum Punch Report

Your roving reporter once again attended the WLYC 24 Hour race solely to be able to provide you with up to date coverage and not just to drink and hang out and have fun….

The Friday night social was well attended by SSSC members with conversations in the club bar being carried over into dancing in the marquee. The Mark Fleming/Chris Cook bromance was in full swing with Mark carrying Chris around on his shoulders for most of the night. Party beast Vicky Ford didn’t quite manage to reach the dizzy heights of 4am that she hit at the GP14 Nationals but stayed until the music in the tent stopped. Cobby, Meg, Darren, Matt lit up the dance floor to name a few.

Thankfully Will Hawkins regained some of his sense of self and spatial awareness by the time that the main race started on Saturday as on Friday night he did on one occasion seem confused by where he was….

Mark and Matt Bates were the only hardy ones to take the party to the next level and hit town. Both looked weathered the next morning with Matt having lost his voice and Mark sporting some wild stubble.

Race day was reminiscent of Barbados with blistering sunshine and Gill Beddow wandering round with wine glass permanently filled. The start was as exciting and confusing as ever. With all five of our boats off most of us retreated to SSSC HQ, our large marquee half way between WLYC and Southport SC.

It was great to see how many of the junior team were there to support the event this year. Mini members of the South Staffs cheer squad included Finn and Hattie Morgan, Jack Hodgkins, Harriet Temple, Ollie and Mia Hatley and the gorgeous Freddie Kearney enjoying his first Southport.

The kids were always in the thick of the action, cheering as boats went past or sat outside the tent diligently producing technical drawings of cars or trousers (I don’t think I had fully seen that creative vision realised when I took a peak). They also seemed really fired up for next year. Ollie Hatley seemed very proud that his mum and dad were sailing but even more proud of the sailing prowess he and Jack show on the water every week at South Staffs. In fact so much so that Ollie would like to get Mike Senior in a Topper or Oppie for a race as he feels he’d stand a good chance of beating him.

The Youths and Juniors were well represented in the teams with Ollie Goodhead and Hayley Ramadhar on the winning GP14 team, Meg Hicklin in the Lark team, Will Hawkins on the social team and Tom Temple, Kamila Czartolmna, Mya Peterson, Anthony Hatfield and Jack Fisher all doing brilliantly on the Firefly team whilst Junior parents Martin Temple, Dave Morgan, Rich Hodgkins, Chris Jones, Bev and Andy Hatley all sailed.

Am helm Mike Patterson even got a chance to take the stick after Martin Lawrie became unwell in the social boat Saturday night, thankfully Martin is now fine and Mike did a sterling job helming in the light winds.

Sunday was just as sunny as the day before with Gill and Sue Billington in deep discussion about tan lines and horrified as I revealed mine. (The team photo had to be photo shopped as I had black knees and white calves!)

Weed and light winds were the only things to be moaned about all weekend as sailors and spectators all soaked up the action and the tension grew.

There was me thinking we were all one big happy South Staffs family but it turned out that the minute the start gun went it was more contentious than Twilight fans having to choose Team Jacob or Team Edward. For the majority of the race the two boats were first and second with the lead changing a few times and the Larks closing in on the GP14 as the wind dropped.

On the water there was some healthy encouragement and I understand that Ed Bradburn in the Lark was particularly enjoying winding Ross Kearney up in the GP14 and the odd shout of ‘potato’ in a mock Irish accent might have been heard floating across the water.

At one point the Lark team were facing a penalty protest which created an air of indignation in the tent and we all kind of pulled together to wish them luck over turning it (which they did).

Getting into the last hour I infiltrated Team Lark as the gathered near the finish line. With the wind having died completely with 45 minutes to go the Lark had started to claw the GP14 back in. Thankfully it picked up with 15 minutes until the gun but things were getting tense. Team GP14 were earlier adamant that the Larks couldn’t pull it back but Team Lark were growing in confidence as the Lark went through for one last lap with Mike and Hayley behind the island. There were quiet whispers willing Mike to have a go and race to get another one in. However as the GP14 rounded the final mark before the finish, Andy from Team GP14 stormed into the Lark camp frantically waving at Mike on the water to slow down. Team Lark were quietly disappointed as they sensed the win had probably gone. And it had, giving them second.

Not a bad weekend’s work from South Staffs, showing our dominance once again. This lead to a discussion between myself, Cobby and Vicky about how we can spice up the traditional Commodore’s dunking next year for James Croxford. The rationale being that the whole staged throwing into the water thing is now a bit passé. So, for next year we are taking a paper to General Committee proposing to introduce a points based system, if you manage to push James in the water when South Staffs are not in the lead 1 point, if we are in the lead at the time 2 points, if we are first and second at the time 3 points. James said he was up for it, honest! 

The Commodore's Blog

Michelle Evans - 22nd September 2016

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