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London Corinthians at West Lancs Yacht Club 24 hour Race

Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September 2011

Watch Ben's video footage

Yet again a bunch of intrepid London Corinthians entered the West Lancashire Yacht Club's 24 hour race on 10-11 September 2011. With wind forecasts of over 200mph, (which we suspect was a small error) it looked to follow last year's event with being very windy. This year it was the turn of the club dinghy "Telegraph" to be prepared for the event. Alongside all the usual preparations, in an attempt to win the most recognisable boat award, the hull was adorned with the LCSC black lion.
An advance party travelled to Southport on Thursday to set up tents, check the boat out, and make sure the bar was well stocked. The main lesson learnt on Thursday was that an effective cure for hiccups was to be held upside down, preferably in a tent, and drink beer from a keg.

The team all gathered on Friday evening and set to work preparing for the coming race with a spot of beer drinking and burger eating. After a few drinks it was decided to attempt to put up tents we had never seen before, in the dark, with no instructions in the smallest possible space we could find. After about an hour we managed to get everyone somewhere to sleep that wouldn't collapse, and succeed in blocking the entrance to several of the opposing team's tents in the process.

The healthy eating plan continued the following morning with an excellent fry-up provided by the Scouts. After breakfast we crowded into the team tent, had a briefing, and drew up the team schedule.

12-2 pm: Ben Wilder and Gareth Llewellyn
2-4 pm: Jeremy Whiting and Kate Alexander
4-6 pm: Peter Druce and Matt Jones
6-8 pm: James Eatwell and Ben Wilder
8-10 pm: Gareth Llewellyn and Katrin Stolz
10-12 pm: Debs Lay and Christelle Escoffier
12-2 am: Jeremy Whiting and Nicola Garvin
2-4 am: Hilary Branfield and Warren Kendall
4-6 am: Adrian Davey and Debs Lay
6-8 am: Christelle Escoffier and Martine
8-10 am: Gareth Llewellyn and Kate Alexander
10-11 am: Hilary Branfield and Agnieszka Debska
11-12 am: Jeremy Whiting and Gareth Llewellyn

Then over to the boat to get it rigged, and more importantly meet Hilary's parents who had bought the food, including the all essential brownies. Last year there was not enough food to keep us going all night, so this year plenty of food was bought in, including fantastic home made cakes from Kate and Christelle. Following last year's experience of being sat outside in the cold we decided to create a more comfortable base and erected a gazebo to keep off the wind and the rain, and offer a better drinking environment.
Our mighty leader Ben started the race with Gareth and sailed for the first two hours without incident in a strong wind getting us off to a steady start. On the shore all was not well however with stray gazebos blowing around smashing car windscreens. We managed to keep ours from straying but only with a person holding each corner. Eventually with a bit of ingenious use of the truck as an anchor our base was secured for the weekend.

By this time we were ready for the first handover, with Jeremy and Kate taking over for the next two hours. The wind stayed at a Force 4-5 all throughout the afternoon and evening, making for tough sailing for all, and the discovery that you can plane upwind as well as down. At 7pm the lights on the boat had to come on, rather than use the usual chemical lights Telegraph was adorned with red and green fairy lights. These were far more visible than the other lights, made our boat much easier to spot and much prettier.

Some sensible people decided to get some sleep during the night, but others decided to wander the streets of Southport searching for the ingredients of Polish vodka cocktails and all you can eat Chinese buffets. The team continued to sail well during the night, reaching the dizzying heights of 39th, but due to some water ingress into the buoyancy tanks after a capsize the boat was not handling well and was a bit sluggish, and we dropped down the ranks to 50th by the morning.

The race had passed with relatively little incident, but during Gareth's and Kate's early morning stint a bung was lost, with quick thinking Gareth saving the day by using a banana skin to plug the hole until the changeover. With the wind picking up to a Force 5-6 our heavy weight team of Hilary and Agnieszka, armed with a new bung, stepped in for the Ladies race at 10am. Boats were capsizing all over the place, and people were avidly watching the gybe mark like vultures, cheering each capsize with gusto. Hilary and Agnieszka managed to somehow make it round 3 times coming 7th in the Ladies race, before having to be rescued after capsizing as the boat was starting to sink. Telegraph had to be bought in and drained before Jeremy and Gareth stepped in for the final laps.

Our final tally was 64 laps, finishing 52nd out of 67 finishers, an improvement on last year. Yet again the team spirit was fantastic, and really what makes this event so enjoyable for everyone. A huge thanks to the everyone at the club for their support, particularly Woody for working on the boat, and Chris Crosland for the loan of his road trailer.

Here's to next year ... and our plan to finish in the 40s!

by Hilary Branfield

Video by Ben Wilder


Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th September 2010

Picture Gallery

The West Lancashire Yacht Club's 24 hour race has, for the last 44 years been the premier opportunity for sailing club teams to compete for trophies and against each other in classic dinghies in an endurance race – on the waters of Southport marine lake. London Corinthians have competed here before and at the Corinthian Enterprise class meeting, we decided to revive the tradition. Our plan to compete however was nearly scuppered at the outset by our designated driver of the dinghy and his navigator missing five exits on the M25 due to a particularly engrossing game of "I spy".

Jeremy Whiting was kind enough to offer some guidance, having organised the club's participation in the event before – so preparation started, James Eatwell selecting a charity for which we could raise money and organising sponsorship, a cause to which many of you have very kindly donated money.

Boat preparation being the key to a realistic race entry began a long time before the event. The club dinghy "Independent" was selected for the event, was weighed and buoyancy tested to comply with class rules, measurement certificates, looked out, fittings were replaced and surface of the hull filled, sanded and polished where necessary. Sails were checked and spares for every part of the boat found except the hull! The marine lake at Southport is only yards away from the sea, and they don't call off the race in foul weather – we would need to be prepared for breakages and mishaps!

The race being on Saturday, we started early on Thursday, wanting to get down early, set up camp, have a practice sail and possibly a beer. A concatenation of unfortunate events however, including the aforementioned game of "I spy", circumnavigating Birmingham the wrong way and failing to pull off the M6 before the amply sign posted 6 junction closure, made our 1 am arrival at the campsite, in the wind and rain, rather later than we'd hoped. We weren't without entertainment on our seven hour endeavour, with the stereo playing a mix of the Gallah's heavy metal and Rat's Welsh choir music.

Early Friday we surveyed the lake and the facilities, setting up camp as close to food, drink and start line as allowed. Members of the 15 strong Corinthian team soon started to arrive and everyone pitched in with the boat rigging. Eventually we managed to spell 33 correctly on the side of our Enterprise with luminous tape and we were rigged and ready for a test sail.

James Eatwell took the boat out for a test drive with the Gallah crewing, who entertained us all by falling straight over the side. Hopefully not a sign of things to come. We were entertained on the Friday night with a disco in the Yacht club marquee and numerous bars dotted around the lake. In true Corinthian style, we got the party started; we really did. On a deserted dance floor the DJ span 'Baggy Trousers' and we were up doing our best Chas Smash impressions. We kept the energy up through the 80's, "Come on Eileen" collecting about 50 dance buddies and by the time the DJ found his Ibiza rave compilation we were at maximum thrash and had encouraged another 100 people to join us. We stuck it out through Lady Gaga, but retired when faced with replicating the dance moves of Tinie Tempah (ft Labyrinth). Fighting our way out of the - now heaving - marquee we rested under the race box, not a patch on ours with its leaky roof and rusty floor, but it reminded us of home and we huddled out of the driving rain; planning, eating & drinking... but mainly drinking.

Saturday morning started early with a fantastic breakfast provided by the camping site kitchens. After everyone was fuelled and ready to go, we sat down for a briefing – discussing the rules that we were to observe and tactics we were going to employ. The weather forecast was checked and the team schedule was drawn up, along with allocation of shore side duty!

12-2 pm: Jeremy Whiting and Peter Druce
2-4 pm: Kerstin Exner and Kevin Seebaluck
4-6 pm: Ben Wilder and James Eatwell
6-8 pm: Deborah Ley and Carsten Kiess
8-11 pm: Alex Scott-Tonge and the Gallah
11-12 pm: Christelle Escoffier and Sandrine Tiller
12-1 am: James Eatwell and Carsten Kiess
1-3 am: Gareth Llewellyn and Ben Wilder
3-4 am: Alex Scott-Tonge and the Gallah
4-6 am: Peter Druce and Adrian Davey
6-8 am: Christelle Escoffier and Kevin Seebaluck
8-10 am: Jeremy Whiting and Kerstin Exner
10-12 am Gareth Llewellyn and Hilary Branfield

At 11:30 am our boat "Independent" was in the water and at 12 we were started by cannons, Jeremy Whiting leading the charge with Peter Druce crewing, putting in a fine stint and settling us into 48th position.

Standing by our berth at the side of the lake and cheering our teams round, the atmosphere was fantastic, everyone incredibly friendly and having a huge laugh. We were flanked by Aberystwyth University on one side, who, whilst they went through 5 rudders, 2 masts and a number of halyards during the course of the race – were game for a laugh and a beer all through the night. The berth to our right was taken by a 470 association team of Olympic sailors, who were great company but understandably less participatory in the all night drink up.

With the wind starting with a force 3 westerly, it was forecast to drop during the night and pick up during the morning. This did not however, turn out to be the case, with fierce squalls and rain arriving in the evening.

Carsten and Kerstin were instrumental in managing the shore team, waking sailors for their shift and checking lap counts and duties. Whilst it can be difficult sailing on our reach of the Thames, here we were flying along through the night, thundering round marks with only chemical shroud lights and the wake of other dinghies to navigate by (someone had crashed into the gybe mark, removing the main nav light). Tricky stuff indeed.

Whilst a number of capsizes were had by our team, and a few penalties incurred, we held on to our position, at this point in the mid fifties, with some consistent lap times. Considering our competition and the elements – I believe our performance was very commendable. This was in no small part due to the condition of our boat. Woody had worked incredibly hard over the months previous to the event, finding spares, digging out the most suitable sails, re-finishing the hull and crafting a new tiller! The result was an absolutely indestructible vessel. We came away with no damage whatsoever, whilst other around us were towed in or even sunk! Aberystwyth University, sharing the Berth next to us went through 5 rudders, the last being composed, we are convinced, of more than 60% Gaffer tape.

As the wind rose to vicious squalls, our team of Enterprise sailors and shore crew were tested to the limit as boats crash gybed, capsized and collided in front of onlookers. Alex Scott-Tonge and the Gallah put in a particularly brave three hour sail, during some incredibly rough weather. The sight of Enterprises planing before huge gusts of wind and rain, through the midnight hours, will remain an incredibly memory. Whilst it would be difficult to recount the level of carnage our motley crew endured during the midnight hours, Alex's account is worryingly close to the truth:

"Thor's wicked rumble clattered loud against the gloaming sky as the Gallah and Beaver shivered slightly in the cooling breeze. 'Make no mistake son - that's not a friendly sky', Gallah nodded in the direction of the encircling purple clouds, iron anvils flashing with light on a bee line to the Southport coast. Rain splashed on the lake as the wind accelerated through the rigging of sixty odd boats, a keen whining cry as the pair took over from a fine two hours from Deborah and Carsten. No sooner had Beaver's paws grabbed the sodden sheets than Aeolus let loose his hold on the western wind, driving a shrieking hooley which flattened boats and crew alike, breaking masts and snapping halliards. 'HOLD ON - WE'RE GONNA RIDE THIS OUT!!!' roared beaver over the jet-turbine scream of the gale. Crash gybing through the oncoming fleet the pair took off down the run, both creatures flattened backwards to the hull floor by the sheer force of acceleration. Independent bucked and moaned like a drunken otter. Unable to control the huge squalls she began to violently death roll, spilling her crew into the briny pond. Beaver - no stranger to water and accidental spillages - desperately steered the boat, still under full sail, clinging on by his paws while Gallah frantically bailed: 'Streuth mate - who taught you to sail - Rat?'

Drier and determined now, they got the craft skimming over the waves once more, hauling in their deficit, backs arched so the top of their heads teased the white horses, straining with every muscle fibre on the beat. Using an ancient Australian war cry the Gallah hoodwinked the competitors into thinking he was a virginal mermaid; beaching numerous randy fools. Round and round they went, dizzy with speed, staring into the thick wet darkness, spurred on by the cheers from the shore-bound river bankers. The clock ticked and their time was up, pulling in to hand over to the next grim looking pair."

As the morning arrived, Hilary kept everything organised, doing a huge watch as shore manager before it was her turn to crew, and the squalls blew off, to be followed by a North-Westerly, building to 20 knots in the sunshine for a beautiful midday finish. Gareth and Hilary performed some fantastically swift laps, crossing the finish line to be announced by the yacht club over the loud speakers and cheered by all as they pulled up to our berth at the finish.

We completed a good 88 laps, finishing 56th out of 65 finishers, with everyone getting a sail and at least a beer or two. After a fantastic prize giving ceremony and a beer, we secured our trusty boat to the road trailer and headed back to Hammersmith.

The Southport race team spirit and camaraderie was immense, everyone chipping in with duties and indefatigable spirit. What an experience! A huge thanks to the club and its members for their support, Woody for his help and expertise, Sandrine for her camera work, Jeremy for his advice and Chris Crosland for the loan of his boat trailer.

Until next September ...

by Ben Wilder, Alex Scott-Tonge, Deborah Ley

Video by Sandrine Tiller

Photos by Kerstin Exner, Ben Wilder, Carsten Kiess

Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 2010