Over the weekend of the 16th/17th September, in support of the fantastic charity “˜Jeans for Genes’, Bolton sailing club assembled a team to compete in the 41st 24hr race. 

As “˜Jeans for Genes’ tirelessly raises funds for research into serious and often life-threatening genetic disorders that affect thousands of children, not least in the UK where one baby in every 33 is born with such a disorder or birth defect, it seemed a small effort for the team to endeavour to race a GP14 sailing dinghy for 24hrs to raise funds to help the pioneering research into developing treatments and bring great hope to many families.

The event, as always, was hosted by West Lancashire Yacht club with the generous sponsorship of Mailspeed Marine and was taking place on the Southport Marine Lake.  “˜Jeans for Genes’ uses the slogan “˜Denimise the Nation’ and encourages the wearing of jeans in exchange for a small donation, particularly on their “˜Jeans for Genes’ day on the 5th of October (see www.jeansforgenes.com for more details).  However shorts would have been more appropriate as the sun began to make an uncharacteristic appearance over Southport with the midday start gun approaching.

Speed Sails also generously sponsored the Bolton boat and their new Speed mainsail was easily recognised by the large yellow badge of  “˜Jeans for Genes’.  As the start gun echoed around Southport Mike Senior and Dale Knowles got the team off to a good clean start in the first flight.

Last year’s winners the Lark Class Owners Association A-team set the early pace and took the first prize of the weekend with the fastest opening couple of laps which also demonstrated that the conditions could suit the Larks again this year.  The early battles seemed to be between the Larks at the head and the GP14s of Budworth who lead from Bolton just behind.  However it was further down the flights that the leaders could actually be found with the Enterprise of Hallamshire SC making good speed and incredibly Hollinworth B who set out to complete the entire race with only Adam McGovern and Chris Robinson as the sole team members raising money for the sail4cancer charity.

As the Bolton “˜Jeans for Genes’ team made several changes with Ian Platt and Chris Jolly replacing Mike and Dale and then subsequently Mark Platt and Graham Hutchinson replacing them, Adam and Chris continued to compete alone and more incredibly lead the race.  The emphasis on the comment “˜they’ll start to tire soon’ was moving more towards a question than a statement as they continued to prosper.  The conditions remained the same despite the threat of a wind increase and, come the half way point after some 12hr of racing, Adam and Chris still lead with the Bolton “˜Jeans for Genes’ team in 2nd.  Perhaps even more amazingly Adam and Chris had also secured the trophy for the fastest laps at 8pm indicating that they weren’t only just the most consistent boat, but were actually the fastest on the water at times!

Ashore, the support teams and waiting crews were enjoying the hospitality and entertainment that WLYC were putting on, all of which being the result of an entire year of effort and organisation by the voluntary work of club members.  Once again the atmosphere was fantastic and the efforts made to return the event to one for the sailor was evident and much appreciated by all.  The water’s edge saw the battle of the charity buckets and it was a testament to all that nobody seemed to tire of tossing their change in on a regular basis. 

On the water, with the introduction of yet another fresh crew in Chris Jobson, the Bolton “˜Jeans for Genes’ team finally started to get their nose in front eventually leading all the competitors through the 02:00 and 100 miles marks.  The wind was continuing to remain light and racing was fierce as trophies were won throughout the fleet as Blackpool and Fleetwood took the dawn race in a GP14 and the Lark Class Owners Association B won the breakfast race at 08:00 unsurprisingly in a Lark.

With all but 22hr completed the conditions had their last say in the race and as some of the teams lined up to make their final changes, including the Bolton “˜Jeans for Genes’ team who introduced another fresh crew in Gary Deighan, the wind suddenly increased.  Almost instantly, in front of the crews waiting to change, an Enterprise lost its mast in a clear indication that the final stint was going to be anything but a finishing off exercise.

Within minutes the conditions changed and the assembled spectators were blessed with a show of wild capsizes and rapid sailing as gusts raced across the lake causing chaos for already tired sailors. The Bolton “˜Jeans for Genes’ team returned to the pits almost immediately after their last change indicating a problem with the rudder and there were those ashore that hoped, perhaps, that this would delay them enough to allow a fairy tale end with Adam and Chris regaining the lead.   

This wasn’t to be the case and with time ticking away and the end in sight, Adam and Chris must have been wondering why conditions couldn’t have stayed the same to help them home instead of thrusting one last hurdle in the way of an already gigantic effort.  With gusts raging and capsizes a plenty the finishing guns began to ring out with the spectacle for the crowds on the finishing line continuing as boats flipped over both on the approach and shortly after the line.

The prize giving was rightly dominated by the mammoth efforts of Adam and Chris and at one stage it wasn’t clear if the now raging gusts or the rapturous standing ovation they got receiving a special achievement award would lift the roof off the marquee first!! 

The Bolton “˜Jeans for Genes’ team happily took a back seat until the moment when they collected the 41st 24hr race trophy and team captain Richard Craig thanked all the sponsors and members of WLYC for their efforts in running the event plus thanking everyone who had helped and supported the “˜Jeans for Genes’ money raising effort.