Topic : Too light and too short for a MR??

Hi All,

Thinking about buying my dads MR (3297 "New Potato") off of him for me and my girlfriend to sail. Problem is that were pretty light & short, 18.5st combined and both 5'7"! I've heard it's a lightweights boat, but would we be pushing it a bit far as we don't have much leverage?! Probably look to sail down Chichester harbour way, so open water sailing in decent wind, and I'm an experienced sailor (Int. Moths etc.), but my girlfriend is pretty new to a boat with lots of string!

What do you guys think?


Posted: 23/06/2009 16:15:29
By: James B
5'7" isn't short!
The advantage of light weight in light winds will outweigh any disadvantage in stronger winds.
Would suggest trying it out in lighter winds first which will give confidence to your girlfriend.
As an experienced helm you will be able to control the boat in strong winds but may not be as fast upwind.
A few good Merlin socials should add a few pounds...
Go for it!

Posted: 23/06/2009 16:34:32
By: Shorty
and you could always get a flatter cut main if you find it gets too hairy when it blows, better slightly underpowered then it will be easier to keep flat etc.

Posted: 23/06/2009 17:26:02
By: John
New Potato was a pretty quick boat in the day, wide for the time and flat.  Should suit you and your sailing water pretty well.  There is a lot you can do to depower the rig.  I have a flat-cut main bought 3 or 4 years ago which really isn't appropriate for my sailing weight but is cut for a deck stepped rig and in good nick.

Posted: 23/06/2009 18:16:26
By: Andrew M
Rene & I started sailing decades ago in Kippers and Disguys with only 19.5 st in the boat, though our weight has gone up a little bit now.  On a bigger water you have the time to set the boat up for you,as its the gusts that are the hard items to handle.  Obviously upwind upwave in a blow will be a bit of struggle.

The spinnaker will be the main problem. I have always set the spinnaker pole fitting very low on the mast to help the crew and the loss of effective pole length is not worth thinking about. You have to be able to let the pole downhaul loose when the crew is setting the pole and this was not usual when this boat was made, so if it has not been altered, then do it.

If you can, it may be worth using an older smaller spinnaker sometimes until you get used to it as the 10m2 spinnakers are POWERFUL. When I did a lot of sea meetings I actually used to set a 2 to 1 sheeting system up to make it easier for the crew, but that was before spinnaker ratchet blocks, so it may not be necessary.

The main thing is to work on the teamwork. Get the crew to pull the guy out and then get the pole on, before you hoist the spinnaker fully. Do run to run gybes all the time, ie gybe before the mark if you are going on to a reach.

And finally, don't shout at her!

Posted: 23/06/2009 21:42:15
By: Martin Watts
5ft 7 is not short for a merlin crew!  Many of the best crews of the last decade or two have been 5'7" or less.  Sally Townend, Chris Robinson, Jane Calvert, Little Rach Williamson, Jenny King, Ellie Bremer, James Stewart, Jilly Blake, Pip Taylor, to name but a few.

Just go for it, and have a good time!!!! Racing in Chi Harbour is just the best in a Merlin.


Posted: 24/06/2009 08:43:22
By: Measurement Man
All it means is you will have to work the boat alot more up big waves, and try to flatten the sail off in a blow. But you guys should fly downwind. Just as an extra, The Phamtom national champion a few years ago won weighing only 11st 8 , and it was blowing a force 4-5!

Posted: 24/06/2009 09:21:39
By: Jon
James, if you do buy your Merlin and looking for some where to sail in Chichester harbour we now have 10 Merlins at Hayling Island sailing club ( New boats joined since the class magazine was printed) . The great thing about this new and developing fleet is the high turn out of enthusiastic merlin sailors every Sunday.There are a number of "new" Merlin sailors matched by those who have sailed them for decades and very willing to impart their hard earned knowledge and tips to the newbies. You would be assured a warm welcome from not only the Merlin sailors but the club as they are exceedingly keen to see the Merlin fleet grow and doing every thing possible to encourage us. Good luck with the purchase hope to see you at HISC. Why not visit us for a day at Fed week commencing 10 August? Its a great fun  event and only costs £30 for the weeks event!!Day charge is about £8. Rod

Posted: 24/06/2009 09:30:43
By: Rod 3586
Would just second the advice on a lower mast fitting for the spinny pole, you lose very little effective length.  When Ellie my daughter 1st started crewing with me on opens Salcombe and the Champs she was 13 and not even 5ft.  We didn't win anything else but the prize for the youngest crew, but we did enjoy the sailing and we weren't last, not by some way!  We had an old size spinny we used on some of the windy days and it was easier to handle no question, but with the broader (generally!) reaches we do nowadays the bigger spinny is the one to have.

Posted: 24/06/2009 10:19:13
By: Andrew M
Lower the pole hight - best move ever - check the pole downhaul/snodger provides workable room to put the pole on with ease. Don't forget to let the snodger off when she's doing spinny manouvers. (Otherwise let her struggle with it for a few mins, then let if off when she's not watching!)  

I would definitely shout at her until she cries - if you don't they'll get you instead. Fran my crew, loves a bit of helm bashing! I was far too easy going in the initial stages....

The best example of crew training was when Mark Barnes and Deepy sailed the Whitstable champs. Mark reduced Deepy to sobbing and blubbing in the sand every day. Look at deepy now though ~ he's a cracking little crew. Very obedient and loves a treat.

Also Lucky Liam has a new girlfriend (a slight 16.5 stone) who can help out on those very windy days.

Posted: 24/06/2009 10:59:01
By: AD
I'm 5'6 and never had an issue with the pole at standard height, and I have crewed a Merlin more than I have helmed one. My previous crew was 5'2 and did have some issues in windy conditions.

If you do lower the pole eye - don't take the old one off. Also, it is unlikely that you have a carbon mast, but if you do, get some advice first, e.g. call Alan Jackson, infact if it was me on my carbon mast, I'd get Alan to do the mod, it wouldn't be too expensive and at least you'd know it would be a good job.

Posted: 24/06/2009 11:32:07
By: alanf
I've sailed Merlins light for a good while now - Usually less than 20 stone and with very little height (I'm 5'4" and crew about the same!). The time you will struggle is (as mentioned before) on big seas in big winds when the beats can be a bit of a slog and the reaches are quite difficult if they're very tight. However, you will whizz downwind and still have a great time.  

In anything other than big breeze and seas (and particularly in places like Salcombe) there is no issue with being light (if anything I think it could be a bonus...), and as for height, you're giants compared to me and Anna! If you can, I would strongly recommend a carbon mast, and as for sails, go flat. I love Speed Sails and find the main particularly easy to depower when you need to.

In conclusion... go for it! Merlins are great boats and you may find it a slog occasionally, but in general I think theyre great boats for us little people!


Posted: 24/06/2009 11:42:43
By: Jen
Too light and too short?? Lucky you.

Posted: 24/06/2009 15:05:44
By: Too Big and Too Heavy
When I hear the heavy vs light argument I immediately think of the value of momentum where P=MV (momentum = mass x velocity).  The number of times I slid past Lasers when they have run out of momentum often in light winds shows that there may be something to be said for a touch of lardiness.

Posted: 24/06/2009 15:27:12
By: Garry R
Unfortunately Garry I can also remember the many times I have been stuck in a hole on the river and several boats round me have accelerated away on a tiny puff and I have not!

Posted: 24/06/2009 15:43:24
By: Andrew M
Andrew, what you are doing wrong is, first you should look down to check for weed, then look up to the trees to see if there is any wind, then look down again for weed, then up for trees, do this in 5 or 6 times, and you will no longer be in a hole.

Posted: 24/06/2009 16:11:06
By: River Champ
My daughter used to crew me in my C-Tales, when she was 11 or 12 she used to stand on the c'board case to put the pole on - no probs!

Posted: 24/06/2009 16:19:01
By: Dave
The first Merlin Ellie was crewing in was Elusive, with the characteristic Laurie Smart centreboard case running up to the aft face of the bow tank which gives you a decent step there, but in a seaway it is not the easiest thing to get the pole on above your shoulder height when standing on a narrow ledge that is wobbling around hence the lower ring

Posted: 25/06/2009 11:10:29
By: Andrew M


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