Sunshine and light winds welcomed 23 Merlin Rockets to Bartley Sailing Club on Sunday the 11th March for the first event of the Craftinsure Silver Tiller and the HD Midland Circuit. Howard Eeles our race officer and Mike Gibson our assistant race officer briefed all the competitors on the warm sunny patio which has been a nice change compared to the sub 5 degrees and snow!
Race one got a way cleanly with Matt Biggs and Beka Jones winning the port end of the line, but Rob Kennaugh and Andrew Prosser picked out the winning shift up the first beat to be the first boat to round the windward mark. Throughout the race the top 5 boats were constantly changing positions through the varying shifts and gusts that Bartley had to offer. Matt and Beka got through Rob and Andrew to take the first race win. Caroline Croft and Chris Gould pulled through to take second place on the last beat; Andy (Taxi) Davis and Pete Gray came through to take third. Duncan and Harriet Salmon sailed a good race holding on to fourth place having sailed the majority of the race in third. Carl Whitehill and Alan Robinson had their best result of the weekend in one of the three wooden boats that took to the water finishing in 18th.
After the first race we all headed back ashore for some well earned jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings which went down very well for all the hungry sailors, so thank you to Sophie and her team!
The conditions as forecasted picked up after lunch with some nice big black gusts fanning out as they hit the water, the temperature dropping slightly as the sun disappeared behind the grey clouds. Race two also started cleanly but with a different winner at the port end, Taxi and Pete. As many of us were finding out our raking systems were not as slick as last year. Taxi and Pete lead from mark one onwards, extending their lead to win race two. Caroline and Chris finished second after having a long hard battle with Matt and Beka who came in third. Fourth place was highly contested for throughout the race after the top three broke away. Colin Anderson and John Hackett came out on top in fourth place followed by Steve and Gill Leney in fifth, Rob and Andrew in sixth and Paul Hollis and Paula Mason in seventh. Stuart Harris and Rebecca Baker had their best result in 3229 (one of the other wooden Merlins) finishing in 17th.
After two races Taxi and Pete, Matt and Beka and Caroline and Chris were all joint on 4 points, so all was to play for going into the last race. With the last course of the day set, the wind building and the lead boat in position, race three was ready to get underway. It was down to the sailors to decide which end they thought was going to give the biggest advantage. Taxi and Pete went for the port end again which had paid in the previous two races, Matt and Beka went for the starboard end of the line and Caroline and Chris started a quarter of the way down from the starboard end. The wind was shifting as much as 40 degrees and the race was on to see who would get to the windward mark first. Halfway up the first beat, the wind came in on the right lifting the whole fleet on starboard, however as the wind dropped towards the dam, it shifted left helping out Taxi and Pete who led to the windward mark. Caroline and Chris rounded in second with Rob and Andrew in third. Some big gusts treated the sailors to a nice broad reach down to the bottom of the reservoir. Taxi and Pete sailed on to extend their lead and win race 3. Matt and Beka came through the fleet to take second and Rob and Andrew took third with Caroline and Chris taking up fourth.
Rob Kennaugh and Andrew Prosser were the first visiting boat, Richard Cooke and Russel Hall were the furthest travelled Merlin and Stuart Harris and Rebecca Baker won the oldest boats prize in 3229. A big thank you must go out to Howard Eeles our race officer and his assistant Mike Gibson for setting some great courses which were different for each race. A big thanks to Simon Hardiman and his safety boat team and being the lead boat. Lastly a big thank you to Mark Reddington for organising the opening of this year's Craftinsure Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller and the HD Midland Circuit as well as to Bartley Sailing Club for putting on a great event, and Magic Marine, the official clothing partner for the class.