Sunday 15th August was the first day of the Aspire Merlin Rocket Championships at East Lothian Yacht Club, which saw an all-star fleet of the country's top dinghy sailors go into battle. The fleet launched off the long sandy beach into an outgoing tide with a fabulous 12 knot south westerly to sail a sausage -triangle course. The stakes were high with the newly crowned Olympic Gold medallist Stuart Bithell and Tom Pygall as crew, rivalled reigning Merlin National Champions Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey.
The class had clearly taken heed of the excellent talk the previous evening given by an experienced local, as the port end of the line was heavily stacked with every man and his dog wanting to saw off the left-hand side of the beat. This gave the race officer a few headaches, and after a number of general recalls some fell foul of a first race BFD, including Ian Dobson and Charlotte Fildes.
The race finally got away in a perfect 12-15knts of wind and sunshine. The anticipated epic battle quickly unfolded with Stu/Tom leading around the windward from Christian/Sam, closely followed by Ben Saxton/George Yeoman in third. Stuart opted for an asymmetric style lay-line on the first run, which allowed Christian/Sam to take control of the race. Andy Davis/Pippa Kilsby began their match up the fleet and overhauled Ben/George on the first Triangle. The front pack also featuring Ian Sharps/Alex Warren and Dave/Vicky Lenz separated from the next group who were also having a tight battle behind.
Christian/Sam fended off attacks from Stu and Taxi to take the opening bullet of the championship and the Founders Trophy. Taxi/Pippa took third from Sharps/Warren who were fourth, and the Lenz’s came in fifth ahead of Ben and George in sixth. A great race for James Wells and Anna Alyward were first in Silver fleet who finished eighth, and Geoff and Helen Kimber took first bronze fleet.
With the tide in full flood taking the fleet over the start line of the second race, would the fleet continue to rack up starting penalties? Fortunately, a now well-disciplined fleet started cleanly on the first attempt. Unfortunately for Ben Saxton/George Yeoman, their race was cut short due to gear failure soon after their great start. Perhaps with more options on both sides up the first beat, the fleet stayed compressed with Stu/Tom narrowly rounding the windward ahead of Christian/Sam. As the race progressed, some big gains were made upwind by keeping right in the tide, but Stu/Tom managed to stay ahead the whole way round this time to take a convincing win, and the Beechers Cup. Christian/Sam finished second ahead of Taxi/Pippa, with Dave Winder/Oliver Rayner fourth, Tim Saxton/Mary Henderson in fifth and Caroline Croft/Chris Gould taking sixth. First Silver fleet boat was Dan/Ben Alsop in, and first bronze fleet went to Richard Coulter/Louis Lappage.
The overall standings on day one are Stu/Tom in first, with Christian/Sam on the same points in second, and Taxi/Pippa in third with two thirds. It’s still very much all to play for.
With thanks to our sponsors HD Sails, SSE, NB Distillery, Fernhurst Books, Triggernaught Sportsglasses and our title sponsor Aspire Financial Advisers.
Link to the days photos courtesy of East Lothian Yacht Club. https://www.flickr.com/photos/caledonian-schlepper/sets/72157719689062776/