The extended Merlin Rocket Craftinsure Silver Tiller moved to Brightlingsea on November 19/20th which attracted a high-quality fleet of 18 boats with few fleet racing opens on. The entry list read like an Endeavour line up with Olympians, World and National champions littering the top 10.
The opening day was tricky for sure. Light, patchy winds which swung 90 degrees right during the day but with significant oscillations and a strong tide varying across the course.
Multi-champion Tim Saxton ably crewed by Endeavour champ Mary Henderson won the 1st race, they have been gaining speed in their new Jon Turner hull all season. Another multi-champ Tom Gillard crewed by Olympic hopeful Arran Holman won the next race and Olympian Ben Saxton crewed by Lottie Fildes won the last race to take a small overnight lead.
Most of the fleet struggled for consistency but star turns were delivered by Arthur Henderson and kitesurfing legend Maddy Anderson with a 3rd in the opening race, many time B14 champs Dave Hayes and Jonny Ratcliffe showing they've still got it with a 4th in race 2 and Dave and Sarah Conlon from the home club delivering a popular 4th in race 3.
The evening social was excellent with tasty food plus seconds which were gratefully devoured with 20 knots forecast for Sunday. It was great to catch up with old friends whilst being entertained by Guinness fuelled Taxi confusing a police officer for Santa Claus (the bobby had a white beard!).
Sunday was very different to Saturday and marked the arrival of winter with a stiff 15-20 knots from the North and with windchill temperatures felt sub-zero. The wind dropped a little during the day and the race officer did a great job of turning races round quickly, so competitors stayed warm despite the conditions
Gillard/Holman had just taken the lead in the opening race only to capsize on a gybe into the leeward mark with Gilly injuring his back unfortunately ending their day early. Saxton/Fildes were a model of consistency with 2,3,2 to win overall. Former Champion Taxi Davis/Pippa Kilsby had the best day with plenty of pace both up and downwind to score 1,2,2 grabbing 2nd overall. Nick Craig sailing with Figaro superstar Alan Roberts finally remembered how to Merlin sail after a year out to win the last race and snatch 3rd overall from T.Saxton/Henderson, who won race 5 after performing move of the day with a heat up and double gybe into the last leeward mark gaining 2 boats in the last seconds of the race.
Sailing legend Ben Saxton thanked the excellent race team and encouraged everyone to join the fun at the remaining events at, the centre of British sailing, Burghfield on Saturday (27th November) and Itchenor the following weekend (4th December) for the Craftinsure Silver Tiller finale and dinner. Ben accurately commented that the Merlins is the most competitive racing in the UK at the moment which is expected to continue in 2022 with the ever-popular Mounts Bay hosting the Nationals 31st July to 4th August.
Thank you Nick Craig for the Report