The 5th and 6th March was the opening weekend for the Merlin Rocket Class in 2022 and 17 eager teams arrived at Itchenor Sailing Club ready to get a jump start on the season with a weekend of training led by multiple Championship winner Christian Birrell supported by Tim Saxton, Ian Dobson and George Yeoman, with special guest appearances from Alex Warren and Caroline Croft.
Both days were gusty affairs with a 12-15 knot northerly, with squalls over 20, testing the finesse and fitness of the teams. Some new pairings appeared with Chris Gould & Rob Allen, Ian & Chris Martin, Caroline Croft & Faye Chatterton and Jack Norton & Dave Royce, and also the stunning 3506 of Graham Webb & Simon Pollard adding some class to proceedings.
Saturday started with a few short sharp warm up races before we split into groups. The groups were set with three stations:
- a triangle course set to practice manoeuvres at the corners (hoist, gybe, drop)
- tacking and gybing on the whistle
- lane holding
A couple of the squalls caught a few people out, with a few remembering why they should tie rudders on, but all in all the short sharp exercises kept everyone warm and happy as they came off the water to pasta bake and a video debrief focussing on how boats set up differently to make it easier to sail in the gusty conditions.
In the evening, Itchenor Sailing Club then put on a great two course dinner, beef featherblade/veggie wellington with dauphinois potatoes and followed by sticky toffee pudding, before everyone retired in front of the fire in the bar retelling the screaming reaches from earlier in the day.
Sunday was focussed on starting and the first beat with rolling starts and sailing the first 30 seconds before resetting and racing the third start. The coaches gave each boat individual focus around various parts of the course, and in some cases took them away for a private session.
We finished the weekend with three quick windward leeward races where the new combo of Gouldy & Rob showed their class in the breeze winning all three races. The final debrief focussed on the boat handling round corners and race management in a breeze, when to drop and how to attack various aspects of the course to make the biggest gains.
Itchenor Sailing Club loves hosting the Merlin Rockets and it was another very successful event for both the club and sailors and the next one is highly recommended for a (maybe slightly warmer) warm up at Blithfield Sailing Club on 26th March. Register online to save your spot today https://www.merlinrocket.co.uk/index.asp?pg=fixtures&eid=1135.
The Craftinsure Silver Tiller starts this coming weekend at Shustoke Sailing Club on Sunday 13th March.