Shoreham Sailing Club put on another great weekend of sailing attracting 30 Merlin Rockets for the weekend of 17/18 June. Also in attendance were the 420 fleet with a healthy entry – perhaps hoping to learn a few tips from the older/wiser/wrinklier Merlin sailors. Saturday greeted the sailors with light airs and sunshine. A lot of forecasts were hinting breeze to build mid to late afternoon, and they weren’t wrong. The very sociable start time of 1.30pm gave people the chance to do some last minute bimbling/tuning or extended pre-race meditation.
The fleets launched into conditions best described as variable. Mark “Doc Brown” Barnes claimed to have won the race to the start line for which no points are rewarded – Rebecca Bines seemed less impressed. The race team sensibly postponed for around 1 hour before a shifty force 3 had kicked in from the north.
Race 1 started cleanly (maybe) and Taxi Davis and Pip Kilsby nailed the first beat to round first with Tim Saxton/Mary Henderson in pursuit followed by Christian Birrell and stand in top crew Tom Pygall. Also in the mix was Simon Potts/Sam Mothershead. Unfortunately, Tom’s new found strength meant that Christian’s pole launcher destroyed itself on the 2nd reach and that was the end of their weekend. The downwind legs provided some great sailing, with the camera boat inspiring many crews to try harder than normal and a few aspirational pro-helms were seen pouting, while the amateurs simply grinned into the lens. The beats proved very tricky over the next 3 laps with large shifts providing big gains and losses. Despite this, Taxi and Pip never really looked challenged and took the bullet with Tim and Mary 2nd Simon and Sam in 3rd. A notable performance came from Jon Gorringe and Pete Gray sailed very well to climb up to 4th.
The teams lined up for race 2 and the breeze was up to a steady 20 knots (thank goodness for raking rigs). Tim and Mary rang the bell in the left corner of the first beat and had a good lead at the windward mark. Jon and Pete put the bow down to great effect to round 2nd. Next came Ed Chapman and Chris Kilsby teaming up from their 29er days followed by Chris Jennings/Pete Nicholson. Unfortunately, on the second beat Tim and Mary had mast issues and limped home (turns out they were OCS anyway). This left Jon and Pete to pull away whilst many good battles were going on throughout the fleet. The wind steadily increased throughout the race and at the finish Jon and Pete took the win followed by Ed/Chris second, Chris/Pete in 3rd. Taxi and Pip worked their way back to 4th. With a large number of broken boats and sailors the race team wisely decided to send the fleet ashore.
Once ashore it was a battle to claim good pitches for tents as the wind really kicked in! Many anchoring guide ropes to trailers and random railway sleepers. It turns out the “pop up” tents have a tendency to self destruct with the slightest sniff of wind. The Saturday night social was kicked off with the famous Shoreham egg throwing competition despite some concern if the eggs were free range and organic. After this and an excellent meal, DJ Dawn expertly span the decks (actually it was a MacBook) well into the night. Like the heroes they are, various members of the Warren family made sure everyone stayed hydrated with a well stocked bar. Meanwhile outside the gale force wind, heavy rain and lightning provided ideal camping conditions.
Sunday dawned and after a tent packing operation, an orderly breakfast queue formed – the limited availability of eggs will remain one of life’s mysteries. It was still very windy (25-30 knots) and a lot cooler! Word on the street was that the wind was due to drop and, after a 45 minute postponement, it did. The race officer lowered the AP and the fleet headed out of the harbour.
A northerly force 3 welcomed the fleets to the racecourse. A strong port bias on the line led to an inevitable general recall. Race 3 eventually kicked off under a black flag and several boats fell victim to the dreaded BFD. Caroline Croft and Faye Chatterton set the pace to round 1st with Taxi and Pip pushing them throughout the race. At the finish it was Caroline/Faye who held off the ever-present Taxi/Pip. They were accompanied throughout by Ed/Chris and Chris/Pete, however both teams were on the naughty step (black flagged). This handed third to the popular local team of Will Warren and Megan Pascoe. A notable performance came from the lighter pairing of Arthur Henderson/Livvy Bell who picked up 4th.
By Race 4 the breeze had built to close-to full rake conditions. Another port biased line saw a few more black flagged boats. This time it was Taxi and Pip who took the bullet from Chris and Pete after a race long battle. Dave Wade and Ben Rayner took a strong third after a bit of time out of the class with Ed and Chris chasing hard to finish fourth.
For Race 5 and the fleet size had dropped a little, most probably due to over-hydration the night before. The breeze was still up and Jon and Pete rounded first after a great start with Chris and Pete coming in from the left to round 2nd. Taxi and Pip battled up to 3rd and briefly took 2nd until Chris and Pete retook the place on the last gybe on the final run. Jon and Pete kept their cool to claim another bullet with Chris and Pete 2nd and Taxi and Pip 3rd.
After 3 races the race officer kindly waved the fleet home for a well deserved late lunch and massages from their shore crews.
After a consistent series, Taxi and Pip took the event overall, with a clear margin ahead of Jon and Pete in 2nd and Chris and Pete in 3rd. Dave Wade and Ben Rayner finished 4th overall, with their collective offspring featuring strongly at the 420 prize giving. It was great to see seven female sailors in the top 10, including the winning crew. The combativity award goes to Steve Hall and Simon Haighton who managed to be either OCS or BFD in three of the five races.
As they always do, Shoreham put on a top quality event both on and off the water. Special thanks go to the race team and the many club members who organized the event. Same again next year please – plan for a restful Monday though.
The next Craftinsure Silver Tiller will see the Merlin Rockets return to Waveney and Oulton Broad Yacht Club for the first time in a number of years on Saturday 27th August. Entries remain open for the Aspire Merlin Rocket National Championships at Mounts Bay from the 31st July through to 4th August. Rumour has it there is at least one boat available to loan, please contact Chris Martin for more information.
Enter - https://www.merlinrocket.co.uk/index.asp?pg=fixtures&eid=1130
Borrow a boat - https://www.merlinrocket.co.uk/index.asp?pg=contact&area=committee&cid=51
Thank you to Chris Jennings and Pete Nicholson for the report.