15 boats turned up to a cold blustery South Cerney Sailing Club, hosting their first Merlin Rocket Open and the season opener for the 2023 Craftinsure Silver Tiller, SW Regional and HD Midland Circuits.
Midweek the forecast was looking a little wild, however, when we arrived it was a gusty 12-17kts. Ian Kelly and Paul Kimmens welcomed and briefed all the sailors before heading out onto the water. The course of the day was 1,7,4,2,6,5 which for the crews was going to be a tough workout with hoists, gybes and drops happening so often you barely had a chance to sit down!
Race 1 got off to a good start with most of the fleet behind the line however Jon Gorringe and Matt Currell were too keen to get going and got a UFD. Tom Gillard and Rachael Gray led the fleet for the first few laps with Chris Gould and Caroline Croft, James Goodfellow and Roger Philips chasing them down. In the fourth lap Chris and Caroline lined up a few gusts and shifts to take the lead. The fleet started getting a little dizzy with the number of laps and confusion hit as many boats got lost as to where they were on the course and which windward mark they needed to go around. Everyone got themselves sorted around the right marks but still managed to confuse the leaders! Chris and Caroline lead to the finish with Tom and Rachael coming in second and Matt Biggs and Beka Jones taking third.
Race 2 had another UFD culprit of Matt and Beka but otherwise, the fleet started cleanly. Tom and Rachael lead the way with Chris and Caroline following in second and Jon and Matt chasing them down. A good battle was had further down the fleet with a number of boats changing positions but now everyone had learnt the course and Tom and Rachael led from start to finish to take the gun in race 2. Chris and Caroline took second, Jon and Matt third and Matt and Hannah Greenfield took fourth.
Race 3 got away cleanly with Matt and Hannah nailing the pin end to take the lead around the windward mark. They were being chased down by Tom and Rachael, Chris and Caroline, Matt and Beka and Jon and Matt. The top five places were hard fought but Tom and Rachael sailed through to take the gun with Matt and Beka in second and Matt and Hannah third.
Lots of tired sailors headed back to shore with many discussions in the changing rooms about how many laps were sailed as well as the distance. Turns out we sailed for approximately 23 miles (in circles), and some crews counted 62 mark roundings across all three races! Safe to say some food and drink were needed. The club were fantastic and put on a great evening with chilli followed by apple crumble all for £5! The evening’s entertainment included the Scalextric where six cars could race (or crash) at the same time with pit stops and all included!
Sunday dawned a little warmer, but more wind was forecast, with a different wind direction and a different course (3, 1, 2, 4, 6). Matt and Beka lead the way in race 4 holding off Jon and Matt to take the win with Matt and Hannah coming in third.
Race 5 saw the pressure building and with a starboard end bias, it was a close fight to the windward mark with Jon and Matt leading the way this time. Places were consistently changing with the top four boats however Jon and Matt took the gun with Chris and Caroline pipping Tom and Rachael to the line for second and third with Matt and Beka taking fourth.
The last race of the weekend saw a few boats heading for home, but those who stayed lined up again with the top four places still undecided. This time five boats were in the fight for the win with the leaders changing multiple times. Jon and Matt got the better of everyone and took first place with James and Roger in second, Tom and Rachael third, Chris and Caroline fourth and Matt and Beka fifth.
The weekend's overall winners were Tom and Rachael, Jon and Matt in second and Chris and Caroline in third. Gold fleet was won by Matt and Hannah, Silver Fleet was won by Colin and Sean Anderson and Bronze was won by the home boat of Ali and Catriona Wallace. A big thank you to South Cerney Sailing Club for making us all feel so welcome and putting on such a fantastic weekend.
The first event of the season had four different race winners, it will be interesting to see what the rest of the season will bring!
The next event is Wembley Sailing Club for the first of the Allen SE Regional, Classic and Vintage Circuits on 19th March and the next Silver Tiller will be hosted at Midland Sailing Club on 26th March.