Sunday 19th March 2023, was the first event in the Merlin Rocket Allen South East regional series for the modern, classic and vintage fleets. An excellent turnout of 27 boats with visitors representing Salcombe, Lymington Town, Shoreham, Brightlingsea, Staunton Harold, Stone, Weston, Broadwater together with our more local friends from Fisher’s Green and Hampton.
As usual, the competitors were provided with breakfast rolls inclusive within the entry fee to be followed by three back-to-back races with refreshments being served after race two. John Gill and his team of expert helpers on the committee boat had a challenging north-westerly breeze blowing around 8 kt, which is not an ideal direction for the Welsh Harp. Notwithstanding this, the race team were able to run three close races in the light and shifty conditions.
The first race got off to a clean start with John Steward/Blake Newman and Duncan Salmon/Ruth Hanstater, rounding first and second with the chasing pack of Caroline Croft/Faye Chatterton, Alex, Warren/Jonty Freeman, Arthur Henderson/Livvy Bell and the top team of Tom Gillard/Rachael Gray. After some place changing the order settled down Tom/Rachael, Alex/Jonty, Caroline/Faye and Arthur/Livvy, which they held to the finish. Tom Stewart (who it was good to see back in a Merlin) and Rob Allen picked a magic shift up the last beat to secure 5th.
As it had become clear that the wind at the northern end of the Harp was too variable and shifty, the race team made the decision to keep the course within the southern end for the second race. It was pretty clear that the pin end was the favourite and Caroline/Faye did themselves no favours by getting stuck on the mark itself! As we were racing on the southern end of the harp, the course was somewhat shorter, and this led to a crowded rounding of the first mark, but after a lap or so the order settled down to Tom/Rachael, Alex/Jonty, Arthur/Livvy with Duncan/Ruth in fourth. The shorter course and pace of the leaders meant that by the penultimate lap, the leading bunch were lapping the back-markers. As a result of an extremely busy rounding of the leeward mark, Alex/Jonty managed to get into the lead for a short while before Tom/Rachael re-established their first place to hold that to the finish. After the race, all competitors were supplied with bottles of water and Mars Bars to restore their energy levels.
The final race was then run with the same course and for the first time there was a general recall followed by the inevitable black flag. The fleet got away, cleanly on the second start, but a major shift up the beat meant those who had started at the pin, were in some difficulty. Tom/Rachael, Caroline/Faye and Arthur/Livvy (after a good recovery, following a less than brilliant, first mark rounding) took the first three places with Tom/Rob, taking fourth, with Paul Rayson/Chris Hill and Harry Steward/Annabel Steward fighting it out for a fifth and sixth place for team Fishers Green.
After returning to the clubhouse, the competitors were treated to an excellent chicken curry, together with poppadoms which was included in the entry fee, followed by the prizegiving. Overall positions saw Caroline Croft and Faye Chatterton secure third place, Alex Warren and Jonty Freeman second and Tom Gillard and Rachael Gray taking first overall with three race wins.
The generous sponsorship of Allen meant there werea range of prizes outside of the main competition itself, comprising:
1st Annabel Steward crewing for her brother Harry.
2nd Rebecca Bines crewing for her dad Andy.
1st Darcey Smyth crewing for her dad Mark
2nd Hannah Pighills crewing for Nick Yannakoyorgos
Most consistent (10th every race): Andy and Rebecca Bines
Lowest placed to complete every race: William Anderson and Russell Hall
Most improved during the day: Harry and Annabel Steward
Century Cup 1st combined helm and crew over 100: Tom and Rob Allen
Classic Fleet: Joe Shaw and Julie Cronshaw
Vintage Fleet: Stuart Jenkins and Nicola Scadden
Thanks to Wembley Sailing Club for an excellent opener to the Allen South East Series, particularly Paul Dean and Joe Shaw, who led the enthusiastic team of club members who made the day possible.
The next event is on Sunday 7th May at Fisher’s Green. There is also an overall club trophy, which Fisher’s Green is currently leading in first place from Wembley, so it’s game on!
Thank you to Duncan Salmon for the report.