Lymington Town Sailing Club hosted the inaugural Merlin Rocket Ladies Championships weekend on the 20th and 21st May 2023. 14 boats turned up for the Saturday training lead by Tim Saxton and supported by Mike Calvert and James Goss. In the mix was current Merlin Rocket helms helming, current Merlin Rocket crews wanting to give it a go in the back helming and many crewing, and some new faces trying a Merlin Rocket for the first time. There was a great atmosphere and Lymington provide some great sunshine and a shifty NE breeze to keep everyone on their toes.
After an onshore briefing a number of different exercises were planned to include a simple course to allow sailors to work out the boats and their crews before we headed into tacking and gybing on the whistle in groups. The last session of the day brought everyone together for some starting practice ahead of the following days racing.
Back ashore, 28 Merlin Rocket Sailors were welcomed to tea and cake made by the local fleet sailors and members of Lymington Town Sailing Club which was well received after a great four hours on the water. Tim and the coaches lead the afternoon debrief with a few top tips for tacking and rig set up ahead of the next day’s championship races.
In the evening, LTSC hosted an evening meal which was also included a complementary glass of wine from the MROA. The Baltic Lifejacket draw was held after dinner for those who had entered early, this was awarded to Suzie Brough! With lots of chatter about the days training and one standing out comment “I’ve learnt more today than I have in the last few years, it’s been great”, many of the sailors were looking forward to Sunday’s racing.
Sunday dawned with a breezy forecast; all 18 boats launched into the strong North Easterly. Robin Milledge PRO and Mark Barwell ARO had five 30-minute races planned on the last of the flood tide and then what would turn into a strong ebb tide. Racing got off on time. The tide was still flowing East which provided gains on the right side of the course. Chloe George and Lou Johnson nailed the start and the right side of the racecourse to take the lead into the first windward mark with the competitive pack chasing behind. A split at the leeward gate saw Chloe and Lou as well as Sarah Richards and Nigel Wakefield take the left gate (downwind) and Caroline Croft and Vicky Lenz take the right. It was a tight race all the way to the finish with Chloe and Lou taking the first bullet of the day, followed by Caroline and Vicky in 2nd and Sarah and Nigel in 3rd.
We lost a few boats during the early stages of the day. Karen Oldale and Kelly Aaron successfully modified their broken puller only to have their jib halyard break which resulted in a little swim. Also sadly, Jenny Dodds and Pippa Kilsby decided to test the water temperatures prestart, their hatch cover was not secure, and they lost their sandwiches, the reporter is not sure which was worse!
Race 2 got away with the tide now weakening a few boats were caught out early and had to clear themselves. The change in tide provided a more even racecourse although there were some big gains to be made on the shifts. This time, Sarah and Nigel lead round the windward mark with Sophie Mackley and Chris Gould chasing them down. There were some great battles throughout the fleet, and plenty of battles within battles as the fleet bunched. Sarah and Nigel took the win with Sophie and Chris in 2nd and Ally Potts and Charlotte Fildes sneaking through Caroline and Vicky at the last gate to take 3rd.
Race 3, and the tide had now changed and was heading west. For this start it paid to be at the pin end which was fought for by William Warren and Megan Pascoe and Caroline and Vicky. Luckily for Caroline and Vicky, William and Megan decided to move the pin end down tide allowing a handful of boats to get away. The boat that got to the shoreline first out of the tide would likely lead at the windward mark. Caroline and Vicky took advantage of this and managed to cross the fleet as they sailed up the shallows. The chasing pack included Sophie and Chris, Sarah and Nigel and Mary and Rupert Henderson-White. The righthand gate was now favoured as it was closest to the shoreline. After a handy spot of a shorten course, Caroline and Vicky took the win for race 3 with Sophie and Chris in 2nd and Sarah and Nigel in 3rd.
The wind conditions were very tough with the difference in wind speeds and big shifts, the rigs were needing to be moved regularly and adjustments made to make the most of the varying conditions. Race 4 showed some different tactics for Eilidh Macintyre and Alex Warren as they came off the line towards the starboard end and made the adverse tide work in their favour. This new pairing for the weekend lead round the windward mark and sailed on to take the win with the pack trying hard to hunt them down. Chloe and Lou took 2nd and Sophie and Chris 3rd.
Each race has had a different winner and it was all down to the last race. With the discard kicking, three boats, Sophie and Chris; Caroline and Vicky; Sarah and Nigel were tied on seven points with Chloe and Lou just behind on eight. The fifth race of the day was clean away with many tired helms and crews, those left out on the water had to dig deep. Playing the shifts up the beat, Chloe and Lou lead round the windward mark chased closely by Sophie and Chris, Caroline and Vicky and Sarah and Nigel. With the tide getting stronger it was a race into the shallows but also a choice (depending on the angle) of taking the shifts and also using the tide as a lee bow with a lift could take you nicely to windward. Chloe and Lou navigated the challenging conditions to take the final bullet of the day. Sophie and Chris took 2nd and Caroline and Vicky 3rd which were the final overall standing for the first Merlin Rocket Women’s Championships.
A huge thank you must go to all our sponsors, Baltic Lifejackets, Box PR, Creation Covers and Magic Marine who provided some great prizes to all our sailors. Another big thank you must go out to all the helpers on the water including the coaches and support who were in ribs for both days, the Race Officer Team and the organisers who brought this vision into reality. Thank you to the onshore crew who helped with registration, results, and the MROA for providing a glass of wine for the competitors and how could I forget all those who baked some fantastic cake which was very welcomed by the tired sailors!
The MROA welcomes feedback from the weekend, please complete the following questionnaire - https://forms.office.com/e/auMKn3Gj6m
The upcoming Class Championships.
Thank you Caroline Croft for the report.