Having lost racing yesterday due to high winds, day two of the 2023 Merlin Rocket National
Championships at Brading Haven YC, on the Isle of Wight, saw competitors wake to sound of
more wind and rain. The host club have been pulling out all the stops to make the event
enjoyable for all, however the one thing they can’t control is the weather. With a planned
launch time of 9:25am and a schedule of 3 races, there was much speculation in the dinghy
park about the suitability of the conditions. For the second day in a row the chimet web
page experienced an unusual amount of traffic – “it’s still windy” seemed to be the
conclusion. The forecasts told us the wind would drop (a bit).
Our intrepid race organisers said goodbye to loved ones and ventured out to the race
course. Meanwhile several Merlins appeared leaving covers intact until the last minute, akin
to F1 teams keeping the tyre blankets on as they ready for pit stops. Nevertheless, the delta
flag was hoisted on time and the fleet launched.
The downwind ride to the start area didn’t take long and served to confirm that “it’s still
windy” (20-25 knots). It was also shifty, gusty and slightly damp – a day for keeping “your
head out of the boat” (a phrase not to be taken literally).
Race one started cleanly with some banging right and smaller group banging left. Christian
Birrell and Sam Brearey nailed the starboard end and seemed in no mood to wait around to
socialise with the rest of the fleet. They were never challenged and took a clear win.
Defending champions Tom Gillard and Rachel Gray managed to make the left work on the
first beat and secured second. Tim Saxton and Pete Matthews-Dixon sailed a strong race to
finish third. Throughout the fleet there was close racing and plenty of opportunities to
The wind had moderated a little for race two (16-20 knots), but still no sign of the sun – I
guess applying sun protection this morning was optimistic. A wind shift during the sequence
gave a heavily starboard biased line for race 2 and the inevitably general recall occurred.
After moving the pin, the line became port biased and the black flag was hoisted. Brothers
Ian and Chris Martin pooh poohed any idea of being intimidated by this and nailed the port
end. They grinned widely as they crossed the fleet on port by several boat lengths.
Ultimately the race became a tussle between Christian & Sam, Tom & Rachel and James
Goss & Chris White, with Ian & Chris always in with a shout. The final order was Tom &
Rachel first, Christian & Sam second and James & Chris earning a well deserved third.
For race three the wind decided to pipe back up a little before dropping midway through the
race. After another recalled start the fleet headed off for the final race of the day – this time
for four laps rather than three. With patchy wind pressure and changes in direction still
prevalent, there were plenty of snakes and ladders (other board games are available but
wouldn’t work as an analogy). Christian and Sam returned to their winning ways and took a
clear win after a shortened course to finish on the final upwind leg (thank you Nigel &
team). Behind them the fleet was engrossed in a very tight battle. Tom and Rachel worked
through to take second, closely followed by Chris Jennings & Pete Nicholson who pulled
through the fleet to finish third.
The fleet arrived back at the beach and the Brading Haven YC shore team did a great job
helping tired sailors haul their Merlin’s out of the water.
On the social side, tonight sees any one with excess energy taking a trip to Cowes for the
evening. Last night’s well attended Crew’s Union saw some casualties this morning,
including co-organiser Jonty Freeman who apparently had a few too many units of alcohol.
Following extensive negotiations between the legal representatives of the fleet and race
team, a one hour lie-in has been agreed for day three with an 11am start time tomorrow
(yippee). Conditions look good for Tuesday and three more races are planned to get the
event back on schedule before what looks like a stormy Wednesday.
Thank you to our title sponsor Aspire Financial Services, our fleet sponsor WEST SYSTEMS,
our golfing sponsor GK Engineering and the social trip to Cowes Week sponsor DinghTec.