A lovely forecast meant a total of 20 Merlin Rockets attended the Craftinsure Silver Tiller at Parkstone Yacht Club on the 01 October for a brilliant event of perching on the side for some but flat out hiking for others (easy with the raking rig) in the 7 – 12 knot southerly breeze.
There was a small delay with the inevitable general recall and our race officer realised he would be required to use the U-Flag all day to minimise the inevitable premature starting naughtiness of the Merlin Rocket fleet.
With simple sausage-triangle-sausage courses for the first two races, we had a run first followed by another beat where reading the shifts was becoming really important both on the beat and on the run.
Stu Bithell and Tom Pygall won the pin and continued left for some way, taking an early lift, while the fleet split half and half on each side of the course with Arran Holman and Christian Birrell, the husband and wife team of Mike Calvert and Jane Calvert and Simon Potts and “legend” Richard Parslow working the middle right. At the top mark, it was the right that had paid with Arran and Christian leading with the Calvert’s, Potts/Parslow and Bithell/Pygall in pursuit.
Arran and Christian held their lead throughout the race to take win comfortably in the end. Behind them a battle royale was taking place between the Calvert’s, Potts/Parslow and Bithell/Pygall with all three boats neck and neck down the final run. In the end it was Bithell/Pygall that managed to sneak an overlap on Potts/Parslow going into the final mark before the finish line to grab second with the Calvert’s fourth, and Will Warren and Megan Pascoe grabbing fifth.
There was some resetting of the start line and then we were away for the second race. Another shifty beat followed, where the left side was still providing some initial gains but the right was the place to be. Arran and Christian led again round the windward mark and sailed off into the distance, never to be challenged again and seal the Silver Tiller with a race to spare – impressive work from the lads.
Behind them there was another hotly contested battle for second place. James Goodfellow and Roger Phillips held onto second for the first few laps but were overtaken by the Calvert's, Potts/Parslow and Bithell/Pygall on the final beat. The Calvert's were holding off the charging Bithell/Pygall behind them until the last run when again Bithell and Pygall gybed on pressure to get inside the Calvert’s and grab second place ahead of them, with Potts/Parslow fourth and Maddy Anderson (taking a break from her Olympic kitesurfing commitments) and Tom Ballantine grabbing an excellent fifth place. Goodfellow/Phillips were unfortunately OCS.
Refreshments were consumed as we readied for the third race – a Poole Harbour tour! The local PYC sailors were licking their lips at the prospect of some navigation mixed in with some racing.
A clean start for all as we headed up the first beat as the non-locals tried to work out which buoy the lead rib was sitting at. The Calvert’s nailed the committee boat end and were able to hike flat out in pressure to control the fleet into the first mark, with Jon Gorringe and Matt Currell, Potts/Parslow, Warren/Pascoe and Bithell/Pygall in pursuit. Stu and Tom nailed the first downwind leg to get the jump on Potts/Parslow and Warren/Pascoe and then rolled Jon/Matt after a short beat to the top of Brownsea Island, with Mike and Jane continuing to hold onto their lead.
The next big leg was a long reach into the corner near East Dorset Yacht Club and what angle was optimum to get to the mark. Gorringe/Currell and Bithell/Pygall were able to close in on the Calvert’s but they impressively held onto the lead going into the final two marks. Bithell/Pygall challenged but ultimately came up just short and the Calvert’s held on for the win- sealed with a kiss and jubilation, having exacted the perfect revenge on Bithell/Pygall for their underolling of them at the Weymouth Silver Tiller in 2015.
Behind them, James Wells and Jonty Freeman had rolled the dice and tacked early for the last mark which allowed them to pick up pressure and get the jump on Potts/Parslow and Gorring/Currell to take an excellent third place.
Arran and Christian comfortably took the Silver Tiller with two bullets. Mike and Jane took second on countback from Stu and Tom in third.
Well done to our fleet winners Gold went to James Wells and Jonty Freeman, Silver to Dave Lee and Angela Bridges and Bronze to Stuart Jenkins and Nicola Scaddan.
Huge thanks to Parkstone Yacht Club for hosting us, and the race team for putting on three great races! Thanks to the galley for serving up delicious cold pints of cider, and having lots of food ready before and after racing.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Inlands at Llangorse Sailing Club on 7/8 October! Given the strength in depth of the Merlin fleet, a number of Merlin sailors will also be sailing at the Endeavour Trophy at Burnham on Crouch (which is the same weekend). Good luck to those sailors and the Merlin class representative, Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey!
Tickets got the end of Season Craftinsure Silver Tiller at Salcombe Yacht Club on 28th October. Don't delay book your tickets today - www.salcombeyc.org.uk/event/782593
Thank you Tom Pygall for the report and Louisa Archer for the photographs.