Thinking of getting a Merlin, advice needed....

29/03/2010 09:51:56
Hi All,

My wife and I are in the Market for a double hander and are considering a Merlin, only issue is we don't know a lot about them. I currently sail an RS300 which I love for it's tippyness and my Wife sails a Byte. We both are quite experienced, we used to have a B14 and an 800 but we live inland now and can't see either of those being enjoyable on smaller water. We used to have a 12 but want something a bit quicker. We have considered the 400 but found it a bit dull and heavy.

My questions are:
- How heavy should crew and helm be? We are 23 Stone
- We would share crewing duties so is the boat suitable for a lady to helm/big oaff to crew and visa versa
- We would probably look for a second hand plastic one, anything specific to look out for?!
- Which design is most suitable?!

Many thanks,


29/03/2010 09:58:44
Hi Sam
Its Piers Ex B14 also! 23 stone is fine for a merlin, and changing into the class last year I have enjoyed the boat immensely. Go for it i am sure you won't regret it. if you can stretch yourself a 1 string Winder 4 would suit you.

29/03/2010 10:01:50
Hi Sam
My wife and I sail a plastic Winder and have been for a couple of years, we are 20 stone which is a little light but when its windy we just throw the rig back, had a RS200 and sailed a RS400 before and would never go back! Great boats and nice people. Best to find a local club that sails them although they are well handicapped.

29/03/2010 10:29:02
We bought a Winder (3643) in the middle of last year and have never looked back. Your weight is about the same as ours and we certainly don't feel too heavy/light (apart from the Silver Tiller at Parkstone!). The raking rig is very accommodating. My partner/crew was almost a complete novice when we got the boat so it was a bit of a baptism of fire - a bit like learning to drive in a Porsche! But the Merlin is, contrary to popular myth, very forgiving, and we are making 'satisfactory' progress. With your combined experience you should have no problems at all. 

As far as what to buy - if your budget stretches to a Winder, get one. Not saying that EZ Rollers, Let it Rides, etc., aren't on the pace but, as we eventually concluded when making the decision ourselves, as newcomers to the class, why add another variable when trying to find your feet?

29/03/2010 10:34:12

I am in exactly the same place as you regarding boat choice and crew weight, I sail from Bosham on the south coast mainly in a handicapped series but it is a fairly narrow estuary meaning asymmetric's are pretty hopeless downwind.

My problem is 'where to buy one from'- ideally I want a plastic one which seems to limit it to Winder boats and although the site is pretty informative the ad's seem to have a lot of assumed knowledge and the various design options is a bit bewildering.

Winder don't seem to have a web-site, so if anyone has any tips or ideas of where I might find a relatively local boat that would be really appreciated.

Looking forward to getting going in one, Richard

29/03/2010 10:41:26
Don't worry too much about the design. If you buy the newest boat you can afford, you'll get the best you can! 

In Bosham I guess your nearest club to look at Merlins, and chat to their owners, is Hayling Island.

29/03/2010 12:19:34
23 stone is perfect weight for merlins. Welcome to the class.

29/03/2010 12:23:27
Try to get a modern winder design. From a previous thread it sounds like "Poached Salmon" 3644 would be interesting to look into.. 

Merlin are a real crews boat. As there is so much to do, you should perhaps dedicate responsibilities. Try to go to Rutland training as this is the best way to get started.

29/03/2010 13:52:35
Compared to the RS400, in our first 4 weeks of racing a Merlin, we have found:
- Lighter weight (lifting the boat and pulling up the slopes)
- Less weight on the sheets (main, jib and kite): less strength needed: but the sheets need to be trimmed more often. So it is just as exhausting, but less muscle straining.
- You need to be more aware of the wind: the boat is really quite small, so when the wind drops the boat falls of the pace fairly quickly if you don't adjust yourself and your sheets.
- Tippyier? Not really. But it is much more responsive, so you have to be more aware of where you are putting your weight.
- Rewarding? Not for our first couple of weeks when we were beaten on the water by the Nat 12's (our club has 2 ex-champions). Since then we are starting to find a little more speed. Over the last weekend (5th time out) we decided that hoisting the spinnaker on small, tight courses was actually giving us more benefit downwind than the resulting tangles when we did things in the wrong sequence!

Well worth trying.
The boats are more expensive than other "similar" craft: but once you see the amount of carbon and dyneema inside, they are good value. And the second hand values for the Winders seem to hold up well.

29/03/2010 15:13:49
Frances Gifford
Hey Sam,

Thats great news that you're thinking of a merlin. In response to your question about female helm, and you in front, this is a good combo as long as you are feeling agile. Loads aren't especially high at the back (they are higher than the 12) but very manageable, and like a 12 there is no particularly good reason why there aren't more female helms. In fact the loads are lower than in a lark where there are lots of female helms.

Give me a call or drop me a message - I might have a boat idea too. (possibly even two ideas, that is a lot of ideas for a fran).



29/03/2010 16:31:13
There is no good reason for a lack of female helms. I crewed my daughter since she was 15. We had the main set up with a 4 to 1 (a few years back 3 to 1 seemed the norm). On a long beat in strong winds we tended to go 'skiff' style where I played the main and she worked the waves, you can only really do this when the crew is fully hiked.

I am sure you will have fun.

29/03/2010 16:35:41
I just notice that piers posted above. So especially for him, as he bought the boat my daughter raced (and picked the colours and name of). Here is a picture of what happend to 16 year old female helms on a breeze run at Salcombe. She is the one under water :-)
29/03/2010 18:03:01
Hi All!

Thanks for your help. Really useful and such a quick response!

Next stage, we try one! Then hopefully we buy one!


29/03/2010 18:14:03
We didn't! We bought one and THEN tried one.

We decided that the first time you sail a different class of boat it feels odd and awkward, so you can't learn much from one sail. You need to sail 4 or 5 times to get the correct feel.
So we bought based on:
- responses here (its a friendly fleet)
- length of time people have been around (always something to learn, and obviously a boat they enjoy)
- type of people sailing (weight, experience, capability) fit with our experience
- number of open meetings (always something going on)
- number of boats at Opens (well supported).


29/03/2010 19:08:17
Andrew M
No-one else has asked where you sail and what your budget is.

The Winder plastic boats do not seem to have yet dropped below £6k at least in asking price, still quite a bit for a 10y-o boat but most have been well-maintained with a lot of decent kit. If you want to be competitive on open water at your sailing weight in a plastic boat that is far and away your best option. There were some good plastic NSM2's built but they are at their best inland on smaller bits of water as lose out planing downwind, and all are now over 15 years old.

I think you CAN learn quite a lot from a single sail in a boat as long as you aren't trying to race it and have been given advice about set-up and where to sit in the boat what some of the strings do etc.

29/03/2010 19:36:45

Where abouts are you in the UK? - area not address!

There's bound to be a Merlin nearby -

Colin (M/R 3387)

29/03/2010 21:54:58
Measurement Man
I gather that our previous boat, 3609, will be hitting the sale pages shortly if it hasn't already.

Carl looked after it so keep eyes peeled for that one..


29/03/2010 22:03:23
Hi All,

Think our budget would be about £6k,

We sail at Leigh and Lowton SC in the North West, I have spoken to Pippa today who is going to help us organise a test sail.

Will keep you posted,


30/03/2010 07:22:29
You should be able to get a reasonably tidy Winder 1 with a few scrapes and a superspar mast for about £6k - £6250. There is high demand at the moment which has pushed the prices back up, but no Mk1 has sold for more than £7k for years.

30/03/2010 08:24:11
Hi All,

Thanks again,

Just looked on the "Boats for Sail Section". I noticed 3651 (I think) - Snorting could be a possibility, if it's still on the market of course once we have a go.

One question, what does Chipstow Rig mean? Is that carbon?


30/03/2010 08:42:10
Yes - Chipstow spars are made by Alan Jackson (as opposed to Superspars) in carbon fibre.

Alan's a keen Merlin sailor (actually a keen sailor). He also does repairs...


30/03/2010 08:43:05
I had Snorting from new.  Sold it to Wembley where I don't think it was sailed very much.  Chipstow carbon mast and boom. It was a super boat, well worth a look.

30/03/2010 09:39:24
Hi All,

JC - If you had it from new, how old is it?


30/03/2010 10:04:11
I would suggest it was built late 1999 or early 2000.

30/03/2010 11:33:49
Andrew M
I remember it at Looe in 2000 which was Snorter's 1st champs, JC will confirm.  Was identical to Time Zulu (except the colour) which won that year.

30/03/2010 13:42:12
Stuart Bates (MR3615)

Glad to hear that you are looking to join this great class. If you want to have a go please feel free to pop down to Hollingworth Lake (Rochdale) where we have a good fleet. Also in regards to boats MR3567 is well sorted and you should be able to haggle on the price, as this was a Hollingworth boat until the owner had to retire due to ill health.

We sail on Sundays and Wednesday evenings.

30/03/2010 13:53:04
"Snorting" was built at the end of 1999.  I sailed her in three champs and two Salcombes, the first being 2000 as Andrew says.

30/03/2010 15:30:00
Like Sam we are looking around for a boat. Currently thinking about Poached Salmon and Satisfaction. Two ends of the scale! We are less likely initially to be doing class events and will be focusing handicap racing. Just wondered if anyone had any views either on the boats or what we would sacrifice for a much cheaper boat, assuming we love the class it would give us something to save for.

Thanks, Richard

30/03/2010 16:12:26
Nick 2997
Heavily depends what kind of water you will be sailing on: if you are going to be doing handicap races inland on restricted water, you really should look at older boats, as tacking speed is important. (Smokers)Satisfactions are particularly quick tacking boats.

30/03/2010 16:23:07
That's really helpful - we are sailing in Chichester estuary from Bosham which has a fairly long run up to the main channel.

Thanks, Richard

30/03/2010 20:31:29
Measurement Man

If you want to take a trip to the wild side and visit HISC over easter we will all be there over the weekend, and you will be able to look at merlins ranging in age from 3532 (wooden Rowsell), through 3491 (Turner composite), to 3656 (5 yr old Winder) to 3711 (new Winder).

Merlins in Chichester harbour are like Port & Stilton; smoked salmon and cream cheese; basil & tomato! They were destined for each other....

Any help that we can give, please feel free to call.

07837 239958

30/03/2010 22:58:43
David Wilkins
Hi Sam

We made the move from the 12 a couple of years ago. I still haven't sailed anything with an RS prefix so can't compare there, however I have heard RS sailors talking in the changing room saying how incredibly tippy the Merlin is - don't believe them, after the 12 it feels like an aircraft carrier!
Its taking us a long time to get anywhere near the pace offwind but Frances had never sailed a spinnaker boat before, also we are learning the tidal vaguaries of Poole Harbour so we both have a lot to learn. The 2 of you should be well suited. They are lovely boats and as you've seen already there are a friendly and helpful bunch of people sailing them. There were few decent glass boats around when we were looking and we ended up with an EZ Roller - doesn't seem to be anything much wrong with the design. Jon Gorringe managed to get his to go fast enough so we can't use the design as an excuse! They seem to be a little less in demand than similar vintage Winders.
Go for it!

31/03/2010 03:51:49

Another former 12 sailor in a merlin! Long time no see, good to hear from you.

We have a "try out" booked for 11th April. Then will hopefully get on the market.


31/03/2010 12:31:41
John Murrell

Long time no see too!

And I promise that you won't regret a move to a National Twelve +2'!

31/03/2010 19:12:56
Rutland Training

30 April, 1, 3 May.

thats the way to do it!

07/04/2010 18:49:14
Not sure we will make it to Rutland, looking forward to getting our "test sail" in this weekend (Sunday).

If anyone has a plastic boat they are looking to sell or knows of someone please feel free to email.

All the best



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