Dear Merlin Teams.
As you may imagine, the scale and dimension of the 2017 Merlin Week waiting list this year is a concern to us at SYC; just as much as to those on it.
However for any who may have missed it, we will not (and we believe legally, could not) introduce a retrospective ballot for the 2017 entry.
We can therefore only focus on 2018 when perhaps the problem may be even more acute.
One option, is to hold a ballot to select entrants from initial applications. By this forum post could we invite your views specifically on this idea? Ideally by AM 10th November 2016 so we can discuss it at SYC?
I should emphasise, we are (very) reluctant to alter the sailing format of the week, be it race numbers or start line location. It plainly works.
So: your views just on the ballot idea, please.
We will then discuss the outcome with the MROA committee to decide what to do for the future and report back.
Many thanks everyone.
A few thoughts around the ballot.....
If entries are oversubscribed by 20% this assumes that core class members will miss on average one year in 5.
Salcombe accommodation is confirmed some time ago if staying in the same house which can be key for large groups and very expensive if some members of the group do not secure an entry.
It's potentially open to abuse. People entering helm and crew separately etc. to maximise chances and then withdraw assuming one is successful. Even if loosing a deposit this seems a small price to pay if you have already forked out on accommodation.
Agreed the race format clearly works. The start lines could be pretty frisky but how possible is upping the entry to 140?
As a few have already pointed out Salcombe Holiday Homes and Coast and Country Cottages are now doing the accommodation booking at the end of September so if you book your accommodation and then don't get an entry that would be pretty annoying.
Perhaps the entry date should be moved forward to the week before the main accommodation providers do the re-books.
Mind you the way the holiday firms keep advancing this date it won't be long before we are booking next year before we have been this year !
This is from me, not from the committee.
It comes back to what i said before - we have 160 applicants for 120 places and however you decide who is "cut" 40 people will be unhappy.
That being the case we need a system to decide who is in and who isn't. Both the ballot and the first come first served approach have benefits. The overwhelming attraction to the first come first served approach is that it is completely transparent. You can see the entries filling online as they come in. There can be no accusations of skullduggery going on in the background. Maybe 9:00 on a weekday was not the best time to open entries, but the problem that we have isn't the system, its that noone anticipated such a quick sell out. Everyone had the opportunity to make alternative arrangements if they couldn't be near a computer, but some didn't see that they would need to.
All that said, lets see what then state of play is after today. Things might look rather different!
My view is that a 2 week early entry option for those who have attended at least 2 or 3(?) Silver Tiller events or the Champs would mean that those who take their Merlining as a key hobby, and are therefore 'core competitors', could not lose out to those who take it as 'just' a nice holiday. Before someone says it (and as a this year's champs organiser), this is meant to encourage greater involvement throughout our events rather than to sound elitist. With the entry date being in November (i.e. after the end of the ST), the class can provide details of who's in and who's out and it is fairly indisputable in terms of fairness.
The rest go onto a ballot or first come first served basis (with an accurate start time!).
I also think that no refunds should be given without a very valid (SYC to determine) excuse - this ups the barrier significantly to speculative entries.
How about making the entry only available to current members of the MROA. Membership number to be entered upon entry.
...or run it as a Dutch Auction. Open the entry at 09.00 with a starting price of £235. Every hour the price drops by £10 until it reaches the base price of £155 after seven hours. You can pay a premium to secure an entry early in the process or take a risk and hold on for a lower entry fee. All additional proceeds would go behind the bar!
Part of the current success making it so popular is the open entry and friendly atmosphere generated by a complete range of competitors from all etchelons of the fleet including visitors from other fleets.
I agree that all helms should be MROA members but any entry qualifications that mean a select few pre-qualify for entry in my opinion would be a step in completely the wrong direction - Merlexit ?
Have a ballot or first come first served for all. As long as the rules are clear I don't think it makes any difference.
Surely we could find a way to include people rather than exclude them? Would it be so bad to add an extra couple of flights and an extra race? - that's my preference.
On the subject of ballots I'm not so keen - so you might not get in one year but there is no guarantee you would get in the next year (or the year after) unelss of course there was some complicaated points system where you get a better chance if you missed out before. We certainly need to know what the system will be before commiting to bookling accommodation. Whatever is decided a ballot is going to leave a number of people very disappointed.
Well Tim F, Mrs G has mixed the table up tonight, so this is something we might usefully discuss over After Eights and Coffee ...
******* Time out guys **********
Graham asked for our views on a ballot only.
There are loads of other options that we are all aware of, some attractive some not. Reading between the lines a ballot is currently a change that might find favour, so thats what we've been asked about.
Lets keep this thread as Graham has requested. Any other suggestions I'd prefer to see dealt with privately - to be honest i'd rather not have this quite so public but whats done..............
Leave it as it is. 120 people managed to enter on time and lobing them out again would not be favourable to me. Next year though, if you say it opens at 9am, can you open it at 9am and not 8.40?
I am sorry people are going to miss out but that's life isn't it? They might not miss out yet anyway. I like Tims idea of making it non-refundable unless there is a really valid reason.
When I first started going to Salcombe Merlin Week entry was by the ballot system and as has been said that caused issues with accommodation, you either took the risk and booked early or waited then booked a house up the hill as that was all that was left and took crampons to get to it.
Even then it was very important to ensure your were on top of your admin as if you were not drawn in the ballot your place on the waiting list was dependant on the order in which entries (postal) were received.
I'm not a fan of the ballot for this reason and the fact that you could miss out for several years before being lucky.
I have a view on an alternative which I'm happy to air else where but this was a thread about the ballot system and I for one say no thanks to that method of entry.
Graham Cranford Smith
Tim F: your entry fee scale of doom is interesting! Await final solution tomorrow after you have discussed with David G and enraptured your dinner company in the process.
In the meantime, thanks all. Time for a beer, I think. It has been a long week.
I'm with Martin, Rob and Chris and against a ballot system.
I would particularly dislike a system which invited certain crews to participate and then operated a different system for the rest. I'm favour of the most egalitarian approach for what is most people an opportunity to sail with mates and family. Ballots are opaque and can be too easily construed as being devisive and open to abuse even if this is largely perception and not fact.
The mix of crews who race makes it special - more like the grand national than flat racing. If bronze, silver and gold fleets are desired then the nationals are only a few weeks later. - why not transfer some enthusiasm to those?
Accommodation issues are a real problem for anything other than first come first served and a ballot could easily split groups who share accommodation or families who travel and sail together. Even with the current system people may have booked accommodation and had to cancel. Aligning the two things would help.
The geography of the location makes it special and also limits the size of fleet who can race at one time. Maybe we only get away with 60 boats starts because quite a few don't turn up for one reason or another. I would be against diminishing the experience by trying to cram in more boats or cycle the fleets through more quickly at extremes of tide just to fit a few more in.
Its a fairly expensive week of sailing for a family with two boats as it is - Salcombe aint a cheap place to stay! Obviously different to the cost for crews who kip on someones floor and share the entry costs at the other extreme.
I understand an imperative to make hay while the sun shines and get as many sailing as possible, but babies and bathwater come to mind - or is it geese and eggs. We may be back to 80 entrants next year who knows?
I also remember the ballot system when entries were sent by post. It was said that some people drove down to Salcombe to ensure that the paperwork arrived at the correct time.
To answers Graham's question - I would not be happy with a ballot system - and will not repeat all the reasons stated above. SYC need to devise a way of ensuring all who wish to sail have the opportunity - but that's another story
Graham, hats off to you already, there is a beer with your name on it when I next see you at the bar!
It's been a while since we had something like this get people talking on the forum :-)
On the question of ballots, not a massive fan
On other suggestions I'll drop you and Chris an email for starters, but let's not treat this like a hideous problem, it's great so many people want to go sailing and I look forward to seeing 160 merlins at some of the winter events, on the ST circuit, the champs, Carnac...
Morning, I still believe the 3 races a day is achievable and would only require an earlier start with slightly smaller flights and can be added retrospectively. As only 4 on the reserve list, I will hopefully be ok, but that does not solve the issue for others
There is a serious issue with accommodation and the ballot system unless it is run much earlier and people are forced to provide concise qualification information in the submission
Personally I believe that it should be first opened up to existing MROA members on a first come first served basis with pre-requisite of membership No. and boat No. if in build, proof of the fact with slot number, plus what MROA events have you attended in the last 2 years. This would give clear and concise information and potentially avoid speculation. It would disadvantage some, but mean that they would need to plan ahead as those of us who run the events have to (usually 2 or more years ahead) and have invested lots of money in our precious Merlins
Using the event to invest back into the fleet's other attendances throughout the year rather than just borrow a boat for the week is the way forward. Without the owners investing in the MROA and class building program the week would die in time as boats became unusable. This would not be elitist but a pragmatic approach
Stuart Bates MR3615
I would be against the Ballot System, rather a better timed opening of the entry list to one earlier in the year and at a weekend.
Ballots and first come suck. The fairest way is to give priority entry to those who competed last year
I still favour the ballot system,with entry earlier to ease the accommodation dilemma.
A ballot would also address the danger of an IT failure on the closing date, which the current system risks and which would be a disaster.
Well done Graham for taking all this on. And the committee for looking for a solution.
I'm afraid I'm not a fan of the ballot.
On a couple of points made by others, it's worth noting that the 08:40 (as opposed to 09:00) entry had no impact - it took 2 hours to sell out. Also - before we switch entry to a weekend - don't forget that a load of us go sailing at weekends!
Im not really sure the system is broken - does it need fixing?!
I think the system may now be broken. Last year the event sold out in 4-5 days, this year people recognised that and it sold out within 2 hours. Next year there will be even further recognition of this issue and it may sell out in 10 minutes. That won't really be about first come first served, that will be about fastest fingers, skipping non-mandatory fields and hitting return the fastest. Which I would suggest is unsatisfactory.
The ballot seems an unpopular option. I don't subscribe to Tim M's idea of previous entries having priority, that would end up in the class appearing to be a closed shop, and I also don't feel that there should be any distinction between standard of sailor.
Being a pre-existing member of the class, albeit you could become a member just before, (for example if new to the class) seems sensible. If nothing else it saves Colin's headaches getting subs throughout the year.
I'm not sure about qualifying through ST entries, an active club sailing member of the MROA has just as much right to enter as I see it.
Although I would love to take part in a 150 boat event, I can't see exactly how it would work. One possibility discussed in my kitchen this week was 6 flights, and every flight races every other flight only once. I.e. 5 races sailed by each boat. This would be 15 races to sail over 6 days rather than the current 12. So three races for the race committee to cope with on three days. Possibly not insurmountable. And a layday but depends which flight you're in as to which day.
I don't actually advocate this above suggestion. I like it how it is.
And I don't know the answer to the entry question. Maybe priority to boat owners is one thing. Nothing wrong with allowing borrowed boats but for such an oversubscribed event it is a reasonable thing to use to limit entries. Sort of goes hand in hand with the membership of the MROA.
I have total faith in SYC and the MROA committee giving this full consideration over the next 12 months so won't worry about it until then.
Interesting topic for sure, and I agree with Matt on the mammoth task it is to get this right so well done Graham and the team at SYC.
I disagree with the 08:40 opening as opposed to the 09:00 opening being of no consequence - I think it opens up the club to all sorts of speculation - were any participants told it would open early? were any invited to enter early?
I would have been seriously annoyed if I logged on at 09.01 this year (or next year) to find all of the places filled before 09:00.
Likewise the payment date (and amount) were both changed after the link to enter went live - not a big deal in itself but there is a whole year to sort this out between events.
Dan is right that any electronic system could fail with 135 entries simultaneously - unless it really is bullet proof and well tested - keeping things as light touch and simple is usually the better solution. Follow that to an illogical conclusion and we get bigger servers with more capacity and a team of IT guys to run it - lets not over complicate it.
Whatever system we end up with, consistency and transparency needs to be demonstrated to put the club beyond reproach and avoid being embroiled in the side issues.
I too would like to prevent speculative entries clogging up the list, but equally not crazy about having to produce a doctors note to evidence why I cant make it to the event. Whatever rules the club decided on should ideally be even handed and not penalise anyone with a genuine reason for not attending.
Nor do see the reasoning for having to do a certain number of ST or other MROA events each year to become eligible for this event. Lets not make it harder for newcomers or possible converts to the class to enjoy what we've all enjoyed for years.
As Matt says - is it really so broken? will may see everyone on the list sail this year anyway.
I'm against the ballot system,.....done correctly who would want to win salcombe if say taxi ,mike calvert, richard whitworth ,pottsy, gouldy,mr fells or Mr W didnt get in to name but a few?...bit of a hollow victory i.d say,....but it could happen,the digs complications been covered above also.....Tims idea s a non starter,very anti where the class is at present.......
The non-starter would be having invited entry for the prizewinners (no one has suggested that yet!) however for 2017 we appear to have the situation where some of the prizewinners will not be able to defend their title. Which is totally unacceptable. A closed shop would be have an elitist or overly onourus entry requirement, that would put people off. Giving first refusal to those who came last time is the same as a lot of the holiday accommodation. I would suggest that giving first refusal to ALL those who raced last year isn't elitist, it ensures those who want to defend their title (or even personal battle further down the fleet) can do if they want to.
Back on topic please guys - SYC have this in hand and we have a year to sort it out.
Please just answer the question asked
Not keen on the idea of a ballot but I would prefer that to the opportunity becoming very limited because of priority entries ?
I'm not in favour of a ballot.
How about first refusal given to previous years 120 entrants who pay in full (non returnable). If fully paid up entry isn't received by September they forfeit there position.
Then the waiting list kicks in on a first come basis.
Of all the sensible comments above, the most sensible of all are Fran's. I agree with her entirely.
I do not support a ballot.
There is an element of deja vue here. We had this problem when I was chairman when entries were limited to 92 (2 starts of 46). To increase participation we tried gold and silver fleet qualification during the week by running 4 starts a day - it was not a success. I seem to remember the problem of entries self corrected itself and we went back to the system we have now. I am sure SYC and MROA cttee will come up with a plan and we should support whatever they decide.
Re Balloting - I'm not in favour.
Key is timing - whatever system is used entries ideally need to be resolved by end of Sept so roll on accommodation bookings can be confirmed.
Suggest no decision needs to be taken about 2018 until all avenues to extend the entry numbers are exhausted.
Tim's suggestion of letting the incumbents sign up for the following year has some merit.
The entry oversubscription is probably due to a majority of normal club sailors preferring the Salcombe format to the Nationals so their interest should perhaps be paramount. Salcombe shouldn't turn itself into another Nationals but retain, as far as possible, the wider range of support from Merlin owners. I would guess two thirds of the 160 potential entrants fall into this "club" sailor category.
Re John Cs and Ruth's comments - suggest the main reason the previous attempt at 6 flights didn't work was the split occurred too soon (after 3 races) when all flights hadn't had the opportunity to race against each other. If 6 flights raced against each other once over the first five days and then (taking a leaf out of the Olympic format) there were medal races on the final day (say Gold, Silver and Bronze) this might be more acceptable. This compromise would allow more participation (6 flights x 25? = 150 entrants) more income for SYC and the Town with fewer, or no, disappointed Merlins. With 50 boats on the line, instead of 60, it might also be possible to keep the fairway open to other craft during starts to ease the harbour masters job.
Just some thoughts, building on some of the other comments, but as always it's SYC's week in conjunction with MROA so we all wish them well.
Ok, we are where we are this year and there is a waiting list and hopefully at least half if not more of the people on the list will get a place. I am not in favour of changing the present format of the week as it has taken quite a bit of work to get to where we are now. The Gold and Silver fleet solution with 8 starts a day really didn't work and having a lay day doesn't appeal to me either. We are definitely on the limit with 60 boats on the start line. I agree that Salcombe week attracts many more ordinary club sailors than the Nationals, and always will. Looking at the entry list there are very few people on it who have not either sailed at Merlin week before or competed regularly at open meetings, the problem therefore is twofold, one that there is an increased number of active boats in the class willing to make the trip and the other that because of the fear that the week would be oversubscribed everyone who had half a thought that they wanted to compete next year has put in an entry. The 1st of these is a good problem for the class to have and the 2nd is quite tricky to solve as it means denying a place to some people somehow. The ballot makes this a random thing rather than a fastest finger competition. If all the mid- and back of the fleet sailors get pushed out the week will change its nature. The class could consider a seeding if the hot shots would be upset at not being able to compete for the top 10 places?
Graham Cranford Smith
Just to confirm, we are reading all of these and to thank everyone for their valued input.
For me, No to ballots and preferential entries based on S/T attendance/last years position/etc. There are events in other sports with many hundreds of entrants still using FCFS and yes, some are disappointed but they'll probably get to go next time.
Yes to more flights, three races a day doesn't seem to be beyond the capabilities of the excellent team at SYC, and would allow more entrants and ease the start line congestion.
Could I just put in a plea for those (not me!) who find themselves still on the waiting list when the first 5-minute gun sounds? Many similarly over-subscibed events do guarantee entry to the following year's event to those who do not work their way to the top of the waiting list in 'year one'. This prevents the 'there's no point applying because I never get in' mentality becoming pervasive and such applicants could, with certainty, book accommodation for 'year two'.
Coming back to the thread
6 instead of 4 flights with 3 races a day would work and as above noted would not require the channel to be blocked, but require earlier starts for the first flight. Then on the, and only (it would have to be only the final day) for the final day you grade the fleet into 3 flights and hopefully we'd have a battle royal in the final for the Gold fleet. You could also introduce a loading on the final day, but do not think this would work. Doing this would give you 150 boats and an uplift in the whole experience as we'd have more of us there
It is clear that the 2 race 4 flight system is not up to the job anymore (broken) unless an increasing number of competitors are excluded each year by default.
I strongly think it is worth giving it a go in 2017 and seeing what happen. Upside is the waiting list gets in, downside a few may feel unhappy about their nocturnal capers being disrupted or motor boat sharing but a price worth paying I think.
Graham lets be brave and take the step, and if it does not work, you can at least say we gave it a go (different to the previous one where the fleet was split to early which would p**s me off as well). Not doing so, will only cause some recrimination and bad feeling from some in the fleet due to the supply and demand. Nothing is perfect, life is competitive, but we evolve as a race as circumstances require or we'd all still be living on the plains running away from sabre tooth tigers etc
If you are going for an earlier start on Sunday particularly just bear in mind some competitors on Mill Bay still rely on the Portlemouth ferry to get them across - 1st ferry 0930...
Mark I know you're trying to helpful but PLEASE keep on topic.
SYC are aware of what they can do
We will find out what, if anything, they are going to do in due course.
My tuppence worth Graham .
A ballot could work but first there should be a priority window for Merlin committee members, fleet captains, the race team, their helpers, admin team, particularly rescue. Basically all those who put so much hard work and effort into the class. Not in my personal view based on previous results or attendance.
I agree with Tim no refund, only perhaps if the space can be refilled and only before a certain date, (allowing for people to sort accommodation)
Was it not the case 8 or 10 got in off the waiting list last year? so one would hope that will repeat itself.
If there were a way to discourage those boats typically sailing just one race (albeit they may have had valid reason) that could free up another 5 places ?
The entry limit was increased marginally to 126 as was the case in 2014?
That's hypothetically maybe 20 more deserving places
This potentially leaves 18 disappointed, (based on this years entry waiting list of 38), but with no refund in my view a ballot might not actually be necessary in 2018
Since keeping on topic seems impossible..............
We - in my opinion - need not talk about 2018 at this stage. We have a year to sort this out, and theres no point in stressing about out yet.
Priority entries for groups of people seem an effective, attractive way of getting the "keenest" merlin rocket sailors an entry. But the downside is that every time you make a judgement about the value of someone's entry you risk being seen to devalue the entry of someone else. Also looking at this years entry in practice such precursors to a priority entry would make little, if any, difference to who would actually get to go.
Lets see what SYC come back with. Theres a long way to go to 2017 yet and a lot may happen.
Given that Salcombe is a far bigger event than the Nationals, the solution could be quite simple.
Those who compete in the Nationals 2017 et seq. get priority for a place at Salcombe the following year. Those places unfilled are then drawn from the remaining (non priority) entries. The possible benefits:
Larger National entry,
Crews who can only do one week long event per year could be guaranteed Salcombe entry every other year by alternating between Nationals and Salcombe.
Top teams would tend to get in automatically each year as they frequently do both events.
There is always the fall back of the ballot or draw for entry if all else fails.
It strikes me this could bring transparency to the process of getting a guaranteed place in Salcombe, and removes grounds for complaint based on prejudice and injustice.
The only problem with this method could arise if the number of Nationals competitors exceeded 120. However unlikely that may seem, it could happen, but would surely buy many years to think of a better system.
That Steve is the same as my thinking for ST entries, I am concerned about dwindling ST event entries with 26 qualifiers against 167 boats sailing one or more event and 67 boats doing just 1 event.
I like the idea of ST qualifiers being offered a Salcombe place as it potentially shares the benefits of larger ST event entries around more clubs so all ST hosting clubs could potentially benefit, although to be honest I,m unsure if it would have a huge impact on ST qualifiers or the previously mentioned Nationals entries. I haven't checked (yet) but would be surprised if offering preferential entry to ST Qualifers and Nationals entrants based on 2016 results would amount to more than 55 boats prequalifying for Salcombe 2017, that's still 65 places up for grabs via first come or a ballot.
And yes some on the waiting list would have got a place ahead of others either hiring boats, new to the class or only attending one ST event....Controversial? possibly but fairer in my opinion than where we are this year and for the record I would not have benefitted from my own suggestion.
What a wonderful 'problem' to have in the class!
Ballot; no thanks. (Although if it does go down this route, then those who miss out should get priority the following year.)
Martin; I fully agree. Priority entry based on ST results. Let's use this demand to grow our class.
Priority should be given to boat owning, MROA members who demonstrate their commitment and give back to the class. Basing it on ST results is transparent and competitors may only need to do a few events, one of which is probably their home club Open. Everyone can see how they're doing through the year and if they want to ensure a place, then attend a couple more events.
I'm not in favour of a ballot. If entry is based on ST entry will the regional circuits suffer? I certainly wouldn't bother doing regional only events (which I thoroughly enjoy) as I'd rather give myself an improved chance of entering salcombe the following year if those were the rules. Agree current mroa members and boat owners should get priority. However while it inevitably means some will be unhappy I think first come first served is only way, works (imperfectly) in every other walk of life. By all means try to increase numbers on start line, there are rarely 60 each day what with gear failure etc anyhow. Thankless task to agree a system that works for all and well done Graham and SYC for opening the debate
It seems I have been using the wrong word to describe the system I favour for selecting next year's entries. I should have used "DRAW" rather than ballot, the latter being a secret vote. Hoping this has not confused the issue.
Stuart Bates MR3615
As an aside to this, I wonder if there are any statistics on how many entries are received against how many withdrawals. At the moment we are at the stage where everyone wants to go, before life gets in the way and stops that. If the figure is around 25% drop out rate then 160 entries for a 120 boat event is about right, so I feel that we should have a bit of caution in what changes are made before this impact is assessed.
It may be better for people to sit back before we jump to decisions, and if there is still debate how about a meeting for competitors at next years event to discuss any possible changes before any decisions are made, giving time for thoughts to be mulled over?
Dont worry Stuart, thats exactly whats happening.
Theres clearly nothing "broken" with the event itself, and last year everyone who wanted to sailed. Ok last year the list was shorter, but i'd guess 10 or 12 people dropped out?
I think about 20 got in from the waiting list last year
A bit late to this one.
My view would be that preference should go to committee members, anyone who helps out for this event, current Salcombe title holders, MR owners, and finally anyone who missed out on the previous year's entry. Anyone left over after that would go into a ballot.
As one of those on the waiting list I think you don't fix what ain't broken! We've messed with the format before and gone back to what works for the majority. I'll be fed up if we don't get an entry in 2017 but would be very sad if Salcombe changed!!