Eligibility for De May series

21/06/2017 09:51:26
Is there a working weblink to the rules that apply for the DeMay and other classic/vintage Merlin racing?
I can find posts from 2015 which say that the most recent eligible sail number is 3357 and give some details ref handicapping but I would be grateful if someone can point me in the direction of the latest view.
Thanks in advance. 

23/06/2017 10:38:50
Ben Marshall
Thanks for your interest in vintage sailing. You are correct in that vintage is defined as 3357 and below. For 2017, most of the handicapping has disappeared with the aspects remaining being detailed in the recent Spring magazine. My copy has also disappeared (at my club !) so I can't quote from it. However, no spinnaker = +10 and then other similar values relate to ribbed boats, wooden mast and cotton sails. The 2017 year book features last year's handicapping and is incorrect for 2017. The next event is Huntingdon SC on 1st July but Dorchester 22nd July, has unfortunately, been cancelled. Please continue this thread if you require further information.
Ben Marshall 

23/06/2017 16:56:36
Tim Medcalf
Ben, many thanks for the feedback, that is helpful.  Yes, we are thinking about getting more involved in the later part of the summer.
It looks like the MROA events pages cover all DeMay events, is that correct? 
(Out of interest does the eligible sail number move upwards from year to year - i.e. it was 3357 in 2015 but presumably higher two years later?  I had also read that any Merlin older than 30 years is eligible).

24/06/2017 09:54:59
Ben Marshall
Hi Tim, Yes, the events pages are correct re the de May series, referred to as 'vintage racing'. The '30 year old rule' has been brought to a halt as we would soon be including modern designs such as Cantebury Tales after 1985. The Association has introduced a new classification of  mature boats to be :-
Classic (sail numbers 3358 - 3571)
Vintage (sail numbers 3357 and below)
Various events such as the Nationals should offer awards within these new categories and encourage racing and competition within the age range brackets. Hope this helps.
Ben Marshll 

24/06/2017 10:59:26
Tim Medcalf
Ben, thanks, yes that helps.
Just an observation (as my focus is vintage which looks pretty clear-cut) interesting that the distinction between Classic and Vintage is made on the basis of sail number rather than design, but that rhe rationale is design-related (i.e. that newer designs are faster than older ones). 
There are obviously designs that are present in both sail number bands (e.g. NSM2) so the sail number division of eligibility appears rather arbitrary so excluding some boats from participating in a comparable competitive set.  Would it not be fairer to make the division design-based i.e. so that all boats of a like era of design race together?

24/06/2017 15:05:27
Tim, I think you are bang on the money in suggesting that design should play a part in the setting of any PYs. Have you been following the work (and great discussions) over on the MR Revival Facebook Page. We've made some real advances in the creation of a far more focused PY system. Part of the thinking behind this is a desperate move to try to broaden the appeal of  older boats that might not otherwise be considered an attractive proposition for saving and renovation. A good example is the mortal remains of Shaft (see the spring Mag for more on this); builder Simon Hipkin may well be able to save this iconic boat, but where is the 'help' - compared with the Smokers and Ghost Riders of that era, it won't matter how good a job Simon does, the boat will struggle on the race course. The PY system isn't there to make an old wreck into a race winner, nor is that the intention. It would help though to level the playing field a bit.
There is though a downside. In my role as writer, covering the dinghy scene and with that lucky emphasis on the classic scene, it is hard to ignore the concern that the classic dinghy 'bubble' - far from expanding and maturing, may have burst. What classic activity there is out there is now found in the 'low rider' moths, Flying 15s, Finns and a few other more enlightened classes. For the Merlins, who have always been in the vanguard of the classic movement, there is a very real concern that they are perceived in some quarters as an irrelevance to the more important task of racing FRP Winders. There is a goodly number of real classics out there - boats in superb condition, owners who are long time members of the Association, who feel that they are not just unloved but unwanted.
The default answer to all of this is "turn up at your local ST" but that is demonstrably a non-starter. Other classes have also tried this approach, only to find that it has, quite simply, failed. Meanwhile, other classic activities are moving on....leaving the class that was once seen as defining the genre as left behind. It begs the question of base level interest; Is the MRoA there for ALL Merlins or just the mainstream plus a small group who do the DeMay.
It is a great debate that we ought to be having, for that would infer that we are after all an inclusive Association, there for all with the most wonderful  dinghy there is!

24/06/2017 16:55:58
Keith Callaghan


In 2011 more than two thirds of the Merlin Rockets owned by MROA members had a sail number of below 3572. The 2017 yearbook shows that we now have just under 60%.

A majority of Merlin Rockets owned by MROA members are either Classic or Vintage.  


25/06/2017 09:30:25
Chris M
It's easy to make the mistake of confusing willingness to travel with activity. There is more to sailing than driving 8000 miles a year round the circuit, and I would imagine that 2/3rds of our membership are very happy sailing their vintage/old/classic at their club as are a couple of hundred non members. This is borne out by checking the number of returns made for the Merlin PY against clubs with known fleets.

Regarding getting these boats travelling, I just don't think that the majority are interested. We have tried bribery with fleet prizes, it was not terribly successful - I think the main thing it achieved was getting Dave Croft to buy a newer boat! A n often alluded to handicap system is not going to happen without significant support (she can never form part of the ST - a reminder, we are a restricted class) and it is up to the owners of these boats to show us that it's worth our while. Miles is doing a great job if trying to drum up support and put on events for older boats. I have yet to see any real support apart from a few regular stalwarts.

This is indicative of where we are. I think expecting old boats to travel much more than 30 miles is a nonstarter - they are happy sailing where they are.

Does this affect their salvage potential? Frankly, no it doesn't. There will always be people who will take these boats on, espescially the best examples. The iconic dogs of the fleet, well it takes all sorts. But if you read through the N12 database of boats destroyed you'll find exactly the same. In thoroughbreds duff genes get bred out, these are racing dinghies and not many people will buy a 3 year old boat with a reputation as a hound. That means 40 years later there won't be many left..........

Just the way of things I'm afraid

25/06/2017 09:46:42
Chris M
Re base level interest. 

I'm really not sure what else we can do for club sailors besides offer what we do other than possibly come up with a better adjustment system for older boats which is highly subjective and not a five minute task!

I've said this before, numerous times!

We are delighted that people with boats of all ages want be Members. We would would be more delighted for them to choose to come and join in our events.

26/06/2017 12:27:28
Ian Mackenzie
To avoid any doubt - older boats are very, very welcome at the Nationals.
Yes, I know you will probably not be at the front of the fleet, although Dan (in 3539 - a 1996 Let It Ride) managed a highly creditable 25th at Penzance (2016) and at Whitstable (2015).
This year we already have entrants bringing a Summer Wine, Let It Ride and a Thin Ice.
At Whitstable we had a Let It Ride, a Joyrider, a Thin Ice, 2 NSM2, a NSM4 and a Gnome. So plenty of peer level boats from a similar generation. And probably lots of peer level skill as well even if they are in a brand new all singing all dancing Winderrocket.
So, come and be part of the Merlin experience. Tick the bucket list of a Merlin Nationals. I promise you that the tail end of the fleet will not be left trailing around for hours on the water.
We want ALL of the fleet at the Nationals. 

26/06/2017 12:30:25
The problem, as I see it and from what is portrayed from the Revival Group, is the lack of reference and assistance to owners of older merlins, the now non-competitive ones whether they were, as Chris mentions, dogs of their day or not. They are still Merlin Rockets.

Figures from Keith show that the majority of members of the MROA own such older boats. 

What is missing is their presence at events, well it has become evident that that is not going to happen.

Let accept that and see what can be done, Chris had also correctly pointed out that that most of the owners are happy with their wooden Merlins and sailing at club level. What they are not happy with is their boat getting handicapped out of existence at club handicap racing. It is this 'OUT OF EXISTENCE' we need to  address: the rest will sort itself out.

May I suggest that the MROA Committee, do as Chairman Chris has suggested, and address this sooner rather than later.

The old age related handicaps sort of helped, but were directly related to the current PY what ever that was. That didn't work.

A older boat sailing off 1055 (as the then handicap adjustment) suddenly got faster over time at it's home club.

Now that has got to be wrong.

I am proposing a handicap system 'purely for club mixed class racing' where the handicaps are worked out in a similar way to the Revival ones. And that this is then endoresed by the RYA.

With the proviso that the handicap for a given design is set, at optimum. e.g. race ready and latest gear. It would then be up to the owner whether he wants to adopt latest gear and sa23il to that particular handicap.  Such a scheme should then fit in with the hot rod DeMay boats.

Maybe a sit down discussion with Dougal regarding his data on handicaps is needed.

Another observation, If I were to be without t'internet, owned a 1960's Merlin since new what is there in the magazine for me. An older boats section, covering maintenance issues may be or something addressed at non plastic boats.

In short perhaps the solution is not to say, "come along and play, then we'll talk" but rather say, "what can we do to make your club sailing more enjoyable/competitive"

26/06/2017 17:06:26
Luna Rossa
If you want to entice older boats to the Nationals why don't you offer their owners & crews some incentive such as cut price bar prices or free beer.

26/06/2017 17:33:54
Ian Mackenzie
1/2 price Entry (£90 for 9 races plus full social programme), 5 nights camping accommodation for £62.50, 4 nights meals included in  the entry.
Safe, assisted beach launching.
Some older competition already entered.
If this isn't sufficiently attractive then what next? 
You'll want me to pay you to come!

26/06/2017 20:58:16
Chris Martin
To go some way towards answering Miles' post - this ramble is based upon my experience and feelings rather than any official stance (We dont have any official stance, a merlin rocket is a merlin rocket regardless of its age).
Handicap adjustments: As alluded to in another post, 2529 races went into the mix to generate our PY last year. Thats a lot of races given that only 7 clubs that I've counted have fleets that we know of. Two of those seven clubs have fleets comprised largely of older boats. Therefore the inescapable conclusion is that old boats go a long way towards generating our current PY, and that there are far more older boats sailing than we are aware of or give credit to. This should be no surprise really. By the rule of thirds there must be 1500 active boats out there sailing, of whom 500 are MROA members - the class would appear to be both strong and health at all levels, its just that the base level is quite hard to quantify. I suspect apart from a vocal few the majority of those sailing are pretty happy.
The Merlin is also unique in that at the top level its almost entirely an event class rather than a club class. This has been the case for a very long time. This generates something of a separation between the top tier of competition which is only really broken down at the few clubs with strong travelling fleets from which we get first information as to what is going on. We dont hear much from the more isolated boats of which i would think there are many looking at the data available.
Coming up with new age adjusted handicaps. I agree that the current ones are arbitrary and not terribly relevant. However to improve on them is incredibly subjective and will be exceptionally difficult. One set of numbers will not suit all venues - we have clubs on rivers/restricted water who are quite rightly and fairly running classic/vintage boats off of scratch because they are at little disadvantage if any. Likewise in lighter winds on virtually any water the same applies. Inevitably the better sailors tend to gravitate towards newer boats and accounting for crew skill factor is even more subjective than perceived speed of boat!
This is to an extent taken account of in the instructions for the use of the PY scheme. Clubs are encouraged to make local adjustments based on their own data. The RYA will not issue approval for anything we suggest, they have their system and guidelines for its use that cover our requirements.
Maybe what is needed is a set of guidelines as to relative performance and the effect of certain upgrades rather than hard numbers? What is needed is a comprehensive but simple to apply system that someone not necessarily familiar with Merlins can apply. This is where the current system works well.
This brings us to the next point. Its very easy to criticise an organisation run by volunteers - who is going to do this work? Its no five minute job. Who is going to write the magazine articles? Pat will publish what he is sent, and is always asking for copy. Contributions are always welcome, and done necessarily need to come from committee members. 

27/06/2017 09:25:36
Tim H
Well said Chris.
As one of the people involved in redefining the age related categories, I am interested to hear what is said here. However, two years on, I feel that we made the right choice on the age cut-offs... the design differences of roughly "up to NSM2" for Vintage, and roughly "NSM4 to the boarderline of Winder Mk1, etc." for Classic still apply. For what it's worth, there are mechanisms for those with newer boats of correct design styles to apply to the De May series (ref.  Luka, 3560).
I agree that a look at the handicapping might be beneficial, and I have always felt that this should not be joined to the main class PY number. That said, it is a guide and subject to local review (as with all PYs), so it is actually more relevant to ask your club to apply something that suits the prevailing conditions. Also, it is important for clubs to submit their handicap race data to the RYA for input into the overall MR PY... this is something that the MROA has almost zero influence on due the fact that we exclusively run fleet racing.
Ben, I am sorry the newer De May numbers got missed from the Yearbook - please remind me for next time round.
I am a bit concerned about the continued "MROA only cater for the modern fleet" sentiment... as Chris says; Pat publishes the good material he is provided... Ian has offered discounted Nationals entry for old boats (and I did last year)... we (I) tried running a Classic Tiller in the 2015 season and, despite lots of positive noises, the entry was insufficient to make it worth running again and those that did qualify were mostly sailing the Silver Tiller anyway. In fact in a couple of cases, it simply prompted people to buy newer boats... I think that club sailing is on the whole still pretty active and the majority are happy. The question that all this prompts me to ask those being vocal is: what is it that you would actually like done? And are you volunteering to do it?
I hope my thoughts add something.

27/06/2017 13:30:46
Tim, as I'm probably one of the ones referred to as being vocal, I am not criticising the Magazine, I merely stated an observation nobody puts anything in it for older boats, and I respectfully accept Chris's statement that this is because nobody sends Pat anything to put in it. 

As I'm one of those 'happy eccentrics' (to quote an article in the last magazine) I do tend to put my money where my mouth is, or walk the walk, If you don't try you don't find out, type of guy.

As to what I'd like done, a personal aim, as I've said many times, is the occasional timed race, and some handicapped results purely for comparison of whether someone is improving or not if sailing an old boat and always tagging along at the back.

As to who's volunteering to do it, I did. The Merlin Rocket Revival Fleet group is run by Me, we have handicaps worked out by David Henshall, We have Merlin meetings where these are applied.

We have a Revival Fleet Champion : Carl Whitehill.  

I know that I didn't sail well enough to beat Merlin Rocket No 16 on Handicap, and I don't think anyone else did either at the event Rick Knapp organised.

The simple findings from running the Revival Group, concur with what Chris has stated, most seem happy at their own club doing their own thing. The other thing that is clear, is that there is a tremendous interest in the older wooden boats, their history, their renovations etc..

The ethos of the Revival Group is to make older boats worthwhile saving and a chance to be competitive amongst themselves if nothing else.

In no way am I insinuating that the MROA are not doing their best.

Offers on the entry to the Championships just shows that they are doing their best.

27/06/2017 16:17:28
Chris Rathbone
Hi, Just looking at this thread and would like to put in my penny worth.

The main reason that we (2266) haven't travelled to vintage or other regattas is the fact that my son's school activities have been getting in the way! We hope to do some meetings before the year end and maybe more next year if we can. 
The question is, if we come to the Inlands, will you all be happy waiting around for us between races while we chug round? If you are, then we'll try and get there.

27/06/2017 16:47:16
Oh dear.....I'd been hoping that the main forum page for the Class was a better place to have the dialogue than  away on various other web pages and sites. First and foremost, we should be in no doubt that this is a dialogue that is worth having, simply because it is important to the many owners of boats out there that time is in a real danger of forgetting. There is a real yawning gap opening up that comes from an as yet unexplained dynamic. What is going on? What do we need to do to understand it and what actions can be taken to address that worrisome sentiment that  the MROA are only there for the newer boats. Because it is there and for some (maybe even many) of those on the outside, it seems very real. Now as one, who, like Miles, puts the efforts in, the feedback I get to the articles I write for the mainstream sailing media and the Mag (Pat knows very well that he rings up and copy is with him, corrected, in a matter of days; he's happy that he never has to chase me up) come almost exclusively from the owners of old to middle aged boats that might still have a life left for club and classic event.
You might be surprised how many people there are out there that, a bit like the UK electorate, do not seem to be engaged in any way. What I do know is that between them they've some wonderful boats but these seem to exist in their own little bubble! Why don't we seem them out sailing? Now I'm clear that we shouldn't get hung up on names but you might be surprised how negative the 'divvying up' of the non-mainstream fleet can be perceived. For Miles's Revival (and for anyone else who wants to use it) we worked up some far more descriptive terms (Prime of Life, Mature Ladies, Golden Oldies Etc) and some helpful and thoughtful PYs - Bosham used them for their Classic Boat Revival and they seemed a marked improvement on what had been used before. 
When I'm not doing articles for Pat the 'day job' is the writing of articles for the mainstream media and this gives me something of a privileged position of oversight. What I am seeing across the sport is a worry in that far from continued growth into a matured scene, classic dinghy sailing is at risk of fragmenting. You can tell this simply by the way the heat has gone out of the classic market on ebay!. Now that is not to say that the bubble has already burst but the whole thing is maybe taking a breather. There seems to be more going on in the world of old International Moths at present but elsewhere, there could be a real concern that interest and activity levels are on the wane. The Merlin Rockets were first into this area and might be the last to feel the pinch, but given how the Class has been the pace setter defining the classic scene, is it not worth asking the question "Is it time to be thinking again"?

28/06/2017 08:09:33
Chris Martin
We can have the dialogue Dougal - but its going nowhere!
Can I suggest as an interim solution.
1) We accept that the grass roots "bubble" for the time being are happy as they are and doing nicely thank you.
2) We will look into sending an MROA mag to key clubs on the RYA PY return list where we think there may be a boat or two sailing to see if we can get a few members - nothing ventured........
3) You send me your handicap data and I will - when/if i get chance - look into writing a set of guidelines for clubs based on some accurate data. I dont think a hard number is the solution, but i am fairly sure we can do better than what is there. If someone thinks they can do it in the immediate term, please say and you can have the job! 

28/06/2017 16:48:58
Ian Mackenzie
Hi Chris,
Just to answer your specific query re Inlands /2226. Yes please, come and join us, bring as many mates as you can and we will all have a great time. You will not be left "chugging around at the back". I am finalising the details with Burton but there will be on-site catering, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I expect overnight camping/campervans to be free. My email on the Champs website and in the Mag. Feel free to contact me. Cheers Ian 

29/06/2017 11:23:11
Latest De May results posted. Please contact Ben if any mistakes noted

29/06/2017 12:36:53
Andrew Mills
We did the Penzance champs last year in Heaven Sent.  2 observations, the 1st being that though we ended up right at the back of the fleet by the end of the races we didn't start right at the back and going the right way up the 1st and 2nd beat you are still in traffic even in an older boat.  We enjoyed ourselves on the water and we never felt we were in any way unwelcome on the race track or on shore.  The second was that the fleet of older boats competing was indeed very small.  This may have been because of the distance to Penzance but at previous Nationals there has been more of an older boat contingent, maybe there is an element of fragmentation here between the front runners and the ordinary club sailors.  I hope, Ian, you are able to attract more boats to Pwllheli.  It's a great venue and I enjoyed my last trip there, though on the down side there were only about 4 hours in total that week when it was comfortably warm in t-shirt and shorts!
As far as my own sailing in open events etc, I have not been able to participate as much as I used to simply because of other things competing for my time and energy.  Also, most of the boats on the circuit live on their trailers ready to go for the weekend whereas for most club sailors there is more work to do with the packing up for trailing, and I am sure this is part of the reason why it is so difficult to attract the boats we know are out there to go even to open events reasonably near their club.   If your boat is 30 years old it is likely your trailer is of the same vintage and probably only gets used twice a year to take the boat to and from the club where you sail.  The deterrent factor for an open meeting is packing up the boat, driving a distance on uncertain trailer bearings, unpacking it, sailing, then packing up again (which takes all day) as against pootling down the road to the club and going round the same old marks with some friends, having a couple of beers and going home.
Anyway, enjoy Salcombe everyone.  I am going in August instead.

29/06/2017 15:07:39
Rod Andrew
This subject comes up every few years, and interests us as the owners of 2 old Merlins virtually always sailing off a handicap; every time the PY falls another point our boats miraculously get faster & we have to work that bit harder.

However after giving it a lot of though over 30 odd years, I don’t really think there is an answer, nor anything really to be done. We sail our boats because we like ‘em. If you gave us the purchase price of a new Winder we simply would not be interested. If winning were important to us we’d have got the message & given up years ago. There must be many club sailors out there who feel like us & are happy sailing older boats.

Of course events attract the top end of the fleet, but we’ve never been made to feel unwelcome (on the very rare times we are there), and Pat was fast enough to accept our recent article on the restoration of 1711.

I should also say that in my attempt,- which was a dismal failure!,- to attract older ex-UK boats to Carnac I received nothing but help and encouragement from our committee.

Rod & Jo


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