Results :: Salcombe Y.C. Open Meeting
38 Merlin Rockets came to contest the St Austell Brewery-sponsored open meeting at Salcombe YC, part of the Silver Tiller series sponsored by Craftinsure. No less than four current Olympians plus the vast majority of the front of the fleet regulars would make for seriously hot competition, and the ever fickle conditions at Salcombe would mean that no boat was safe until over the finish line!
Saturday dawned sunny, but with a chilly breeze of around force three blowing up the estuary. The tide was also flooding quite strongly, meaning that the edges were going to be the place to be off the line and things were going to be rather tight! The fleet got away first time, but several boats over on the Mill Bay side were to discover that the large JCB returning the sand to Smalls Cove after the winter storms was indicative of wider re-landscaping elsewhere. The water depth - especially off East Portlemouth - is substantially shallower than last year and at least two boats suffered race ending foil damage. The race was won by Stuart Bithell, crewed by Kate McGregor who carried a huge lead throughout the race. Matt Biggs and John Hackett came in second, with Jon Gorringe and Toby Lewis third.
All boats managed to effect repairs and the entire fleet returned for the second race. Someone obviously thought they needed more time as a general recall was needed to get the fleet away. Things were much tighter in this race, which was won by Andy Davies and Tom Pygall, with Stuart and Kate having to settle for second and Fellow Olympians Luke Patience and Christian Birrell in third.
Sunday was to be a very different day. The gradient breeze – what there was of it – was blowing out of Batson creek out of the estuary, and the tide was just coming off the ebb into slack water. It was all about where the patches of wind were and which direction they came from in this one, on the way up to Gerston for the first leg Alan Warren and William Carrol were looking good, however from the terrace it was difficult to see what was going on and we were forced to wait until the fleet reappeared out of the bag. When they did reappear fleet veteran Richard Dee, crewed by Chris Gould had wriggled their way through the bag to take first place by about 6 inches from Simon Blake and Phil Dalby. Richard admitted in the post race interview that he'd left it a bit late to stage a 470 campaign, but was happy to act as a pacemaker if required.
So all was to play for in race four. Taxi and Tom ideally needed a win, but second would do provided team Bithell/McGregor were fifth or lower. By now the tide had finally started to think about flooding, but it was becoming quite a warm day and the sea breeze could have a impact depending on when or if it made an appearance.
The fleet got away first time, though there were a couple of boats OCS. The gradient breeze had increased slightly but was still very patchy and again was blowing out of Batson. The fleet when it reappeared out of the bag was very tight, a battle was taking place between Richard Whitworth/Andrea Ralph, Taxi and Tom and Staurt and Kate with a pack of vultures behind ready to pounce on any unfortunate placement of breeze. Richard/Andrea and Taxi/Tom had little between them heading past the club however Richard and Andrea had a large lead round Blackstone, but promptly sailed into a black hole around 100 yards behind the finish line. This was the moment that the sea breeze chose to make an appearance, up went Taxi's spinnaker and he was looking good to steal the race until he sailed into the same black hole as Richard, around 4 lengths behind him and they crossed the line in this order.
Looking behind, Matt Biggs and John Hackett had wriggled past Stuart/Kate into third and fourth and it looked like they were going to finish in this order and Stuart and Kate to win the meeting – but they sailed into the black hole! Steve and Gill Leney – who must have rounded Blackstone in 12th place – had picked up one of Salcombe's "heavenly" gusts and promptly sailed up the – till this moment unfavoured – town side in almost planing breeze to take fourth place, and hand the meeting to club mates Taxi/Tom.
So, Andy Davies and Tom Pygall won the meeting, Stuart Bithell and Kate Mcgregor were second and Richard Whitworth and Andrea Ralph third. The Turner Tan lines in the dinghy park afterwards shoed that the fleet had had a great weekend in fantastic weather – Bring on Merlin week 2014!