Results :: Cookham Reach S.C. Open Meeting
|A decent forecast of 15-18 knots of wind was enough to entice 25 intrepid teams to enjoy a good jaunt up and down the Thames at Cookham over the weekend of 23rd & 24th April despite the freezing temperatures. Having drawn the short straw, I was to be Race Officer on Saturday and allowed to join the fun on Sunday. Having finished mid fleet, I somehow found myself best positioned to write a report too! So here you go: |
Saturday was the inaugural 2016 Vintage DeMay Trophy Open Meeting and what a delight it was to see 14 vintage Merlins lining up on the start line in the type of conditions they were built for in the first place. Don't let the fact that most of these boats are upwards of 50 years old, they are largely bedecked with carbon and laminate sails and the competition is just as fierce, but maybe slightly more jovial, than their modern brethren. The 1st start got underway with 2 boats pushing the line a little too much. Roy & Nick Reuter got off to a flyer, only to realise they were a good boat length over the Starboard biased line and one of the favourites, Martin Hunter & Marjaretha Herman, were also over and pinned to their course by windward boats for the best part of 3 boat lengths. However, sailing on the Thames is never straight forward and having returned to the line for a re-start Martin found himself able to avoid the holes others found themselves in and was back at the front by the end of lap one closely followed by Pat & Jilly Blake and newly engaged couple Alex Jackson and Rachel Alder. Battle commenced for the duration of the race with Alex and Rachel prevailing only to lose out on corrected times to Martin, Pat and Matthew Jones who had managed to close the gap whilst the battle raged.
By Race 2 Alex and Rachel where growing in confidence so much so that they bolted a fraction early and had to return to the line along with Tosh who in his very own fashion made us all laugh with his futile protests! Pat & Jilly Blake made the most of Alex & Rachel starting at the back and shot off into the lead pursued by Matthew Jones & Ben Ramage while Martin Hunter & Marjaretha Herman were forced to retire with gear failure. Not wanting a poor start to spoil their day Alex and Rachel sailed the race of the weekend to not only make their way back to the front, but also to take the win on corrected times too.
Race 3 looked set to be a humdinger with 4 boats able to win the day with a race win, however, it was not be as Alex and Rachel had by now built up a head of steam and left the start line cleanly never to be seen again. This left Martin, Pat and Matthew to follow them home to finish in that order for the race and also the day. Race 3 was also Cookham Reach SC's Annual 'Guy Pearce Memorial Trophy' race in honour of one of our founding members who was also instrumental within the Merlin Fleet. This was a simple one race format with on the water positions counting and it was no surprise to see Alex and Rachel take this after a commanding performance all day.
Sunday was the second Thames Series Open Meeting of the Season and saw a further 10 boats turn out to compete for the historic 'Cookham Shield' first awarded in 1951 to Jack Holt himself. The wind and weather remained as per Saturday and upstream starts were again the order of the day. The fleet were well behaved (with the assistance of a strong Stream) and got off the line cleanly. The line was Starboard biased and it was clear that this was the end to be. The majority of the fleet started here with a couple of exceptions, including me, who got separated by a 40' canal boat coming through on 15 seconds! However, I sailed up the line on port across the back of fleet tacking onto starboard and by the time I re-joined the bulk of the fleet I was back into 4th place. Fran Gifford & Alex Warran took an early lead chased by Jen and Chris Dodds and Mark StockBridge & Eddy Atkins with Myself and wife Jo just behind. Within a lap Jen & Chris had got the better of Fran & Alex and Matt & Hannah Greenfield had sailed through me & Jo and Mark & Eddy to take 3rd Place. We chased Mark & Eddy hard but after a brief drop in wind the vintage boats of Alex & Rachel, Martin & Marjaretha and Pat & Jilly soon caught us and we struggled to keep them at bay. Alex & Rachel got through a couple of times but a frantic tacking battle up the bank saw us round the top mark in front pop the spinny and buy us enough space to hold 5th to the finish.
Race 2 was a little harder to report on as I missed the start due to a broken tiller extension UJ. A lesson to us all, change them regularly as they sneak up on you. However, I can tell you that I was joined at the back by Fran & Alex who made much lighter work of sailing through the pack to finish 5th just behind Mark & Eddy with Alex & Rachel, having a much improved race in 3rd and Matt & Hannah going one better in 2nd. This left Jen & Chris to take the win, the day and to retain the Cookham Shield for a second year for only the second time since Brian Southcott in 1961/62.
Race 3 was a little chaotic on the start line, despite being 3 boats down, and with 1st place in the bag it was a fight for podiums. Jen & Chris completed a white wash taking the race followed by a resurgent Alex & Rachel, Fran & Alex and Matt & Hannah. With these positions and taking away a discard it left all 3 on 5 points made up of a 2nd and 3rd each! So they were separated by the final race result and so this is how they finished the day. Mark & Eddy deserve a special mention having sailed a 4,4,5 only to be beaten by the same 4 boats consistently and hence pushing them to 5th overall.
There was one last trophy to be fought out in the final race which is Cookham Reach SC's 'Peter Flanagan Trophy' (another Merlin Class Stalwart) for the first Cookham Boat. Following our disaster in race 2 this was very much open between us and the Blakes who had 13 points to our 15 but we had the advantage of a 5th to their 6th. However, Pat & Jilly decided enough was enough and decided to miss the final showdown leaving us to finish 8th or better to retain the trophy for a second year. Not wanting to make it too easy we decided to make a complete hash of the start and fight our way back up the order. With a lap to go we were lying 9th with 2 boats just in front of us. A very good beat saw us push through to 7th and take the trophy although it would have been far nicer to fight for it head to head on the water.
A fantastic weekend all round and Merlin racing at its best mixing old with new demonstrating the versatility of the class through the years. The top 2 boats were separated by 3 points and 40 years! Cookham Reach Sailing Club would like to thank all the visitors for making it such a fantastic event and we look forward to seeing you all next year for more of the same.
By Jeremy Deacon
Guy Pearce Memorial trophy