The 20th and 21st of May saw 21 Merlin Rockets racing at Starcross Yacht Club for the 2017 Exe Sails Silver Tiller. Once greeted by club members, sailors had a briefing with PRO Russell Gibbs who informed everyone of the windward-leeward course for the 3 races of the day.
Out on the race course, competitors found the conditions distinctly changeable. Pressure ranged from 5knots up to 25 knots in the squalls and the wind was shifting unpredictably from the WSW with the occasional outburst of blue sky sunshine, swiftly followed by heavy downpours making everyone's sailing kit of choice correct at some point-be it a drysuit or long john wetsuit! This was great for the windward-leeward course as it provided plenty of opportunity to overtake with many people taking different lines and angles downwind to stay in pressure and on shift. Upwind was much harder with boats finding gains on all corners of the course, making it tough for leaders to cover and any break away from the fleet a risky one.
In testament to the sometimes wacky conditions of the day and the close racing that is ever present in the Merlin Rocket Class, there were three different race winners, each having a different winning tactic and story to tell that night.
The overnight leaders were Sam and Megan Pascoe, of International 14 and 2.4 Metre fame.
Saturday evening the fleet enjoyed an Indian takeaway and plenty of drinks at the well stocked and cheap bar. Outside games were planned but everyone was found to be somewhat tired and weary after a hard day's racing.
Sunday dawned and greeted everyone with blue skies, sunshine and 15knots of breeze from the South-it doesn't get any better at Starcross! Glamour! With two races in a stable wind and against tide, speed and grunt was the order of the day. Having moved the race course to another part of the river, a "P" course was set, making for conditions vastly different to that of the day before.
Given the change of conditions, numerous new faces were seen contesting at the front of the fleet, including birthday Boy Will Henderson, another 14 name of fame. However, there was only one boat who dominated the day. Chris Gould and Chris Kilsby won both races in emphatic style and by quite some distance, clearly faster upwind and never appearing to put a foot wrong. This gave them the win and the hard earned Craft Insure Silver Tiller Series points!
A special mention has to be made to SYC members-James and Liz Wells who finished a fantastic second in the last race in their 17 year old wooden Merlin Rocket.
At the prize giving, bottles of Prosecco were given to:
A new Exe Sails Jib was also raffled to all competitors, presented by Sam Woolner of Exe Sails and was won by Dan and Pete again, a good haul given the long distance that they travelled.
Chris Gould and Chris Kilsby thanked SYC, its galley team, race management and rescue boats for putting on a great event at this idyllic Yacht Club.