Ze French Trip!

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As a brief introduction to why we went to France, some of you may remember an item of correspondence in a Merlin Rocket magazine a few years ago from Gerry Burnham. Gerry, who will be familiar to many of you, moved to France and suggested the estuary close to his new home would be an excellent venue for sailing Merlin Rockets, so why not come across and have a go. The idea gained further momentum when a local boat builder, a Mr Yves Jambon, started buying up old Merlin Rockets (you may remember the photo in a previous magazine with a Merlin Rocket on the roof of a car) and there are now some ten boats actively sailed over there.

A potential trip to France had been discussed at Committee on several occasions over the past few years. However, at the Away Day in January of this year, it was decided to bite the bullet and go for it !!!! Jennie King took it upon herself to research the traveling details and associated costs and the rest of the committee would spread the word and encourage people to attend. It was hoped that about a dozen Merlin Rockets would sign up for the trip, hence making it worthwhile. Nobody could have imagined, at the outset, the success of the trip with some twenty three boats making the journey.

So that sets the scene for why we went but what about the trip itself?

The majority of the travelers converged on Portsmouth on Thursday afternoon (28 March 2002) in readiness for the 8pm crossing. Several people “doubled up” by using a double trailer to help spread the traveling costs and divert more funds to the beer kitty or car repair kitty (more about that later) !!! It must be said that the sight of two Merlin Rockets traveling on top of one another made an impressive sight and made it much easier to spot people on the M27 motorway !!!

At 8pm we were ushered onto the ferry but things started badly for our Chairman who managed to smack the wing mirror of a parked Volvo………..double stacker 1 – Volvo 0 !!!

Being a Bank Holiday weekend the ferry was understandably very busy with only a few people getting on the boat in time to sort out a dinner reservation. The exception being those professional party animals from Hampton who managed to secure a table in the bar area and an early dinner reservation…….what do the rest of us do wrong ??!!??

Having been suitably fed and watered most people made their way to the bar and bopped the night away before retiring to their cabins for a few hours sleep before the serious action started on the Friday.

On departing the ferry in St Malo we were greeted by fantastic weather which was an omen for things to come. Everybody made there way to Plouer Sur Rance, located on an estuary about 15km inland, and some made the trip faster others, mentioning no names…………Guy Wood who had to be guided in by mobile telephone !!!! Mind you, someone had an even more eventful trip than that believe it or not. Andy Jones, having been an extremely late addition to the party, traveled from Poole to Cherborg on Thursday evening. Being a much shorter crossing Andy should have made it to St Malo just in time for a few cheeky pints before retiring to his hotel room. Unfortunately on arriving in France, he noticed he was low on diesel but decided to fill up on route rather than use the service station in Cherborg….fatal mistake !!! Little did he know that many of the stations in France are now self-service and the French have a pin number which allows use of a credit card. To cut a long story short, Andy could not fill up anywhere and had to resort to sleeping seven hours in the car until a manned station opened the next morning……..what a way to start your holiday !!!!

The sailing was kept quite informal with a number of short races run on each of the three days. Credit must go to the local race officer, Phillipe, who kept things moving very smoothly and set some fine start lines and courses. The highlight of the sailing was a long race on Saturday whereby the fleet had a reasonably long beat to a mark up the estuary followed by a long run down the estuary passing under two road bridges. The sight of all the Merlin Rockets running under the bridge with the sun glistening off the water was nothing short of awesome. Hopefully the photo below does some justice to the spectacular backdrop to the sailing venue.

In terms of the onshore facilities, although there was no actual sailing club, a Mr Loisel basically allowed us to take over his café called La Cale des Moulins and made us all feel extremely welcome…….not bad considering he is French !!!! The social highlight of the weekend was a slap up meal on the Saturday night in Mr Loisel’s restaurant. Everyone had a great time apart from the waitress who had to serve all eighty of us single handed, although I expect the £100 tip at the end of the evening eased her aching limbs !!! Mr Jambon gave a short speech (in French) which was ably translated by Rod Andrew (of English domicile but having lived in Belgium for the last 25 years). We were told that Mr Jambon was overwhelmed by how people had traveled over and was extremely grateful for the opportunity of seeing so many beautiful Merlin Rockets. Mr Jambon then rounded the evening off by playing his guitar and singing us a song. A top night was had by all !!!!!

The racing on Sunday consisted of several feature races whereby helms and crews swapped and some of the French sailors were taken out (not literally that is !!!) by their English counterparts. Everybody had another great day even though the weather was overcast and the wind extremely fluky. All the sailors then spent a lazy afternoon packing up their boats and sinking a few sunshine pints.

Having returned to our hotels to change, most people descended on St Malo on Sunday evening for a slap up meal and to exchange tales and anecdotes of their weekends………..plus the consumption of a not inconsiderable quantity of alcoholic pop !!!!

Unfortunately Monday morning dawned which meant dealing with hangovers and the knowledge we all had to return home. Although the ferry home was some eight hours most of us got back to our abodes by 9pm, not bad for an open meeting in France !!!!

In summary, the weekend was an extraordinary success and hopefully will be the first of many trips abroad. Special thanks are due to Jennie King and Gerry Burnham for all their organizing and well done to all the participants for turning up because without them, the weekend would not have happened.

If only we were still there...

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