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Salcombe Week 2006

Event sponsored by:
Marchand Petit
Wednesday night sponsored by:
Red Stripe
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With most normal classes preparing for their championships, a week of hotly contested yachting, Merlin Rocket sailors throughout the country had far greater concerns on their minds a week last Friday. Salcombe Week was looming and they still had not dug out their beach rounders set, crabbing kit or packed sufficient flip-flops to carry them through the week...and on top of that, they had to pack up a boat as well.

So once again Salcombe welcomed some 180+ competitors and a gaggle of hangers-on. What a welcome we got, non-stop sunshine, good steady breeze (well, for Salcombe at least) and a bar that seemed never to stop serving - happy days indeed!

Once the fleet had made the inaugural exodus from Batson Creek boat park (known locally as The Dump!!) to the idyllic and secluded Mill Bay, we were able to relax and unwind, do a spot of shopping, sup a few ales and gorge ourselves on countless ice creams. Sadly, however, these hedonistic days were to be short lived because come Sunday we had to go racing.

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The morning dawned to blue skies and a moderate easterly. Everyone toddled over to the beach to rig our boats surrounded by bikini clad beauties, half of whom were in fact competing, and I suddenly realised that perhaps this racing malarkey might turn out to be quite good fun after all. The first race was won by Willie Warren of Shoreham, ably crewed by Chris Robinson of Hollingworth. How these two manage to communicate speaking two completely different languages I am yet to comprehend, but they seem to do so rather well all the same. The second gong of the day went to Captain Dan Alsop and Jennie King, with the wind abating to their near ideal light fickle conditions.

That night half the fleet headed to the Winking Prawn, a beach side fish restaurant to die for, whilst the rest checked out the Ferry Inn with its newly extended licensing hours - 1am, uh oh spaghetioo. The outcome was inevitable, come Monday morning everyone looked as rough as a badger’s arse with the exception of Willie who had gone to bed early. Now I don’t know about you, but in my book there is a name for such behaviour, namely “outright cheating”.

Sadly I was unable to say this to his face the next day when we met on the beach, due to the smug grin that adorned his round features, having promptly gone out and won his second race for the week that morning (and by a convincing margin). The next race of the day was a far closer ordeal with boat builder extraordinaire Dave ‘don’t call me Johnny Vegas’ Winder battling away with past winner of the event Mike Calvert. At the end of the day Dave got the upper hand to sniggle ahead by the finish.

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Further down the fleet the usual suspects were all notching up good results with the exception of Frank Rowsell who was doing rubbish. Apparently sailing with broken ribs is not fast, but credit to him though for giving it a go, ever more so considering he managed a 4th and 5th before having to retire from the week under doctors orders. As we saw him sat in the pub everyday bathing in the glorious sunshine I suspect he was not too miffed at the outcome. Nevertheless, get well soon Frank.

Day 3 and there had still been no sighting of Warren Jnr, with the approach of sunset he was proving more ellusive than a certain terrorist leader. Will tried hard to gain a competitive advantage by hiding away in his flat to avoid any alcohol consumption which may hinder his performance. However his tactics were misguided as he was unable to hold back the medically defying performance of Dave Winder who having “nobbled” himself well and truly the night before, made a mockery of Will’s new regime. The other race of the day went to Tom Stewart who pipped husband and wife Mike and Jane Calvert to the post.

Wednesday bought with it breeze and, for the first ever time, controversy. The race committee was about to be protested. Although sailing a near perfect race Tom Stewart and Chris Downham were caught foul of the black flag, a constant danger at Salcombe where a general recall following the first start sequence is nigh on inevitable. Although the race committee believed Stewart/Downham OCS at the start they were unable to see their sail number and hence redress was given taking victory from Judith Massey and pushing John Bell down to 3rd. Notably this gave Dave Winder his first duff result of the week with a 5th. With the competition so tight at the top this effectively meant his discard was lost. The second race went to Boris and Johnny Toogood proving that 27 stone all-up weight in a Merlin with big baggy sails is bionic! The Calverts were 2nd, Rob Wilder of Tamesis 3rd, and Willie Warren 4th. This relativly poor result by Warren meant the top spot was wide open again with the first five places all within three points of each other.

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Even with such close competition the usual fun and games continued. Beach rounders and long walks during the day with spectators being spoilt for choice with how to entertain themselves. Yet more shops adorn the picturesque high street while boat trips and zap cats are available for those opting for a more active distraction. I on the other hand chose the bar for what I like to think was a self-handicapping mechanism to give the other crews a standing chance of beating Pat and I. Realistically however, I think I am just lazy, oh well.

So as we entered the penultimate day the pressure was on. Mike Calvert beat Dave Winder in the first race putting them on 11 points apiece without a discard, so all eyes were on the afternoon race. The wind was lighter than the week’s average, and yet again Dan Alsop and Jennie King seemed to have the better of the fleet, with the exception, that is, of Dave Dobrijevic who had stepped into Frank Rowsell’s boat and dropped the proverbial bomb. On the final beat he headed straight for the Committee Box to receive the full effect of the new finishing gun, a cannon! With delight of moral victory he took the honourable decision and retired from the race, it being his only one for the week and, not having an official entry, it seemed the logical thing to do. Even so it still raised a few eyebrows amongst the fleet. Hence, victory was to fall to the second placed Julian Parry and Fit Taylor who had managed to get ahead of Dan Alsop. However as they crossed the line silence befell them, they were deemed OCS at the start. In third Dan and Jennie were hopeful but yet again no gun was given. So to the fourth boat, William Warren, a first would give him a great advantage for overall victory going in to the last day but yet again there was no gun. Finally Simon Blake and Esther Firman (virgin Salcombe crew) got the bullet. Jenny Taylor and Ellie Bremer were having a storming race comfortably holding off Tom Stewart and Chris Downham and duly received second place. Having set the precedent the previous day the three OCS boats logged their protest but this time it was lobbed. Hence Tom and Chris received third place as opposed to a potential seventh that would have put them out of contention for the top prize.

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Going into the final day Calvert, Stewart, Warren and Winder were all potentially capable of winning. In a moderate force 2 it was Dave Winder and Jilly Blake who snuck their way through to victory taking with it the overall crown for the week. Appropriately second place fell to William Warren who duly congratulated the ecstatic pairing of Dave and Jilly who, having finished second at the 2005 Nationals and losing Salcombe last year due to the dreaded black flag, seemed the suitable winners. The second race of the day was thus a battle for first runner up, this was taken masterfully by Mike Calvert over Tom and Chris as he managed to sneak past them up the beat from Gerston. A nod should be given here to relative fleet new comers Mike Stephens and Andy Douglas who notched up a third, their best ever result at Salcombe.

With the traditional speeches and thank yous out of the way, everyone retired to the bar to bid their congratulations to Dave and Jilly in the way we know best. Sadly the same treatment could not be given to young Morgan Bowen-Perkins, recipient of the highest placed under 18 crew. Being just 12 years old he was not allowed in, but well done anyway.

So if reading this you feel you have missed out, fear not, the Merlin Rockets have two bumper events each year with the Nationals just 2 weeks away at glorious Tenby. There is still accommodation available and entries can be made on the day in the bar of all places…..now there is a shock.


Report: Alex Jackson
Photos: Rien Zilvold and Tom McLaughlin (click to enlarge)
See also:
    Full Results
    Report from Tamesis (further down the page)
    Photos from fotoboat
    Photos from exp!osures
    Photos/Videos from Brian Corking

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