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Salcombe Week 2007

Graham Williamson shares his diary of the week
Event sponsored by:
Marchand Petit
Thursday night sponsored by:
Dynamic Sails
Saturday 6th July

Dear Diary,
Arrived once again at Salcombe, to find sunshine and 99 other Merlin Rockets entered for the 34th Merlin Rocket Salcombe Week. Apart from the usual fun getting the boat & trolley to Mill Bay, the main news at the briefing was that the fairway has been extended a long way north and a long way south from what has been normal. This should make beating towards Crossways off the start more interesting, since it will not be possible to clear the fairway even from right up the Portlemouth end of the line.

As an experiment, jib numbers are being used to see if it helps to spot start line infringements, so there was a busy time in the club after registration getting the numbers all stuck on! Dynamic Sails had made a template to help position the numbers so it all went very smoothly.

It seems that Salcombe YC have got the message after all these years that we enjoy a pint – so there was free beer and Pimms after the briefing. Oddly enough, all those people who usually have to rush off to help put the children to bed were able to stay for a bit, so that was nice!


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Sunday 7th July

Dear Diary,
It was still sunny this morning with a splendid 10 knot breeze. The morning race went on a tour of the estuary, including Gerston(7), Frogmore (6), and Yalton (4).

Dave Winder is sailing with Pippa Taylor this year, and they lead much of the race, until this new chap Roger Gilbert, who is sailing this week with Matt Mee, overtook them to win. Sadly for Winder/Taylor, they had jumped the gun at the start, so those two old blokes John Bell & Graham Williamson got second, just beating Pat & Jilly Blake.

Top news of the morning was the Salcombe debut of Andy & Michelle Dalby’s new bright orange boat 3690, called the “General Lee” after a car in some TV programme or other. You can’t miss this boat!

For the afternoon race the wind had strengthened slightly to 15-18 knots. The start was with the ebb tide so there was a recall and the first Blag Flag of the week, which took out 5 boats. Richard Whitworth & Nicola Brook were 1st, ahead of Dan Alsop & Jenny King. Will Rainey & Vicky Tarbet, ahead of Andy ’Taxi’ Davies & Ellie Bremer.


Monday 9th July

Dear Diary,
Still Sunny, against all the odds! Patchy force 1-3 to race in.

In the morning, the leading group of five again broke away at the start on a fetch off the line towards Crossways. There was masses of place changing in this group. Those that didn’t get the break off the line never really got a chance to challenge for the lead.

Glen Truswell & Paul Davies broke through on the beat to Gerston and opened up enough distance to hold this to the finish. The following four nipped and tucked all race, and at the gun there was barely a coat of paint protecting Mike & Jane Calvert from the Bell/Williamson attack. Very close behind were Tom Stewart & former national champion crew Sally Townend, who was making a very welcome return to fully competitive racing in the fleet, just ahead of Frank Rowsell & Charlotte Coleman.

In the afternoon, the wind had again strengthened. The course was quite short, 1-7-3-7, but there was plenty of capsizing at the front in the extremely shifty conditions (Dave Winder fell in while leading), which contributed to a lot of the place changing going on. This was generally agreed to have been one of the most taxing races at Salcombe for quite a while. At the finish Gilbert/Mee won again, ahead of Whitworth/Brook and Winder/Taylor. Current National Champions Willy Warren & Chris Robinson completed the top four.

In the evening, the AGM was held, and unexpectedly was controversial in that there were insufficient numbers to pass the proposed rule change, so the meeting was adjourned to the Nationals. Is this a first?


Tuesday 10th July

Dear Diary,
While it didn’t snow this morning it did just about everything else! The wind was force 0 to ‘not very many’ apart from on the beach where it blew a gale!

The course was 0-2-0-7-1. Visiting 0 (beyond Black Stone) once in a week is just about OK, but to go there twice in a race is enough to consider taking up tiddlywinks instead.

Interestingly, the fleet split completely split off the start line. Winder/Taylor and Boris Heginbotham & Jonny Toogood popped out from the Portlemouth shore and got clear of the following bunch, while Stewart/Townend and Gilbert/Mee went town-side with a bit of a fan club. Not knowing where mark 0 actually was, Stewart/Townend squandered a lead as both wings of the attack met at the mark.

For the second time out to 0, the Mill Bay side was favoured, and Winder/Taylor lead the fleet up to Gerston and back to take the win from Gilbert/Mee. Heginbotham/Toogood held off Alsop/King, whilst Joe Mclaughlin & Bryn Evans scored a well earned 5th.

The day brightened up for another tour of the estuary in the afternoon. The start line was hellishly biased, leading to the scrum of all scrums at the hooter.

There was no real beat, and although this often leads to a procession, there was in fact loads of place changing. The leading group comprised the Calverts, Rowsell/Coleman, Dave & Rachel Dobrijevic, Whitworth/Brook and Warren/Robinson.

Julian Parry & Holly Scott (Mirror world champion crew) were unlucky, but not alone, in recording the first fairway infringement of the week!

The regatta is already half over, and the second round robin begins tomorrow. That Gilbert chap is looking a bit good for the week at the moment.


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Wednesday 11th July

Dear Diary,
Sunny this morning with 5-10 knots straight up the estuary from the sea. The course for the morning was 1-7-1-5-1-3-2-3. Stewart/Townend put paid to their campaign by getting a black flag on the recall. Once again the town side paid on the beat to 1, and first to arrive were the Old Master Alan Warren and his 13 yr old apprentice Jeremy Williamson. Just behind them were Rien Zilvold & Julie Nuttall. A couple of days previously, Rien had fended off a boat, putting a cut on his hand that needed 10 stitches. They had been despondently talking about going home, but oddly enough suddenly found enough enthusiasm to want to stay on!

As usual, Alsop/King & Whitworth/Brook were not far behind. The event of the week occurred when Truswell/Davies got their spinnaker downhaul tangled with a moored yacht at the north end of the ‘Bag’ and were pushed further onto the yacht by the flood tide. Glen had to climb up to free “Rong Number” and then jump into the water while Davo sailed back to pick him up! Allegedly they only lost one place!

The final placings were Whitworth/Brook, Alsop/King, Davis/Bremer, Warren/Robinson, Simon Blake & Esther Firman, Warren/Williamson.

For the afternoon, it remained sunny, but with a stronger breeze from the same direction. The course was 1-X-1-7-6-4-1-X; X is an inflatable mark laid just north of the start line, quite close to the Portlemouth shore. Winder/Taylor lead from the Calverts and Bell/Williamson, tacking up the millbay shore, whilst Dave Fowler and Gilbert/Mee lead the charge from the town side and were rewarded with 4th & 5th at No 1.

The Dobrijevics suffered a broken gooseneck while well placed, and going up to Gerston (7) the leading 3 boats pulled away, and by the time the fleet were beating from Yalton (4), Winder/Taylor and Gilbert/Mee were clear and fighting out the lead.

Coming into X for the last time, Gilbert/Mee stayed towards the town side and with great boat-handling, gybed on all the shifts and gusts. This gained them enough distance to approach X on starboard, gaining the inside berth from Winder/Taylor and enough advantage to hit the finish first.

Showing in the first four for the first time were Alex Jackson & Rachel Williamson, sailing all up at a tiny 17 stone!


Thursday 12th July

Dear Diary,
Overcast, misty and quite breezy this morning. Not much in the way of spectator boats! The course again used the X mark; 1-X-1-7-2-5 to maximise the shore-side viewing enjoyment.

Gilbert/Mee sailed clear from the start to win the race without incident and bank the week. Winder/Taylor were again 2nd – the only boat to beat Gilbert’s “Wild Card” all week - ahead of Warren/Robinson, Whitworth/Brook and Davis/Bremer.

Still overcast and pretty windy for the afternoon race, a long distance one (1-X-1-7-X-7-4) against the flood tide. Bell/Williamson broke clear with the Calverts and Truswell/Davies to lead at 1. The leaders stretched on the 2-sail reaches to Gerston, as so often happens.

At the finish Truswell/Davies lead, but crossed the line to deafening silence, being one of a few OCS, leaving the Calverts to take the win ahead of Bell/Williamson, the Dobrijevics and Stewart/Townend. The rest of the podium places were all still up for grabs. In the overall results, 5th to 11th places are separated by 3 points, and 2nd – 4th could all turn upside down, so there is plenty to play for tomorrow!


Friday 13th July

Dear Diary,
Unlucky for some today! Still overcast and gloomy this morning. The course (C-B-3-0-3-2-3) had everyone diving for the course cards; we rarely use the marks outside and have no idea what they look like at all! There was plenty of wind in the estuary, but when the fleet got beyond Blackstone, it was much lighter.

There was a general recall which caused loads of confusion when the flag couldn’t be seen, however on the restart, Bell/Williamson lead fleet round the seaward triangle with Warren/Robinson and Jason Andrews & David Cunningham in pursuit.

On the way back into the estuary, the question was whether there was sufficient water to take the shortcut through Blackstone? Willie Warren used all his childhood skim-board & body-board knowledge to take the plunge, and lead Whitworth/Brook and the rest of the fleet through, and in doing so pulled through to the front.

These places were held until the wind went wobbly the second time around 3, allowing the Calverts to slip through to second, ahead of Whitworth/Brook, and the Dobrijevics.

No improvement in the weather this afternoon. The course again used the X mark (1-X-1-7-X-7) for the benefit of the observing crowds. Gilbert/Mee had swapped places for the race and were a bit too sharp off the line ultimately scoring an OCS. They exchanged the lead with Winder/Taylor but got the tactics leading out of the ‘Bag’ to the finish wrong, so Winder got the gun anyway.

After much place-changing in the following pack, the Blakes scored 2nd – their best result of the week ahead of Alsop/King and Warren/Williamson, also securing their best result of the week.

These results made Winder/Taylor runners up for the week, the Calverts 3rd, Whitworth/Brook 4th and Warren/Robinson 5th.


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Observations on the week?

Dave Winder was perhaps unlucky to meet Gilbert/Mee everyday in the seeded fleets, but had the best chance to defend the trophy he & Jilly Blake won last year, and they were the only crew to beat the winners, so deserved runner up. Truswell/Davies had one of those weeks, and while showing glimpses of the old form were unlucky from the moment their new sails didn’t measure on Saturday morning! Judith Massey & Phil Dalby were ruled out after Jude pulled a back muscle on Monday morning, leaving Jenny Taylor a clear run at the new perpetual Lady Helm trophy. The Blake family released their historic grip on the family prize to the Williamson contingent, but will be back again to fight next year!

In conclusion; Roger Gilbert & Matt Mee exceeded all expectation in securing a spectacular win; very well done to them.


Report: Graham Williamson
Photos: Demelza Mitchell, Rien Zilvold and Tom Gruitt (Fotoboat) - click pictures to enlarge
See also:
    Full results
    Chart showing buoys
    More photos in the gallery
    More photos from exp!osures