Scotland 2006

Merlin Rockets travel to Dalgety Bay

photo: Judith Massey

A fleet of 16 Merlin Rockets from all over the UK travelled to Scotland over the Easter weekend for the 60th Anniversary Celebration regatta. Most competitors arrived on the Friday before the event to be met with warm sunshine and light westerly breezes. A small session in the club house bar on the Friday evening gave people a chance to meet and greet each other and to swap top tips on the ways to make Merlins go faster.

The Saturday morning arrived much to quickly for some crews and after a registration period and some more fine tuning the fleet left the foreshore at Dalgety Bay and headed out through the moorings to the racing area. Again the weather was perfect for the event with loads of sunshine and gentle breezes, on an incoming tide.

Race one was scheduled to start at 1400 hours, but owing to some difficulties with the tide the race was started with half the fleet over the line and a general recall was issued. There was a slight delay as the race officer and his team fought with the conditions to reset the start line to a more even position and to recapture the gybe mark which had started to drift. After a quarter of an hour the racing began.

A frantic start as boats jockeyed for position soon settled down and the intricacies of the conditions soon had the fleet spread over the windward leg. True to form the first boats round the windward mark, on the port hand Olympic course, were the plastic fantastic boats from south of the border. J Massey crewed by Chairman GGGGG, 3653, first round closely followed by A. Davis and C. Gould,3647,Biggs and T Chadfield,3665,rounded third before a slight gap to Fowler and Greenwood,3542, and Brebner / Karran,3776 . Brebner and Karran had got away well and were mixing it up with the modern boats at the front of the fleet for the entire race but the best performance of race one went to N & C Wilson,2086, who kept up with boats twenty years younger than there own. Fleet positions were changing many times throughout the first race but it was eventually won by J. Massey and the Chairman with Davis / Gould in a close second.

photo: Liz Tulloch

Race two was run back to back with the first race and the fleet got away cleanly from the line. Again a port hand Olympic triangle course was laid and this time it was Myles / Robertson, 3321, who came away with a good start to sit bang in the middle of the modern boats. Again Massey and GGGG were off like the proverbial Rocket but Davis / Chadfield did not go down without a fight and the lead was changing hands constantly round the course. The whole fleet had got to grips with the racing area well and Fowler / Greenwood were right up near the front with Biggs / Chadfield and Brockbank / Hughes leading the chasing pack. Massey and GGGG again took line honours for the second race with Davis / Gould in second.

The fleet then made the short trip back to shore to the clubhouse bar, whilst GGGG kindly took out a journalist for a test sail. Mr Henderson said he enjoyed the trip immensely but that it was the most full on test sail he had taken to date. I guess thatís what happens when you have a championship standard crew telling you what to do.

Back on shore the fleet was treated to a two course meal and had a short period of relaxation before the Ceilidh band arrived to make sure everyone had a great time. It was great to see everyone taking part in the post match celebrations, including rescue crews ( not by choice in some cases), bar staff and the catering team all showing us Merlin sailors the way to move round the dance floor. The events of the evening are a little hazy but judging by the requests for aspirin the next morning it went well.

Sunday morning dawned to the dulcet tones of snoring as half the fleet took a well deserved long lie to recuperate, but owing to a small change in the sailing instructions the next race was pulled forward an hour to 1300hours. The weather had changed dramatically over night and there was now a strong NW wind blowing down the river. The committee boat made it to the racing area to find gusts of 30 Knots barrelling down the river. This combined with the incoming tide lead to a substantial chop forming, and after a briefing from the race officer it was decided to at least try and get one race in. several competitors decided discretion was the better part of valour and sat this one out.

Race three got under way at 1400 hours after an hour postponement to see what the wind would do and only ten boats ventured to the start line. Myles / Robertson missed the start by about three minutes due to some technical difficulties (not fitting boom to gooseneck before going on the water) and tried to play catch up with the fleet only to lose it big style with a windward dunking at the gybe mark. The rest of the fleet seemed to cope well with the conditions with some boats even flying kites down wind for what must have been an exhilarating ride. Itís difficult to say what happened during the race but of the ten starters only six finished. Biggs / Chadfield took the line honours obviously enjoying the wild conditions.

photo: Alan Henderson - fotoboat.com

Given the conditions race four was abandoned, and the fleet retired to lick its wounds. It say much about the high quality of the craftsmanship that goes into building these magnificent racing machines that there were no breakages of great note across the range of boats over the whole weekend.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the competitors who made the effort to get to the event, especially those who travelled great distances and those who dried the varnish out on the trip north.

Many thanks to the event sponsors:
        Winder Boats
        'The Ancient Geek'

Special prize winners:
        3376 - First wooden boat
        2086 - Best pre-1970 result
        2121 - Furthest travelled
        3321 - Longest upside down

Next Years event should be even better!

Report: Hamish Myles

See also:
        full results
        more sailing photos
        more social photos

These two made it all possible - Hamish and Callum