Tamesis Open 2006

Richard Whitworth and Elena Bremer of Hollingworth Lake SC sailed Master Blaster (3353) to a narrow victory over Richard and Sue Harris of Tamesis in Crescendo (847) by beating them in the third and last race of the Sondown Cup Merlin Rocket open meeting and Thames series Silver Tiller event at Tamesis Club on Saturday 17 June. Both scored two firsts and a second but by finishing ahead of Crescendo in the last race Whitworth and Bremer clinched the best two out of three races contest on the tie break rule. However, Richard Harris, crewed by his mother Sue, had the consolation of winning the Queen Elizabeth Bowl, the prize for the first vintage/classic Merlin.

At one stage it looked as though both trophies might go to the Harris family, when not just Richard and Sue notched up their two firsts but Sue's other son Andrew crewed by his sister, Sara Warren, in Omega (1605) also took a first in the second race of the first flight, and their father John Harris, crewed by Margaret Stokes in Passing Cloud (1079), won the first race of the third flight. But in spite of using their local knowledge to full advantage in the light and variable breeze, with its erratic shifts in unexpected directions, they could only count a first and a third and a first and a second respectively. As one usually well-placed helmsmen remarked during the lunch break, "The cream is rising to the surface!"

Race Officer Brian Southcott divided the 40 entrants into four flights so that each flight sailed once against each other, and sent them on a challenging three dogleg course with the Canbury upriver mark just short of Steven's Eyot and the Lensbury downriver mark half way down Trowlock Island. The scheduled start was delayed by a postponement for lack of wind but the first flight was eventually sent off in a gentle south westerly only to be recalled after a substantial line infringement. The breeze filled in very slowly during the morning and was slightly stronger for the four afternoon races, giving a zig-zag upriver beat between the dogleg buoys, with a downwind reach from westerly shifts, but a few spinnakers were broken out when a more consistent southerly set in, and the leaders also gained advantage from gybing downwind. Contestants and onlookers alike wilted under the searing sun and those who failed to apply sun cream soon regretted their omission. Spectators were able to seek the shade of the Clubhouse or sit under the two newly erected white gazebos on the lawn but the competitors had to snatch what little shade they could under their sails and all appeared to be carrying several bottles of water to quench their thirst. Between races there was a rush of almost equal proportions for cold showers and cold beers.


The results were announced by Commodore Jim Green and the prizes were presented on the Club lawn by his wife Bonnie. The event was organised by Merlin Class Captain Joe McLaughlin, Andrew Harris and a committee of Merlin class members.

The visitors included boats from 10 other clubs including one from Forfar SC, near Aberdeen, whose helmsman and crew, Mike Hardy and Garry Rucklidge, sailing Secret Water (111) were awarded a bottle of wine prize for travelling the greatest distance to the meeting. Other clubs represented at the meeting included Blackpool and Fleetwood YC, Blithfield SC, Cookham Reach SC, Dovestone SC, Hampton SC, Hollingworth Lake SC, Papercourt SC, Shearwater SC and Shoreham SC.

The racing was followed by a Tideway Weekend Party with a hogroast and barbecue on the Club lawn and dancing to a live band and disco in the Clubhouse until 01.00 on Sunday. Many of the competitors trailed their boats to Ranelagh SC later on the Sunday morning, 18 June, to take part in the Merlin Rocket Class 60th Anniversary Holt Tideway Race from Putney to Westminster Bridge and back. As a member of one of the other Tamesis dinghy classes jokingly observed as they were leaving, "This must be the first time ever that 80 Rockets have been so directly aimed at Westminster!"

Report and photos: John Dunkley
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