Thorpe Bay Open 2006

A select band of Merlin sailors descended upon TBYC on a wild and windy morning for the first Silver Tiller at the venue for several years. The windiest race of the year has been in a force 4, so everybody was up for a blast around the Thames estuary. After a little debate around the anemometer, which was recording a steady 25mph, gusting 35mph, the fleet rigged and changed.

Launching proved difficult in the onshore breeze with a short chop, and several boats didnít make it off the beach. Once out of the moorings, conditions were wild, but in a modern Merlin, maximum rake, full cunningham and boom-bending amounts of kicker are powerful weapons. Despite a plenty long enough true start line, a small fleet and a force-5, the fleet treated the race officer to the general recall that he and we expected. Second time away and the lead was tussled between class youngsters and newly crowned GP14 national champions Stu Bithell and Matt Mee in their brand new boat, Pat Blake/Alex Jackson in their brand new boat, Dave Winder/Jilly Blake and Tom Stewart/Chris Downham. Stewart/Downham were first round, and would have been followed round by Winder/Blake had the very low boom not caught Winder out and resulted in a swim instead of a tack. Bithell/Mee were next round and decided that spinnakers were the way forward, so Stewart/Downham had to sacrifice their underwear and hoist too. At the gybe mark, Bithell/Mee tipped it in whilst Stewart/Downham wore round and set off down a fairly broad and lumpy second reach.

By this point most of the remaining fleet had decided discretion and their masts were more important and were retiring, although locals Ian Little and Colin Goodman were bringing-up the rear. Downham/Stewart fell in to windward halfway down the second reach allowing Bithell/Mee through to take the gun on a much-shortened one lap race. Stewart/Downham righted and finished second with the Littles 3rd. With Salcombe next week, and little chance of getting any damage repaired before then, the race officer and the fleet decided enough was enough and we all surfed-up the beach under jibs alone!

Thanks to TBYC for their best efforts in difficult conditions, and we look forward to returning in slightly more clement conditions next year. The refund of the entry fee was most generous and unexpected.

Report: Chris Downham


1st	Stuart Bithell		Matt Mee	3678	Nora
2nd	Tom Stewart		Chris Downham	3655	Loosed Canon
3rd	Ian Little		Colin Goodman	3563	Leader