Merlins at the Starcross Steamer

Starcross YC held the annual Steamer open pursuit race on the 26th January, which attracted 58 starters including a small fleet of 5 Merlin Rockets. The weather conditions were superb, mild and sunny, but the brisk force 4/5 gusting force 6 wind was not to everyone's taste! Race Officer Nick Gough set a large triangular course that provided a tough beat against the tide, a rapid two sail fetch and a long, flat out, blistering three sail reach.

The Merlins started 43 minutes after the first gun, with Mike Mackie (3471) making an early showing, closely pursued by James Middleton-Stewart (3400) and Justin Eddy and Roger Spurr (3260). There were several capsized boats at the first gybe mark and Mike decided to join them, whilst the following pack played safe and wore round. Bringing up the rear following an overly keen start, Dave Lee and Ian Smith (3501) also came to grief at the first gybe mark, recovering in time to chase Mike down the long reach to the bottom mark.

Up the first full beat Justin was able to work his way past James to round the weather mark first, whilst Andy Hayes and Matt Buckle (3125) demonstrated good boat speed in their NSM to keep up with the newer carbon rigged boats. Through the second and third rounds, the Merlin fleet had closed up again to enjoy some very close racing in the breezy conditions. Mike Mackie and Dave Lee gradually worked their way back past the earlier leaders and there was a game of snakes and ladders as various boats capsized. On the third round Dave found some better shifts upwind to just beat Mike to the weather mark, where Mike then suffered another capsize having caught his rudder on the buoy chain. Dave then stormed off with a good lead for the final round, only to capsize in the last few minutes of the race, allowing Mike and a Laser 2 back through at the finish.

The Merlins were caught by the eventual winner, an RS800, fairly early in the race, but managed to catch most of the slower boats and hold off many of the asymmetric boats until fairly late in the race. There was a noteworthy performance by Andy Hayes and Matt Buckle, who were never far off the pace with their 25 year old NSM and were one of the few boats to complete the race without a capsize.

Dave Lee

Results (provisional):

8th Mike Mackie (3471)
10th Dave Lee and Ian Smith (3501)
Other Merlin places tba