2-Boat Team Racing Championships at Wembley

The Cookham Reach SC team of Pat Blake, crewed by Alan Jackson and partnered by his son Simon crewed by Chris Downham, won the National Merlin Rocket Team-Racing Championships run by Wembley SC on the Welsh Harp reservoir, scene of so many famous team-racing events for over 50 years.

In previous years Merlins have used 3 boats and allowed spinnakers, but this time the Class chose to race on the 2-boat format (last boat loses for his team) and ban spinnakers to get more tactical racing. A high quality fleet (3 helmsmen had between them 15 wins in the Merlin National, Inland or Open Meeting Series Championships) showed that they could not only sail their boat fast, but also out-manoeuvre opponents without the multiple collisions one often gets in inter-university matches where team-racing is mostly done.

Credit for the success of this event is due to the way it was run by Bill Brockbank and Ricky Walters - both former Merlin owners and members of Wembley SC-having a series of short races lasting less than 10 minutes which put a premium on tactics rather than sheer boat speed. Introducing to the Merlin Class on-the-water-judging, they showed why they are the pair most frequently asked to administer the principal Team Tournament at West Kirby and the British Universities Championships.

The Blakes had to work hard to win the famous Topmast Trophy, being pursued by the Shoreham team of Alan Warren, crewed by Alistair Morley, and partnered by his son William crewed by Robbie Sampson, whom they beat in a closely-contested final, these two having scored the most wins in the 3 rounds against each other team. The Blakes also won the special Wembley prize for the most successful team where the helmsmen were related. The Merlin Class is lucky to have a number of families that could have entered 2-boat teams and was disappointed that more did not come.

Cookham's other team of Will Rainey, crewed by Rachel Williamson and partnered by Andy & Ben Jones, narrowly missed out on the final to finish 3rd overall ahead of the 2 Wembley teams, one of which managed to beat the ultimate champions in one race.

The Merlins gave a vote of confidence to the 2-Boat format with on-the-water-judging which avoided the protests which put so many off team-racing, and look forward to using it in future.

Pat Blake