Upper Thames Open 2004
17 boats and crews participated in the Merlin Rocket open meeting weekend at The Upper Thames Sailing Club with strong winds, much action and changing fortune.
It was nice to see five vintage boats among the fleet especially with Merlin no.1 “Merlin” sailed by Mervin Allen and Lora Stock from Ranelagh taking part. The winner of the Vintage prize was Tim Burt and P Kuenzler in 1066 from Banbury
The prestigious Spade Oak Bowl was sailed for on Saturday in force 3 to 4 winds that were unusually from the South East. Chris Rathbone the winning helm described the heavy gusts as “tasty” and for those watching Chris and Elizabeth Chacksfield UTSC presented a notable sequence of capsizes to entertain those on shore.
Sunday in even higher winds, force 4 to 5 and frequent capsizes, the Allen Challenge cup was a three race event. Race one saw Simon Blake crewed by Alex Jackson from Cookham winning but in the second race a serious rig failure put them out of contention. Race two was won by Rob Wilder crewed by Tom McLaughlin from Tamesis who also won the third and final race with Pat and Anna Blake from Cookham second and Alan and Sue Markham from Upper Thames third.
It was a bright and breezy day on the river – breezy being the operative word!
On Saturday one race was sailed for the elegant Spade Oak Bowl. Chris Rathbone and Phil Preston soon took the lead and came home several minutes ahead of the other finishers. The strong breeze made for a challenging race and accounted for a couple of retirements.
On Sunday the Club lawn was soon full of 17 Merlins of all ages – from Kate (No 1) through to Smart Tart (3640).
The wind had increased further, so the newer boats had the advantage overall, although some of the vintage and classic boats more than held their own in the testing conditions. There were plenty of wicked gusts around to keep the safety boats busy all day.
Two races were sailed back to back in the morning from a committee boat start upstream of the Club. The first race was won by Simon Blake and Alex Jackson but an exploding hoop brought an end to their open meeting during the second race. The second race brought the inevitable general recall (it wouldn’t be a proper Merlin Open without one). Rob Wilder and Tom McLaughlin took first place overall to add to their second place in the previous race, with Andy and Ben Jones taking second.
Anyone who had hoped the wind would drop for the afternoon race was disappointed and the fleet was somewhat depleted through breakages or exhaustion! Three of the vintage and classic boats did make it to the start, but not to the finish. After some spectacular ¾ mile long spinnaker runs, for those who could stay upright, Rob Wilder took first place again and had the meeting sewn up. Pat and Anna Blake couldn’t quite catch him and were closely followed by Alan and Sue Markham.
Spade Oak Bowl
1st Second Thought 3570 Chris Rathbone and Phil Preston UTSC
2nd Aloha 3635 Mike and Lilianna Stephens Tamesis Club
Allen Challenge Cup
1st Insomnia 3953 Rob Wilder and Tom McLaughlin Tamesis Club
2nd Hakuna Matata 3571 Andy and Ben Jones Cookham Reach
3rd Summit Fever 3954 Alan and Sue Markham UTSC
1st Vintage/Classic Boat
Ten Sixty Six 1066 Tim Burt and Pat Kuenzler Banbury SC
L to R. Philip Preston, Chris Rathbone (The Spade Oak Bowl) Rob Wilder,
Tom McLaughlin (Allen Challenge Cup)