Vintage Merlins - 2004 review

Briefly the vintage/classic Merlin events were great fun!! Those who want a little more detail please read on.

The season started with a visit to Midland S.C. where Mervyn Allen sailing ‘Kate’, Merlin No1, joined 2 local boats at the beginning of May.

Then June 5th saw 6 visiting boats and 7 home boats at Ranelagh, on the river Thames. There were boats ranging from 30 to 60 years old, but many sporting the very latest gear (carbon spars, and Mylar sails etc.). This meeting proved to be very much a battle of the spinnakers, with a long run against the tide, in light winds. The honours went to ‘Bambusa’ who had the largest spinnaker.

July took us to Harlow (Blackwater) S.C. where ‘1066’ joined ‘Kate’ and 2 local modern Merlins on the tidal water of Mayland creek and the river Blackwater. We had an interesting day, which included weather ranging from sunshine, to torrential rain with thunder and lightening, and terminated when the tide rapidly retreated leaving MUD.

In August we joined Jamie Campbell for his classic dinghy weekend on Wroxham broad. Along with Merlins there were several National 12’s, a couple of International 14’s, a Broads 14 footer, a Norfolk Punt, and a variety of other boats. This was a wonderful event in glorious, hot sunny weather, with 2 days of very close racing. Our host, Jamie, gave prizes for just about everything, apart from winning.

The furthest travelled boat: - A National 12 from Yorkshire.
The oldest non-sailor: - Jack Chippendale, pictured above inspecting the fleet, and probably saying, “here’s one I made earlier”.
The most consistently last: - Needs little elaboration.
And the wet T-Shirt competition: - A certain female crew who entertained the competitors and spectators by falling out of a Merlin in mid race, and having to be hoisted aboard unceremoniously on the run.
Mervyn, having brushed his hair specially, found there was no prize left for winning the most races.

A second meeting in August was held at Dorchester S.C., where 7 Merlins enjoyed 2 races in lovely weather and interesting but testing winds on a picturesque lake near the Thames, interspersed with excellent hospitality.

In September, 11 vintage and classic Merlins met at Banbury S.C. for the Classic Merlin Open, and sailed 3 closely fought races, this time in very light wind.
In addition to prizes for the overall winners, Mervyn Allen received a special award in recognition and thanks for his efforts in organizing the vintage wing events.

Then in October, the final vintage event for the season was held at Upper Tames S.C., where 5 vintage and classic boats were mixing it with 12 modern boats for 3 challenging races on the river in very blustery conditions. Here one could compare the oldest with the newest. Wooden spars alongside Carbon fibre, Terylene sails against Kevlar, and narrow boats next to wide. This seemed to sum up the Merlin Class well, showing that there can be something for everybody, whether you like the traditional or the high-tech, and it formed a nice conclusion to an excellent season.

An interesting aspect of Vintage wing meetings is to hear some of the history of the boats, of how and where they were found, and of the restoration. Over the course of the season we have met many proud owners and made new friends many of whom had a story or two to tell about their boats. And we had a chance to admire the boats themselves, both on and off the water. It’s been most enjoyable, so leave the plastic at home, slap a coat of varnish on that old wooden boat, and get it out on the water where it belongs.

Tim Bury, MR1066


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