Hamble Warming Pan and Silver Tiller
8/9th March 2003

Even though the synoptic chart for the weekend resembled a contour map of Ben Nevis, 16 Merlins travelled to Hamble to brave the atrocious conditions. The Race officer for the day, Phil Meakins, had measured the wind speed at a consistent 20 knots with 25 knot gusts. Any more and the racing would be cancelled.

The Merlins set off into the gale for a windward/leeward course set mostly within the river where it was slightly more sheltered. The windward mark however was set in the mouth of the river in the full teeth of the south westerly wind. This made for some interesting mark rounding procedures and several spectacular wipe outs. My personal favourite has to be James Davis falling out of the back of his boat during a death roll not a good move in 25 knots of wind!

Simon Blake and Linton Jenkins demonstrated superb boat handling and crew work to lead for the majority of the race however Phil King and Chris Downham managed to squeeze through at the end on a gust. Sadly, just before the race was due to finish the Harbour Master called an end to proceedings and the race officer was forced to abandon racing for the day.

As is often demonstrated, it is a testament to the build quality of the boats and the standard of ability of the crews that only one rig was lost, and this was due to a capsize and entanglement onto a mooring buoy. Other than that no one suffered serious damage and no one retired before the racing was abandoned this is despite many of the fleet using the new spinnakers. Graham Williamson, borrowing a yacht to observe the racing from (obviously because he was too scared to sail!!), recorded the wind regularly topping out at 30 knots Force 7 in old money!

With the forecast being for more wind on Sunday several competitors packed up early and headed home.

Sunday dawned more manageable (a mere F 4-5) and so a full racing programme was scheduled. Two races were held over the same course as the previous day. After 2 recalls, the fleet eventually got away under the black flag. All was close at the first mark with several boats rounding in the lead bunch. Eventually, the familiar sight of Phil King took to the front of the fleet and managed to get away from the chasing pack. Final positions were Phil and Chris followed by Simon and Linton with Will Rainey and Jennie King coming home third.

The second race was run under the black flag from the start and was more closely fought all the way round the course. First across the finish line were Simon and Linton but they crossed to that ominous silence usually accompanying those of us slightly too eager at the start. By default Phil King took first place, being second on the water and therefore the event. Second place went to Willam Warren and Rachel Cooper with third place going to Patrick Blake and Alex Jackson.

The memory of screaming down from the windward mark into the river, hanging on for dear life, will live with us for a long time. What an awesome weekend! Well done HRSC!

Paul Gilbert

See also: Y&Y report and full results