Merlin Rocket Open at Upper Thames Sailing Club
Merlins at Upper Thames
Saturday dawned dull and dreary with not a breath of wind on the river. Having had no rain for some appreciable time, it decided to pour down overnight and early on during the day, but by 1400 hrs, the sun had broken through and seven boats had gathered for two races for The Spade Oak Bowl and MROA De May Series day. Nearly half the crews were cadets ranging in age from 12 to 15, with more cadets competing the following day.
The wind filled in nicely to force 3-4 from just south of east and our OOD John Dighton set a course downstream of the club line past Bourne End Marina and then upstream past Spade Oak Wharf. Some tricky conditions were encountered during the initial upwind leg past the marina, but the wind shifted further south giving a broad reach and fetch for the rest of the race. Martin Hunter kept the lead in the first race, closely followed by Mike Stevens in second.
The second race saw Mike take the lead at the first mark, with Martin in hot pursuit. Mike managed to keep the lead through the three-lap race, finishing 24 seconds ahead of Martin. The Spade Oak Bowl was won by Mike Stevens and Konny Muller in ‘Flinkidink’ (1097), with Martin Hunter and Jilly Blake coming second in ‘Quiver’ (774).
Sunday dawned with more rain and the wind having filled to southerly force 4-5, occasionally 6. Our OOD Peter Brewer used the angled club start line, and set a course taking us upstream past Ferry Cottage, and downstream just beyond the club frontage. The three races for The Allen Challenge Cup and MROA Thames Series day started with ten of the eleven boats on the line, although two were to retire during the race, with one of the vintage boats having pulled a shroud plate and knee from the boat. Many gambled on keeping out of the current on the Berkshire bank, taking lifts through the trees up to Ferry Cottage, with some trying to pinch all the way to the mark.
Andrew Harris came through to take the lead after the third lap, and kept ahead of Pat Blake who just pipped Alan Broadbent to second place in the last of the six laps.
The second race saw Pat keep the lead from the start, with Andrew moving up a place in the second lap. Alan Markham moved into third, and this remained the order across the finish line.
The final race saw the wind freshen to an occasional 6. Pat seemed to slip up in the first lap, rounding in sixth, but by the third lap, he’d clawed his way back up the fleet and into pole position. He kept the lead in quite testing conditions ahead of Andrew, with Mike Stevens taking third. Two of the vintage merlins (‘Flinkidink’ and ‘Quiver’) held their own over the three races, but it was unfortunate that one or other was over the line in the first and second races, and the conditions towards the end of the day really suited the modern designs.
The Allen Challenge Cup was retained for the second year by Pat and Jilly Blake in ‘Hot Totty’ (3676), 2nd were Andrew Harris and Fran Gifford in ‘Shenandoah’ (3088), and 3rd were Alan and Alice Markham in Summit Fever (3594).
Spade Oak reach once again proved to be a wonderful stretch of the river, and reassured the visitors that it can blow hard at Upper Thames.