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Walker celebrates the memory of Merricks with victory at the Tiger

by Dick Sanders, David Wilkins and Andy Rice on 6 Feb 4-5 February 2017

Ian Walker celebrated the memory of his fellow Olympic silver medallist by winning the John Merricks Tiger Trophy at Rutland Sailing Club over the weekend of 4th & 5th February.

Walker, who competed with Merricks at the Atlanta Games in 1996, was racing an RS400 crewed by Keith Bedborough. Despite having done little dinghy sailing in recent years, Walker proved masterful in the light winds of Saturday to notch up scores of 2,1,2 in the 130-entry handicap fleet.

The Everards sponsored event is also the sixth in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series and it was the usual high-calibre of entries which included past or present world and national champions in many different classes. Multiple national and world champion Ian Pinnell sailed his 505 to fourth overall crewed by Norman Byrd, while just behind him was Solo national champion and former winner of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series, Michael Sims.

However, the split between the fast and slow handicap fleets and the square course in light airs really seemed to suit the RS400s, with Russ and Penny Clark winning the third race and placing third overall, a place in front of RS400 national champions Paul and Mark Oakey. The only boat to spoil the 400 party was Phil Meakins' and Andrew Eggett's Osprey which finished second overall.

As it turned out, Saturday would be the only day of racing as Sunday dawned to dense fog and very little wind. So the Pursuit Race didn't take place and Walker and Bedborough's overnight lead turned into overall victory. It had been a few years since Walker had managed to get to the Tiger Trophy, an event he always likes to attend whenever his professional sailing schedule permits, because he's one of the co-founders of the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST).

The Trust provides starter boats through the RYA ONBoard scheme to young sailors just starting on their career as Tony Everard did for John back in the mid 1990s.The Leicester brewers, continue to support the regatta and the Tiger Dinner with Tiger beer and prizes and all entrants were included in this years social on Saturday night with 200 sitting down to bangers and mash.

Walker was guest of honour and he spoke about his memories of John and the progress of the JMST in his capacity as trustee. He also recounted his experience of three Volvo Ocean Race campaigns and his initial reluctant role as skipper which ultimately led to his winning the 2015 race. He spoke about the importance of his early enjoyment of sailing in many different boats as helm and crew and finished by explaining how he ended up at this year's Tiger, helming an RS400.

The demographics of the Tiger have changed since its domination by young sailors and this was clearly demonstrated by the runner-up, Phil Meakins who won the Shere Khan Trophy for the first helm over 60 and also benefited from the receipt of a Musto Abu Dhabi Volvo HPX dry top, won by a non-sailor at the auction following Ian's address the night before and gifted to whoever came 2nd. Nearly £1000 was raised from the auction.

The new youth trophy went to the RS200 team of Chay Taylor and Niamh Davies from Burnham SC in 11th.Jack Lewis and Charlie Bacon (420 Draycote SC) won the under 16 Junior Trophy and the first lady, winning the Lady Tiger Trophy was another Youth, Eleanor Craig (Radial Draycote SC).

Next year will be the 25th Tiger and plans are being prepared to encourage more young sailors to participate in this Rutland Challenge on the level playing field that is Rutland Water. Everyone who has taken part over the last quarter century will be invited. The seventh and final event of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series is the Oxford Blue at Farmoor Reservoir on 18 February.

The following regattas constitute the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series 2016/2017:

Draycote Dash, Draycote Water Sailing Club
Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 November 2016

Datchet Flyer, Datchet Water Sailing Club
Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 December 2016

Brass Monkey, Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club
Tuesday 27 December 2016

Grafham Grand Prix, Grafham Water Sailing Club
Monday 2 January 2017

Bloody Mary, Queen Mary Sailing Club
Saturday 7 January 2017

John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Rutland Sailing Club
Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 February 2017

Oxford Blue, Oxford Sailing Club
Saturday 18 February 2017

Find out more at www.SailJuiceSeries.com

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