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Craftinsure 2012

Salcombe Merlin Week 2017 Preview

by Tim Fells on 29 Jun 2-7 July 2017
Sharps Doom Bar Merlin Week day 6 © Malcolm Mackley

Sunday 2nd July will see the starting gun fired on the exceptionally popular Sharps Doom Bar sponsored Salcombe Merlin Week. Back in November, the 120 places were snapped up in just over two hours in an unprecedented rush to get a place, leaving 35 boats on the waiting list.

Combining a beach holiday with a challenging sailing venue, racing in a boat which seems designed for the vagaries of the Salcombe estuary, excellent spectator entertainment and an action packed social calendar, is clearly a recipe for a must do event.

The race schedule is as follows:

SundayRed – GreenBlue - Black06.5713.23
MondayRed – BlueGreen - Black08.0114.24
TuesdayGreen – BlueRed - Black09.1015.25
WednesdayBlue - BlackRed – Green10.1016.22
ThursdayGreen - BlackRed – Blue11.0017.15
FridayRed - BlackGreen – Blue11.4418.03

Start times are 10.30 and 14.00 which, with the tides for the week, means that all of the morning racing will be within the confines of the main channel, with Black flight getting the best of the afternoon high tides at the start of the week.

Red Flight

The talent at the front of fleet gets no less and this year we have welcomed a number of notable young hot shots who have been seeded together in Red Flight. Returning to the fleet with a brand new boat of their own are Fireball World Champions Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey, who are already challenging at the front of the fleet as you would expect from such a successful team. Having taken the 'Jellyfish' to 9th in 2016, Christian will be expecting to push for the title in his new Winder.

Also putting a campaign together is GP14 World Champion Ian Dobson who has taken the reins of the famous championship winning 'Speed Machine' with Rob Allen. No stranger to the front of the Merlin fleet, Ian will also have his eye on the main prize. Adding to this stellar cast is RS800 National Champion Tim Saxton who has bought 'Bazinga' from Jasper Barnham and is already going very well with Jodie Green in the front end – those Saxton genes are hot!

For Salcombe Week, all three of these young guns will be battling it out with Salcombe Legend Will Henderson who, sailing with daughter Mary, came close to winning the week in 2016 at their first attempt. Looking to keep these four honest will be Tim Fells and Fran Gifford who will also be keeping the home club flag flying.

Green Flight

Green Flight is packed with proven Salcombe Week talent. Leading contenders will be defending champions Taxi and Alex Warren who, let's not forget, wrapped up the 2016 title with a day to spare. They will be sailing the tried and tested 'Keyser Soze', now into middle age but still as quick as anything out there. If you can beat these guys you will probably take the title.

If there is any team that can give Taxi and Alex a run for their money it is the dream team of multiple champions Si Blake and Pippa Taylor, teamed up in the ex-Winder Winner 'The Clone Wars'. Also in Green Flight, this will be a battle royal.

However, there is also the 'Chrises' to be considered; Gould and Kilsby. Right at the front of the Silver Tiller fleet, this pairing were 6th at Salcombe 2016 despite Chris K's mind being elsewhere, planning, executing and then celebrating his successful proposal to Pippa. Now the deal has been struck, he can concentrate on beating his beloved on the water.

Finally, Green Flight also boasts two bright young, fast starting helms; Olly Turner and Ian Sharps. Both pride themselves on winning the start and will be battling to see who can be quickest on the draw. Olly was a bit too trigger happy for his own good in 2016, but if he can keep his guns loaded he is also a contender. Ian, despite the laid back demeanour, lives up to his name on the water and won't be far off the front.

Blue Flight

Blue Flight is packed out with proven Salcombe Week front runners. Mike and Jane Calvert will be back to terrify their opposition on the long runs up harbour. Sailing with one less plank in the water seems to have its advantages and we can expect them to pop out close to the front when it is light and then frustrate all the heavy boys by going equally as fast when it blows.

Married life does not seem to have slowed down team Potts and having come so close before, Simon and Ally are sure to be giving it max to take the title, even though they are now racing '3-up'. Second last year and runaway race winners at the April Silver Tiller, they are bound to be in the mix as the week comes to a climax.

Another 'very nearly man', Matt Biggs has put the old team back together and, reunited with Ben Hollis, looks like the real deal again. Matt is the Houdini of Salcombe, seemingly able to rescue top results from the most unpromising of positions. A few good first beats and he will be very hard to stop.

Joining the 'if only' teams battling it out in Blue Flight is Wales's finest, Jon Gorringe. With a new Winder just delivered which sports a paint job last seen on a 1973 Ford Capri and Nicki back in the front end (despite a bad case of Tinnitus), Jon is ready and raring to go.

Rounding out the front runners in Blue is Caroline Croft who with Beka Jones has been consistently quick and competitive around the Silver Tiller circuit. They are highly impressive when it is light and shifty, so we expect big things this year.

Red Flight

Whereas Red Fleet has the young guns, Black Fleet is more of an ageing retirement home, with more Salcombe experience than you can shake a stick at:

  • Richard Whitworth has won the bidding war to install the diminutive and talented Sam Mottershead back in the front end and will be looking to reprise their 2015 title success.

  • William Warren and Mark Oakey will return from altitude training with high expectations of reminding the fleet of their natural talent and to improve on their third place in 2016.

  • National Champion Roger Gilbert, sailing with wife Jane, will again look like he is unsure of what the fuss is all about, before giving everyone a sailing lesson.

  • Dave Winder and son Oli, will be dreaming of a 3-sailer out to Balcombe and back when they can deploy the 'aircraft carrier' to full effect.

  • Chris Jennings and Pete Horn, both desperately in need of a good meal, will demonstrate that a single string raking system is an unnecessary invention and fly around the course with the same settings in all conditions.

Meanwhile, Alan Roberts having been given the keys to the Nick Craig JT machine, will be hoping for a single handed overnight race to be squeezed into the schedule.

So there you have over twenty teams across four evenly balanced flights, all of whom will think they have a shot at the title. And apologies to the remaining 100 teams who all probably think the same!

Despite the focus on the front end of the fleet, the great thing about Salcombe Week is that it works for everyone, wherever in the results you end up and whatever your aspirations. In fact it is the social side of the week which makes it such a must do event and that is something that everyone who attends makes a massive contribution to.

We look forward to another epic week on and off the water!

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