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Aspire 72nd Merlin Rocket Championship - Runners & Riders

by Chris Martin 9 Aug 2017 19:47 BST 12-18 August 2017
Selden Merlin Rocket Nationals 2016 at Penzance © Lee Whitehead / www.photolounge.co.uk

The 72nd Merlin Rocket Championship kicks off this Sunday at Plas Heli, North Wales. As is becoming customary, trying to pick a potential overall winner from so many potential race winners is proving to be difficult! Based entirely on performances so far this season here goes!

Hot favourites:

Looking at what's gone on so far this year I can identify three boats who have gone consistently quickly at most events. Sam and Megan Pascoe are currently leading the Silver Tiller, and after a masterclass in consistency at the Salcombe (51 boats!) and Chichester open meetings in particular are certain to be there or thereabouts in most races.

Chris' Gould and Kilsby have also been going very fast. Without the distraction of an Osprey campaign so far this year due to crew injury they have been able to focus on the Merlin and that time put in is sure to reap a reward.

Andy Davies and Alex Warren's season got off to somewhat shaky start after an accident in the garage left them rig-less. That's now been sorted out and after coming narrowly second at Salcombe week have proved that they are back on the pace. After coming in second at the Solo nationals Taxi in particular will be looking to avoid a hat-trick of seconds this season.

Good outside bets:

Nick Craig and Alan Roberts you would normally expect to see in the group above, but a lack of time in the boat together could prove costly at the start of the week. No doubt they will get better and better as the week goes on - they were not slow at the Weymouth ST which was their only outing this season.

Simon Potts and Pippa Taylor are another team you'd expect to find in the group above. Extra curricular activities mean that wife Ally is unable to crew this week, but if you had to choose an alternative i can't think of too many better choices than Pippa! Again lack of time in the boat together could be an issue, expect improvement as the week goes on.

Chris Jennings and Pete Horn are consistently quick but not done much this season. Clear second at the Pwllheli Silver Tiller, definitely ones to watch, like a bit of wind.

Mike and Jane Calvert are rumoured as a last minute entry and if it's not honking this pair will be in the mix.

Good for a flutter:

Dave and Oliver Winder - Dave is no stranger to the front of the fleet, and son Oliver is improving all the time.

William Warren and Mark Oakey - William is a former champion and they've done a fair bit of sailing this season. Could easily cause an upset.

Matt Biggs and Ben Hollis - Probably need a windy day but can be very fast. New helm's toe straps fitted for the occasion.

Ian and Ellie Sharps - Good starter and the new short race format could work in their favour - just need to avoid the black flag.

Tom Gillard and Tom Lonsdale - To my knowledge Tom Gillard has never sailed a Merlin. I don't think I've ever seen Tom Lonsdale crew one either - sounds like a recipe for an upset! No shortage of ability in the team, just need to get working together.

Other outsiders include Jon Turner and Richard Parslow, Dave Wade and Rachel Rhodes, Dave Hayes and Jonny Ratcliffe, Tim Saxton and Jodie Green, Caroline Croft and Matt Lulham-Robinson - all teams who can win races and need to find consistency to maximise their chances against the three favourites.

I'm not even going to try to do the Silver fleet which also comprises of people who won't win the week, but could easily cause an upset in a race or two such is the strength in depth of the Merlin feet at the moment.

Thanks to our lead sponsor, Aspire and all our other sponsors who are too numerous to list! Keep and eye on YachtsandYachting.com for results as they come in.

Further details at merlinrocketchamps.com