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Merlin Rocket Open at Thames Sailing Club

by Nick Hoskins 16 Jun 2011 07:44 BST 12 June 2011
Merlins at Surbiton © Nick Hoskins

For many years the Merlin fleet at Thames had remained minimalist. However this year, a new dawn has arrived. For the first time in more years that anyone can remember Thames Sailing Club held a Merlin Open.

The day arrived and so did a fair South Easterly force 3 gusting 4 with a steady drizzle. Thames’ own Merlin fleet has had a renaissance and some 18 enthusiastic entrants crossed the start line for the first of 3 races.

River sailing is, probably, the most challenging and this was borne out by David Vines Tamesis Club (3347) when he declared that at one point he set his boat at a near horizontal slant to catch the downdraft at that point!

The three races were all keenly fought over a course involving tacking, running and broad reach as the bend in the river afforded different faces to the gusty wind. It was interesting to note the minimal advantage that spinnakers seemed to have during the 500 yard run/ reach.

In each race the leaders soon established themselves with Vines (3347), Hunter Upper Thames SC (774), John Bell Hampton SC (1201) and Tim Harridge Hampton SC (3555) fighting it out at the front, and Alan Broadbent Wembley SC (3637) and Richard Page Hampton SC (1222) closely snapping at the leaders heals.

In the narrow section of the river that Thames enjoys there was plenty of opportunity for conflict, yet even when the large, 80ft passenger cruisers steamed past with unseemly regularity all appeared to cope in a positive sportsmanlike manner. However, those of a slightly less experienced nature took swimming lessons and three boats tested their buoyancy!

For those who have an interest in gender equality it was nice to note that for some races we had an abundance of lady skippers out. Of the 9 Thames boats sailing it was good to see one third of the fleet were in the hands of the fairer sex on such a challenging day.

The final winner was quite decisive and indeed a pleasure to watch as in all three races he used his magic to ease away from the rest of the fleet. So David Vines won the trophy with Martin Hunter taking second place, John Bell third and Tim Harridge fourth.

All seemed to have had a good day despite the weather and occasional swim and Thames is now back on the Merlin scene and for this event in the company of 2 boats from Wembley, 3 from Tamesis, 3 from Hampton and one representing Upper Thames.

Note: Thames Sailing Club is the first inland sailing club to be established in 1870 and boasts the mother of both the lifting centre plate racing craft, the traipse and the sliding seat all of which were incorporated at one time or another within the Thames A Rater; one of which may be seen in the picture. Besides around 12 of these craft sailing at Thames our Merlin fleet has grown to some 16 craft most of which are active.

Overall Results:

1st David Vines / Maria Gray, 3347 (Tamesis Club)
2nd Martin Hunter / Cashia, 774 (Upper Thames SC)
3rd John Bell / Alison, 1204 (Hampton SC)
4th Tim Harridge / Ben harridge, 3555 (Hampton SC)
5th Alan Broadbent / Russell Hall, 3637 (Wembley SC)
6th Richard Page / Nigel Cooper, 1222 (Hampton SC)
7th Ben Marshall / Sel Shah, 1189 (Thames Sailing Club)
8th Dana Church / Matt P-Jones, 6—0 (Tamesis Club)
9th Chris Martin / Sara Goodworth, 2929 (Thames Sailing Club)
10th Paul Dean / Nicki Della Porta, 3371 (Wembley SC)
11th Richard Mourant / Fiona Bolwell, 3233 (Tamesis Club)
12th Ian / Suzie / Suzie / Ian, 2069 (Thames Sailing Club)
13th Patrick Rayner / Jo, 107 (1206) (Thames Sailing Club)
14th Pippa Hutton / Gavin McCosh, 2529 (Thames Sailing Club)
15th Nicky Erskin-Thomas / Clare Grant, 1920 (Thames Sailing Club)
16th Stuart Gurney / Dominique Stafford, 3609 (Thames Sailing Club)
17th Chris Gilbert / ??, 2701 (Thames Sailing Club)
18th Dave McCormac / Phillipa, 1203 (Thames Sailing Club)

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