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Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller Finale at Royal Lymington Yacht Club

by Louise Johnson 10 Nov 2012 14:01 GMT 3 November 2012
Final Silver Tiller series event of the Merlin calendar at Lymington © Nigel Brooke

Lymington promised to deliver....and it did!

When 2012 kicked off, we knew it was going to be a big year, but could anyone have predicted quite such an amazing season? With events coming to a close on Saturday 3rd November at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, the title of overall winner of the 2012 Craftinsure Silver Tiller had still to be decided!

The highly contested Silver Tiller series challenges helms and crews to show not only their skill and talent, but on many occasions, also tests their nerve in practically every weather condition imaginable. It is a prize certainly to be earned in proving competitors worth over a variety of waters, from rivers and restricted lakes, to larger reservoirs, estuaries and the open sea. Consistency, perseverance and sheer grit and determination all help!

Going into the last event it was extremely tight at the top with just 0.1 of a point separating the combination of Richard Whitworth and Sarah Bines from David Winder and crew Pippa Taylor. Could Richard celebrate his half century by taking the Silver Tiller home for a 5th time, or would David "pull it out of the bag" and win this, his first major Silver Tiller series? Only 3 races (with two to count) would tell.

Saturday dawned with glorious blue skies and a slight north westerly chill, engendering in the competitors a feeling that they would be venturing out into just a light breeze! Hopes of a gentle final Silver Tiller sail were dashed by the clubs race officer Alastair Wilson with his opening address at the briefing - "despite the wind, the committee have every intention of heading out to the race area and we are looking to run 3 races." The Royal Lymington Yacht Clubs safety leader -Chris Baldwick - also added " that the wind was well up into the high 20s [knots] out there" causing more than a few murmurings from the assembled crews!

After launching, the fleet of 27 boats proceeded out to the race area situated to the east of Lymington and well into the widest part of the Solent. A reach and spinnaker run down to the committee boat then saw the first couple of swims of the afternoon! The race team had planned three separate forty minute races to be sailed on a trapezoidal course, with the intention of keeping the fleet close together on the water, but with the ebbing tide increasing in strength it was a real test of skill for the crews to judge the starts correctly.

Race one and the boats were away without a general recall and going well until the fleet approached the windward mark. At this point it would appear the green flag flying on the committee boat caused some confusion! Andy Davis and Tom Pygall (3684 Keyser Soze), apparently thinking "green flags mean G&Ts are now being served", (rather than the traditional all marks to starboard) headed for a port hand rounding! We will say no more.

Nonetheless first to the mark were Tim Fells, crewed by Chris Downham, closely followed by Richard Whitworth and Sarah Bines all correctly executing a starboard rounding. Back on track and with kites flying, the fleet powered round the second mark before going onto the run. Time lost looking for an invisible orange inflatable that was actually black, allowed the chasing pack to close on the first few boats. Ben and Roz McGrane (3739 Dory) took the lead at this point, a position they successfully held until the gun. Tim Fells and Chris Downham (3727 Fragile) were second followed by Dave Winder and Pippa Taylor (3735 The Clone Wars) in third.

With the wind starting to ease and the tide now well into the ebb, the fleet pushed the line in race two, resulting in the black flag being deployed. On the restart Richard Whitworth and Sarah Bines led to the windward mark, only to have the spinnaker stick in the chute on the hoist as they set off down the reach. Unfortunately for them this allowed Tim Fells and Chris Downham alongside to pop into the lead. As the short race progressed it was Andy & Tom using their consummate skill in expertly judging the effect of tide, who managed to wriggle their way through into the lead, ahead of the McGrane's in second and Tim and Chris in third.

Race three and now a numbers game. If Andy and Tom won the last race, not only would they win the Lymington Silver Tiller event they would also be on equal points to Richard and Sarah at the top of the overall placings. Without a year book to hand, (why not Richard?) and not knowing how the discard would work on equal points, Richard had to keep a close eye on his newest rival in the Silver Tiller standings.

To keep the momentum going (and to ensure the fleet were all back ashore in daylight hours) it wasn't long before the all-important final race was under starters orders. Again the black flag was on display due primarily to the ever increasing ebb tide. This race officer knows just what's needed to try and hold the fleet back! Tim and Chris magnificently led from start to finish taking the second win of the day and consequently the final Craftinsure Silver Tiller win of 2012. In the meantime Richard and Sarah were paying very close attention to Andy and Tom, resulting in Dave and Pippa finishing second, and with Richard and Sarah Bines taking third, it was Andy and Tom in fourth!

With some dark and very dubious looking clouds approaching from the Needles, the fleet headed in at high speed for tea and cakes and to be in time for the forthcoming evening celebrations - the final chapter in the 2012 Craftinsure Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller!

So to an excellent three course meal in the delightful setting of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club closely followed by the prize giving for the day's meeting. The clubs chairman Paul Hollis said a few words about the past years events and how we can all be truly proud of a class with such a long tradition that continues to go from strength to strength. Quote: "The Merlin Class is on a real high and it's you - the members - that help keep it this way!"

Karen and Ben Hollis assisted Paul with presenting the overall prizes of the 2012 Craftinsure Silver Tiller. The only minor hitch, to the otherwise seamless proceedings, was a small confession from the 2011 winner Andy Davis that the actual Silver Tiller trophy hadn't quite managed to make it to the club that night.....a suitable punishment was given (and drunk) eventually!

After the early prizes had been presented it was Richard Whitworth and Sarah Bines who with much cheering whistling and clapping were crowned Craftinsure Silver Tiller Champions of 2012. A truly tremendous achievement to celebrate in style as are the fine second place results of David Winder and Pippa Taylor and the excellent third place overall finish of Jon Gorringe and Toby Lewis.

The dancing then commenced...

Congratulations to everyone who has been part of the 2012 Silver Tiller series. Can 2013 get any bigger or better?!

A huge thanks to Craftinsure, this is their second year of sponsoring the Silver Tiller series and they are already confirmed as sponsors in 2013.

The overall results for the year's series can be seen on the MROA website.

Overall Results for Lymington meeting only:

PosBoat NameSail NoHelmCrewR1R2R3Pts
1stFragile3727Tim FellsChris Downham2‑313
2ndDory3739Ben McgraneRoz Mcgrane12‑93
3rdKeyser Soze3684Andy DavisTom Pygall‑4145
4thThe Clone Wars3735David WinderPippa Taylor3‑725
5thFaithless3703Richard WhitworthSarah Bines‑5437
6thThe Black Boat3734David HayesJohnny Ratcliffe‑65611
7thSlippery When Wet3693Will RaineySophie Mackley11‑12516
8thBlack Pearl3685William WarrenSara Warren‑1661016
9thOakey Dokey3712Jon GorringeNicky Bass12‑17719
10thHead Case3650Rich AdamsKatie Wright811‑1219
11thBernard3658Chris JenningsAlly Martin109‑1319
12thMoist3643Chris HarridgeBen Harridge714‑1621
13thTiger Tiger3696Alan WarrenWilliam Carroll‑1913821
14thShabazzle3729Jon TurnerAlex Jackson1510‑2225
15thWhy Ask3740Pat BlakeJill Blake‑2181826
16thWild Card3656Ollly TurnerAlex Warren9‑181726
17thBlue Bird3683Tony JohnsonLou Johnson‑18151126
18thHot Totty3676Fran GiffordMark Stock Bridge1316‑2129
19thWho Dares Wins3688Ben HollisLivy Bell17‑231532
20thCarbon Footprint3716Steph LeneyG Leney‑20191433
21stMayhem3731Andy JonesMaddie Jones14‑201933
22ndThe Flame3339Tim MaleRebecca Male‑25222042
23rdToo Dark N Stormy3697James WarrenRichard Page2221‑2443
24thEncore Fumee3371Paul DeanRussell Hall24‑262347
25thNostradormouse3577Derek DaviesLiz Woods23‑252548
26thFb Girl3589John HollandsMaria Gray(DNC)242650
27thMinistry Of Pleasure3634Ben ArcherHugo Pullem(DNC)DNCDNC56

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