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Gill Pro Hikers (DG4923)
Gill Pro Hikers (DG4923)

Craftinsure Merlin Rocket Open at Banbury Sailing Club

by Lawrence Tosh 15 Apr 2013 17:08 BST 14 April 2013

A Silver Tiller event sponsored by Craftinsure, and a Midland Circuit event

The night before the forecasts, and they varied enormously, seemed to suggest 20knots gusting a mere 42knots. 16 boats had turned up to brave the conditions (only 12 got afloat) against the usual turnout in the mid-30s and none of the Banbury fleet braved the conditions.

Although football is said to be a game of two halves, so was Boddington reservoir. When visitors first arrived, the southern end was a vista of white horses whereas the downwind half was bereft of horses but more vulnerable to killer gusts. A local airfield recorded a maximum gust on the Sunday at 10am of a mere 36knots while the highest average windspeed was 29.8 knots at that time, all from a SSW direction; directly along the length of Boddington Reservoir.

The dilemma from the outset was, "should I stay or should I go now." The tactics of how to deal with the conditions was interesting viewing: most rubbed their chins, notably one party was seen kicking his flat trailer wheel, whilst Will Rainey wallowed in the mud and Matt Biggs quietly rigged in between plastic fag breaks.

The race committee sensibly changed the format to 3 races back to back. The course was a figure of eight using just 4 buoys with two gybes! As the start time approached it was still not clear how many were going to give it a go but as luck would have it the wind just backed off a notch and inspired the majority to set sail.

In Race 1, Tim Fells & Chris Downham (3727) made a speedy getaway and quickly established a healthy lead to round the windward mark numero uno followed by Mike & Jane Calvert in Quick Fix (3691), Matt Biggs & John Hackett in Pokin' The Turtle (3743) and Will Rainey & Caroline Croft in Slippery When Wet (3693) all in hot pursuit. Fells powered on to a lengthened lead with Calvert and Biggs next in line.

The downwind gusts and how you coped were always going to be crucial factors - the Banbury clubhouse was a perfect spectator spot.

Biggs broke through the Calverts to second, but his crew went fishing for his toe straps which were only caught after a capsize, so back to third they went. Holding up the rear of the fleet were solid performances by Martin Smith & Karen Beeston in Fat Boy Slim (3567), Richard Coulter & Nick Yannakoyorgos in Cream Cracker (2997) and Colin & Sean Anderson in Back to the Future (3567). No shame on a day like this - even finishing was worth a prize.

Fells and Downham finished first with a commanding lead followed by the Calverts in second and Biggs Pokin' The Turtle in third. Yes I know that sounds wrong.

For Race 2, the wind seemed to pick up a notch. Matt Biggs rounded the windward mark in first place and quickly broke ahead with a cluster of four in hot pursuit. Biggs consolidated his lead with a masterful journey downwind. With Will Rainey & Caroline Croft, the Calverts, and Chris Martin & Tom White in Mylo Xyloto (3744) the next in line. Mr Fells and Mr Downham were conspicuous by their absence - it later transpired the kite halyard had decided to cruelly shred thus killing off their threat. The Calverts broke through to second place to Will Rainey's cost, while a late arrivals Simon & Jilly Blake ("Maam" to us) in the Super Fast Jellyfish (3738), were moving up the fleet. The race was full thrills and spills - unfortunately Cream Cracker (2997) hit a gust too far and the rig imploded in front of the spectators.

The wind's strength and gusty behaviour now made flying the kite a big decision and picking your moment crucial; even Biggs showed respect and bided his time when to hoist. Matt crossed the line first with an impressive lead with the Calverts in second and Chris Martin retaining a tight third from Will Rainey.

In terms of fighting for first place, the 3rd race was now a shoot out between Matt Biggs with a 3rd & 1st place and the Calverts with two 2nd places. The start was an intense clustered affair but the Calverts broke ahead with Biggs in second with Chris Martin and Will Rainey in pursuit, and definitely not lying down. The wind shifting further to the south also made for a tighter more risky downwind leg, but the top positions stayed...until near the next windward mark a shift played to Matt Biggs' favour and he broke through into first. The Calverts were never far behind and at times nearly broke through but across the final finish Biggs triumphed against the dogged Calverts with Chris Martin and Will Rainey following on behind.

It had been an exciting and gruelling day but a late lunch was now ready to be served by the trusted Banbury galley team. A big thank you to all including the valiant race committee and rescue team who were kept on their toes all day. Thanks also to Jane Tarver and Tim Bury for the photographs.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoBoat NameHelmCrewClubR1R2R3Pts
13743Pokin' The TurtleMatt BiggsJohn HackettBlithfield SC3112
23691Quick FixMike CalvertJane CalvertAxe SC2224
33744Mylo XylotoChris MartinTom WhiteBlithfield SC5336
43727FragileTim FellsChris DownhamHayling Island SC16DNS7
53693Slippery When WetWill RaineyCaroline CroftShoreham SC4448
63690General LeeAndy DalbyA RalphTrent Valley69511
73718Miss AigletingerDavid MitchellEllie DaviesSouth Staffs SC77DNC14
83738Super Fast JellyfishSimon BlakeJilly BlakeCookham SCDNC5DNF18
93583Back to the FutureColin AndersonSean AndersonRedditch SC108DNF18
103567Fat Boy SlimMartin SmithKaren BestonBlithfield SC8DNCDNC21
112997Cream CrackerRichard CoulterNick YannakoyorgosFishers Green SC9DNFDNC22
123641Puff the Magic DragonMark WaterhouseMatt CurrellParkstone YCDNFDNCDNC26

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