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Merlin Rocket Cookham Shield at Cookham Reach Sailing Club

by Pat Blake 24 Apr 2013 09:59 BST 20-21 April 2013

On the first lovely spring weekend of April 20th and 21st Cookham Reach held their Merlin Rocket Open Meetings.

Saturday was essentially devoted to Vintage and Veteran boats with three races for the first of 'De May' trophy event of 2013. It was notable for the first racing experience of 'Gently' No 16 which was Jack Holt's own boat and has just been lovingly restored to its original condition by Chris Barlow. The racing was close with family teams of Martin Hunter with his son Jac (sailing Quiver no. 774) narrowly beating their club mates from Upper Thames, Peter and Debbie Walker (sailing Wild Waters no. 1700).

Team Hunter had two firsts and a second and team Walker had a first and two seconds. The racing was close in the light sunny conditions. Third was another father and son team, Richard and Alex Pausey (sailing Robin Hood no. 2040) also from Upper Thames. Gently benefitted by a handicap system that is carefully designed to let various types of old boats race on equal terms depending on how much they have been modernised. Gently has an original wooden mast, and everything restored as it was in the 40's including cotton sails. This helped her, carefully steered by her restorer and crewed by another enthusiastic restorer Garry Rutledge, up the finishing ladder to finish 5th.

The last race for the old boats was for the Guy Pearce Trophy and is open to all Merlin Rockets. Here the home club managed to wrestle back some of its reputation when another family, Martin Evans and his son Chris came home first. Their boat, Tenacious no. 3456 wasn't new, in fact it was built in 1990, 33 years after the Hunter's Quiver! There was only feet between them at the finish after over an hours racing. Such is the spirit of Merlin Rocket racing on the river that there really is very little difference in speed between the older narrow designs with low wetted area and the modern racing machines that plane faster on open water but aren't always as manoeuvrable in restricted waters.

Sunday blessed us with a lovely sailing day with a gently southerly wind increasing gradually all day. There were three races for the Cookham Shield. And plenty more boats, mostly modern ones, arrived from seven clubs. It was another family affair, Duncan Salmon and his daughter Harriett sailing 'Salmon en Croute' who led the fleet after a close scrap on the first beat from 'Hot Totty', Fran Gifford and Alex Warren. Warren, who comes from a famous south coast sailing family, had never sailed on a river before and declared that he enjoyed it – but it was his 20th birthday!

Close behind them was Andy Jones and Jilly Blake in 'Mayhem' and Alan Broadbent with Russell Hall in 'Delirium. These four boats battled nip and tuck for four laps with places changing frequently. At the line it was Salmon who just held on with Broadbent, who had a terrific final run, coming through to second, with Gifford third and Jones fourth. Close behind them was the 56 year old 'Quiver' with Martin and Jac Hunter, hoping for the wind to drop so they could roll tack past the modern boats.

After lunch the wind was a little stronger but the racing was just as tight. On the start line, angled across the river to give a bias to the leeward end, race officers Bob Deacon and Pat Blake called an individual recall with three boats over. One was Fran Gifford, who returned. The other two, Andy Jones and Lawrence Tosh, didn't! This proved to be decisive to the final result. After another five laps of close racing it was Jones who crossed the line first to a stoney silence! Salmon just beat Gifford who had worked her way back to the front of the fleet.

This meant Duncan and Harriett Salmon had already won with 2 firsts but they sportingly went back upstream for the start of the last race. This time Alan Broadbent won the start down on the Buckinghamshire bank and led the fleet beating downstream to 'B' mark by the bend in the reach. But it was Andy Jones and Jilly Blake who rounded first they were having to fight off a challenge from another father and daughter team, Alan and Alice Markham in their new boat 'Kevin'. These two boats were close for a couple of laps until Jones managed to pull out a commanding lead. Gifford was never far behind and managed to get past the Markhams by the end to secure second place overall. So the results were close but everyone agreed they had enjoyed some good river racing.

Cookham Shield results (Sunday):

PosBoatNo.HelmCrewClub R1 R2 R3Pts
1Salmon en Croute3702Duncan SalmonHarriet SalmonWembley SC11‑62
2Hot Totty3676Frances GiffordAlex WarrenRanelagh SC‑3224
3Mayhem3731Andy JonesJilly BlakeParkstone SC4(OCS)15
4Delerium3637Alan BroadbentRussell HallWembley SC2‑446
5Kevin3714Alan MarkhamAlice MarkhamUpper Thames ‑6336
6Snorter3627Alex JonesJack DeungCRSC‑75510
7Quiver774Martin HunterJacques HunterUpper Thames 56(DNC)11
8Smart Cookie3559Laurence ToshJack ToshUpper Thames 8(OCS)715
9Cobra3465Graham WebbMary WebbCRSC97‑1016
10Wild Knight3632Marcus RobbRoisin McCulloughCRSC‑108816
11Lady Luck1477Sel ShahBen MarshallTSC / Minima YC‑1211920
12Moderation2979Richard CartwrightNick ReuterCRSC119(DNF)20
13Peters and the Wolf3356James HallMartin HallCRSC‑13101121
14Perplexed2636Jeremy KannHugh SpaldingSouth Bank SC(DNF)121224

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