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Helming to Win by Nick Craig
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Merlin Rocket Open Meeting at Brightlingsea Sailing Club

by Piers Lambert 14 May 2013 08:42 BST 11-12 May 2013

Saturday dawned with bright skies and small clouds sweeping through rapidly. The 20 gusting 30 knot SW forecast hadn't put off 21 boats that made up the fleet for the next 2 days.

A short delay while the committee boat was coaxed into life (I think it wasn't keen on the wind and waves), and the fleet headed out into the Colne Estuary. After the start of the OK and Hornet fleets the first race got underway first time with the tide just coming up to high. Five laps of a testing course were set, and those heading left on the lee bow came out well at the top mark. Nick Craig and Alan Roberts, Matt Biggs and John Hackett, John Turner and Richard Parslow, and locals Dan Willett and Pete Nicholson lead the fleet. Good fast reaches followed and further down the fleet the gybe mark caught its share of swimmers. Nick Craig stretched his lead to win comfortably.

The second race was quickly underway again at first try with only 4 laps although not all now wanted to play and some headed for the club! The tide was now ebbing and the waves started to form in to a short steep chop. Nick Craig, Chris Jennings and Oli Wells, Matt Biggs and Dan Willett again battled for the top mark. Dark clouds started to form and some wicked gusts came blasting down the course (at the bar later some were described as Rather Fruity!).

A number of boats had gear failure as the gusts and waves took their toll, with David Winder, JT among the high profile casualties. Many opting to drop kites and tack as gusts hit over 30 knots. Again Nick Craig and Alan Roberts revelled in the conditions and stretched away with Matt Biggs in second and Dan Willett third. Seven finishers showed a high rate of attrition.

All headed for the club to a fine meal of steak pie and beers.

Sunday had a few more competitors arriving for the Craftinsure Silver Tiller event where points only counted from Sunday's races. The breeze had dropped slightly overnight and swung more westerly, but was still testing.

The first race on the flooding tide had the windward mark on the Mersea shore, and unpredictable gusts and shifts made the race officers' job tricky. The fleet got away on the first try, and the first reach was tight, with some struggling to make the wing mark and kites ragging. Nick Craig still showed the fleet his liking for the conditions and led with Tom Stewart and Phil Dalby, and Dave Winder and Pippa Taylor in pursuit (who unfortunately had forgotten to tally and got a penalty).

The second race with the tide now flooding hard still had a few gusts making people slash, and down the run Andy Hay turned submarine while avoiding a boat broaching in front and his rig protested with a loud bang and crumple. Matt Biggs led but was finally overhauled by the indomitable Nick Craig with Chris Jennings in third.

The last race the wind was now dropping to a friendlier 15 knots and the fleet decided it wasn't a proper Merlin open without a general recall and subsequent black flag for the second attempt.

Again the shifty beat split the pack early and Nick Craig led from Chris Jennings, and Jasper Barnham and Graham Sexton. The second lap the wind started dropping and shifting so the Race Officer hoisted the shortened course. Nick Craig again triumphed with Chris Jennings second and Dave Winder pulling through to third.

A great event in testing conditions for Race Officer and team, crews and boats.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoClubHelmCrewR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st3749Frensham HaylingNick CraigAlan Roberts‑111114
2nd3743Blithfield SCMatt BiggsJohn Hackett22‑52511
3rd373Burghfield SCChris JenningsOli Wells‑8443213
4th3746Brightlingsea SCDan WillettPete Nicholson33‑95920
5th3708Snettisham BeachJasper BarnhamGraham Sexton5(DNC)810427
6th3671Brightlingsea SCPiers LambertTim Bees7777‑1028
7th3752Shoreham SCWill RaneyCaroline Croft6(DNC)116831
8th3733Northampton SCTom StewartPhil Dalby(DNC)DNC24634
9th3735Hollingworth Lake SCDavid WinderPippa Taylor(DNC)DNCTALLY12345
10th3712Burghfield SCIan SharpsChris Catt(DNC)DNC611746
11th3688Hampton SCBen HollisAlex Warren(DNC)5TALLY81748
12th3620Brightlingsea SCAndy BinesSarah Bines9(DNC)16131250
13th3626RYAAndy HayNix Middleton‑Stewart10618(DNC)DNC56
14th3716Blithfield SCSteve LeneyGill Leney(DNC)DNC10151158
15th3651Wembley SCColin BrookbankRussell Hall(DNC)DNC1591359
16th3702Wembley SCDuncan SalmonHarriot Salmon(DNC)DNC14161466
17th3715Fishers Green SC/Salcombe SCPaul RaysonJulie Rayson(DNC)DNC12181668
18th3729Lyme RegisJon TurnerRichard Parslow4(DNF)DNCDNCDNC70
19th3682Wembley SCJon StewardHarry Steward(DNC)DNC17171571
20th3717Brightlingsea SCDavid CharltonCeila CHarlton(DNC)DNCDNC141876
21st3686Brightlingsea SCOzCheryl(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC88

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