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Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller open meeting at South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club

by Ben Archer 12 Jun 2013 12:53 BST 8-9 June 2013

Silver Tiller series sponsored by CraftInsure

On arrival at South Caernarvonshire YC the Merlin Rocket fleet was given the warmest of welcomes, not least by the sun which shone, glittering on the sea in the early morning, as the wind steadily built, whilst the competitors enjoyed their breakfast on the terrace overlooking one of the finest sailing waters in the UK.

As the racers sailed out to sea a F2 NNE wind stayed constant for the first contest of what was to become a battle between some of the best sailors in the class.

The excellent race team headed up by PRO Pete Richards kept the fleet under manners and got them off first time, and it was Dave Winder and uber crew Pippa Taylor (recently returned from a spate of international squad sailing) who were first out of the blocks with Matt Biggs and Jon Hackett in hot pursuit. Biggs/Hackett were not alone of course. Despite the pressure exerted by the chasing pack, it was the red kite of Winder/Taylor that popped first at the windward mark attaining what was to become an unassailable lead.

This wasn't processional racing at all however as Winder's club mates Steve Crook/Sally Townend and Nick Heginbotham/Jane fought like dogs in a pit for second and third, whilst at the same time trying to keep Andy Davis/Tom Pygall at bay, who were themselves all the time threatened by the unrelenting presence of the fleet behind.

The sun shone even more brightly as the wind freshened to a F3-4, real champagne sailing conditions for race 2. It was clear from the outset that Winder/Taylor weren't going to have it all their own way. It was a clean start once again, and this time Davis/Pygall turned up the heat, Showing everyone the way up the first beat only to lose out in a battle on the first run to Biggs/Hackett.

The mid fleet sailing was no less competitive; whilst loving the perfect conditions for Merlin Rocket racing, no one was giving any quarter. All did their level best not only to catch the leaders but to keep each other at bay.

The fleet soon regrouped and readied itself for race 3, such was the close nature of the racing, the first and last boats had all finished within minutes of each other, meaning the rest periods were very brief, and this was no problem for competitors hungry for good results. Thriving under the pressure and revelling in the perfect weather, Davis/Pygall romped away on the primary reaches, closely followed by Winder/Taylor and Crook/Townend. Places were swapped back and forth as the strengthening tide meant the less aware overstood on the windward mark The best Biggs/Hackett could manage was 4th meaning that the top 3 spots were all open going into the second days racing.

Sunday dawned and with it a F1-2 Easterly wind The PRO was concerned about the forecasted shift and drop in windstrength, but after a short postponement the racing was on, and pointswise it was an opportunity for the top three boats to win, as the pressure was on the first start was a recall (natch).

When we all got away it was Biggs/Hackett that won the start, closely followed by Pat and Jilly Blake and Davis/Pygall, Winder/Taylor seemed to sit in their own personal windhole from start to finish, and the best they could manage was a 7th place, their worst all weekend.

Biggs /Hackett rounded the windward mark first and held that to the finish, Heginbotham/Jane came into their own in the Hollingworth-esque conditions to pull a second out of the bag, closely followed by dark horse Steve Hunt and Ruth Critcheley who didn't show their true form until the last race of the meeting, it is unfortunate for the Blakes that they got into a lot of dirt at the windward mark and could only manage 6th place, after such a promising start to the day.

This meant that Matt Biggs and Jon Hackettt won the open, Dave Winder and Pippa Taylor were second and Andy Davis and Tom Pygall were third. The prizegiving had to be held in the shade as the sun was so hot, and it was with great reluctance that people drove away from this most enjoyable of open meetings.

The verdict of the fleet? "If you weren't sailing a Merlin Rocket at Abersoch last weekend you weren't doing any real sailing".

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