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Sharps Doom Bar Merlin Rocket Salcombe Week - Preview

by Tim Fells 4 Jul 2013 15:30 BST 14-19 July 2013
Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller event at Salcombe © John Murrell /

Sponsored by Sharps Doom Bar

Merlin Week at Salcombe has long been on the list of must do dinghy events. Raced in the beautiful but highly complex sailing waters of the Salcombe estuary, it has attained legendary status not just for the on water action but also for the huge number of spectators who follow the action both on the water and from the beaches, gardens and bars that overlook the race course. Generations of Merlin sailors travel from all over the country to indulge in the fun and games, catch up with old friends and take on the Salcombe challenge.

And this year is a bumper edition!! Due to unprecedented demand, the entry limit has been raised to 120 boats. Fortunately, with the fleet organized into four flights who race two at a time in either morning or afternoon starts, only (?!) 60 boats will come to the line at one time. The start line is going to be a tad crowded but the club has agreed with the Harbour Master to allow the full width of the harbour to be used at start times, unlike all previous Salcombe events.

Black flags will be in place for all starts, which will be videoed, so getting off the line consistently well and legally will be the key to a successful week.

So what of the runners and riders? Well, the Merlin is a hot class at the moment with many top sailors having joined the class in recent years to test their skills with the homegrown talent. Knowledge of Salcombe clearly is an advantage with all of its quirky winds and tides, so it is best to look at previous winners for the most likely front runners. A lot also depends on how competitive your flight is as every place counts double.

Last year's winners Dave Winder and Pippa Taylor are in Blue fleet and will probably be pretty pleased with their flight. The other top team in Blue is Ben and Roz McGrane who have been right at the front of the national fleet since joining in 2012 but their lack of Salcombe experience may count against them.

2010 and 2011 winner Simon Blake is in Green and will be returning with the Jo Richards Deadline prototype with which he made a strong impression last year. However, he should be a very recent new dad by then and has still to confirm in what capacity he will be at Salcombe. Green flight is a tough one with current National Champion Stu Bithell, 2009 Salcombe Champs Willie Warren and Chris Robinson and constant front runners and N12 champ, Tom Stewart with Phil Dalby.

Black flight is the home of 2004 and 2005 winner Richard Whitworth who has been on a recent hot run at Merlin events together with Sarah Bines. However, Black flight looks like the potential group of death (black death I suppose) with a number of top teams all with high hopes; Simon Potts/Holly Scott, Alan Roberts/Rob Henderson, Steve/Sarah Cockerill, Tim Fells/Chris Downham, Jim Hunt/Chris Gould and Chris Jennings/Ally Martin.

Finally to Red flight which is the home of 2000 winner Mike Calvert who was very much a front runner in 2012 with Ian Garwood. However, Mike faces a daunting challenge from the two teams who have been winning most of the Merlin events this year; Matt Biggs/John Hackett and Jon Gorringe/Toby Lewis. They will all be pushed hard by the talents of Jon Turner/Richard Parslow, Jon Ibbotson/Sophie Mackley and Alex Jackson/Fran Gifford.

Racing starts on Sunday 14 July, with the following program:

SundayRed v GreenBlue v Black
MondayRed v BlueGreen v Black
TuesdayGreen v BlueRed v Black
WednesdayBlue v BlackRed v Green
ThursdayGreen v BlackRed v Blue
FridayRed v BlackGreen v Blue

Look out for daily reports to catch up on all the action.

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