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Merlin Rockets at the Peelports Cumbraes Regatta Weekend

by Steve Watson & Andy Johnston 1 Sep 2013 08:15 BST 24-25 August 2013
Peelports Cumbraes Regatta Weekend © Marc Turner /

We ventured Forth to the Firth of Clyde, reforming Team Green, Steve Watson and ToBi Watson, for the event of the Peelports Cumbraes Regatta weekend. With a diverse mixture of dinghies, cats and yachts, the venue was the lovely Largs Yacht Haven opposite the island of Great Cumbrae. Four races were planned on the Saturday and around the Island race was on the menu for Sunday.

The Scottish Merlin fraternity were using the regatta as a Merlin event, with 5 boats present and a range of designs from an old Smokers Satisfaction through an NSM 4, wooden Canterbury Tales, Let it Ride and a Winder Tales mkIV. There were some boats now living in Scotland that I recognised. "Maid of Ply", no longer brown but a turquoise hue, had been modified by renowned local sailor John Reekie. The mainsheet hoop was out; replaced by centre main and aft traveller arrangement. Also "Gilt Complex" renamed "La Belle Electra", and "Shadowfax" still looking a rock solid Rowsell. MR handicaps were self reported for each boat - interesting!

Competing in the fast handicap fleet, consisting of Merlins, Albacore, Int 14, massive 18 foot skiff with a sale area bigger than Asda, and an assortment of other boats we took our turn in the start sequence. Force 1 to 3 winds, Team Green squeezed in at the committee boat end looking good, strategy well formed, wind shifts registered and frequency noted. The massive skiff cautiously held back, I guess confident that they might catch up! We went right. It was clear that local knowledge was important as John Reekie showed clear supremacy by rounding as first Merlin having gone left, well ahead of the rest of us trailing.

Interesting situation with the skiff at the top mark, hmm! What to do. ToBi, who had actually sailed this craft with helm Craig Hepplewhite suggested prudence about calling for room! Positions were not challenged in the Merlins in the sausage course and it was Reekie, Team Green and Brian Kelly setting the pace. The skiff took first place on the water!

The second race started in much the same way, Reekie and Kelly left side of the beat, both rounding ahead of Team Green. Hectic and close coverage over three laps saw Kelly take the lead down the last run on the windward outside causing Reekie to pull out the stops at the congested mark. Team Green failed to secure an inside overlap at the mark over Kelly but attempted maximum sneakiness down the last leg to the finish. Kelly maintained sufficient speed to take second place, but Reekie prevailed to win.

The third race saw a change in Team Green strategy and the race was Team Green snapping at the heels of Reekie throughout but no breakthrough. Strangely the tide seemed to be flowing the wrong way. Three wins to Reekie.

The fourth race was abandoned and we returned to shore to meet an Optimist full of free beer!

The Sunday race around the Cumbrae islands was not looking good with the early starting yachts looking very slow in virtually no wind. Correction: no wind. Strange for this part of the UK, when the east side was suffering from torrential rain. Sensibly, the Race Committee drew the weekend to close at lunchtime with a regretted abandonment. Team Green went back to the golf course; Tee green.

The Scottish Merlins return to battle at the Marineblast Regatta next weekend, with 6 boats confirmed and another 3 threatening to turn up. 2 new owners have boats for next year, and another 2 are waiting in the wings. The dinghy park was certainly a colourful and interesting place, with plenty of boat chat and admiration from other sailors. For more information visit the Scottish pages of the MR website.

Overall Fast Handicap Results:

1) MR 3525, John Reekie & Andrew Hooton
2) MR 3680, Steve Watson & ToBi Watson
3) Albacore, Richard Downie & Allan Downie
4) MR 3546, Brian Kelly & Lorna Drysburgh
5) 18ft skiff, Craig Hepplewhite, John & Catriona Annan

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