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Nautilus Yachting Merlin Rocket Inlands at Northampton Sailing Club

by Tim Fells 13 May 2014 16:16 BST 10-11 May 2014
Huge gusts during the Merlin Rocket Inlands at Northampton © Anthony York /

Well, what a weekend that was! A forecast with 30-plus knot gusts for both days failed to disappoint and both those on and off the water were treated (or subjected depending on your viewpoint) to a festival of extreme wind crash and burn.

The Nautilus Yachting sponsored Merlin Inlands is one of the major events in class calendar. While those of a cautious constitution did not make the journey, well over 30 teams arrived at Pitsford to stare open-mouthed as bullet gusts raged across the playing field. The PRO, a sturdy chap with feet planted wide apart, stood in the shelter of the clubhouse and announced that conditions were playable. Maybe if he had noticed the stray dogs blowing past, he would have reconsidered.

Getting down to the startline was hard enough but upwind was hardly any easier with sails flogging and boats staggering through the white water. Despite this, race one initiated the traditional Merlin general recall – you would have thought that the conditions would have tempered the fleet's competitive nature, but clearly no. From then on all starts were under black flag with only the excitable Richard Whitworth being caught all weekend.

It is a rare site when you see some of the country's top sailors being blown flat trying to tack their boats downwind! However, as most crews over-familiarised themselves with their centerboards, Andy Davis and Tom Pygall put on a master class of high wind sailing. Knowing when to push (kite up and going for the gybe) and when to back off (kite down, head for the transom, tack round) and completing every manoeuvre with exemplary boat handling, they navigated their way through the carnage to post three bullets on Saturday. For all of the growing number of spectators on the bank and for the remaining competitors, this was a top class performance you would pay money to watch.

Many other teams had a go at the front but succumbed to the conditions, particularly at the wild gybe mark, set conveniently 20 metres off the shore in the strongest wind on the lake. Unfortunately a few rigs came down, rudders exploded, sails shredded, poles snapped and the lake shore started to look like an F1 pit stop as boats were towed in and crews scavenged the dinghy park for replacement kit.

Not surprisingly anyone who completed the three races were in the top six overnight with many teams hoping for a bit less breeze so that two more races and a discard would come in on Sunday.

Fortunately, the forecasted increase in the wind overnight failed to materialise and competitors were faced with conditions at the top end of fresh, but a bit less frightening. Two really good races were completed with a few spills but nowhere near the same level of chaos.

Sunday's first race was won by Dave Wade and Ben Rayner, who had been going very well all weekend but suffered two gear failures on Saturday to put them out of the running. Despite having 3 bullets, it was still not a done deal for Andy and Tom and things got a lot tighter when Dave Winder and Pippa Taylor added another second place to two superb seconds on Saturday, with Andy and Tom in an uncustomary 5th.

So all was set up for the final race with Dave and Pippa needing a race win with Andy and Tom outside the top four. Starting next to each other Dave and Pippa got the upper hand and were fighting in the leading bunch while Andy and Tom struggled, down in 19th at the end of the first lap. All was looking set for an exciting finish, when Dave and Pippa dismounted in a particularly wild gust, handing the initiative to Andy and Tom who climbed through the fleet to fourth.

Ahead of them, Simon Potts and Luke Shaw took the win to climb into second overall ahead of Dave and Pippa who had to count their last race tenth. Andy and Tom took the title and were clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the fleet in these conditions.

Photos can be found on the website.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoBoatHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5PtsNotes
1st3684Keyser SozeAndy DavisTom PygallBlithfield SC / Whitstable YC111‑547 
2nd376Stab In The DarkSimon PottsLuke ShawShustoke SC3‑1166116 
3rd3735The Clone WarsDavid WinderPippa TaylorHollingworth Lake SC(RET)2221016Tinker Trophy
4th3658BernardChris JenningsAlly MartinBurghfield SC‑7433717 
5th3743Pokin The TurtleMatt BiggsJohn HackettBlithfield SC43(DNF)9925 
6th3734The Black BoatDavid HayesJonny RatcliffeHayling Island SC(DNF)9441229Bald Head Trophy
7th3754Diddley PokeyJon GorringeNicola BassParkstone66(DNC)10830 
8th3727FragileTim FellsChris DownhamSalcombe YC57(DNC)15532Bald Head Trophy
9th3703FaithlessRichard WhitworthAndrea RalphParkstone / Hollingworth Lake SC(OCS)8517333Bald Head Trophy / Tinker Trophy
10th3761 Dave WadeBen RaynerNorthampton SC2(DNF)DNC1239 
11th3659ZenoJulian ParryRebecca JonesHollingworth Lake SC85(DNC)141340Bald Head Trophy / Tinker Trophy
12th3643MoistTim HarridgeDave RiedHampton SC1310811(DNC)42 
13th3671Snakey BPiers LambertAndy BinesBrighlingsea SC1012(DNC)131146 
14th3710Paradigm ShiftJon IbbotsonChris KilsbyUpper Thames1214716(DNC)49 
15th3687Mellow YellowMatt GreenfieldHannah PlayfordWembley SC15(RET)11121553Tinker Trophy
16th3676Hot TottyFrances GiffordPete NicholsonRanelagh SC91710‑181854Tinker Trophy
17th3733The DarksideTom StewartPhil DalbyNorthampton SC14(RET)DNC8662 
18th3442Armed ForcesMark StockbridgeRoop StockRanelagh SC2016921(DNC)66Old Boats Plate
19th3682 Jon StewardHarry StewardWembley SC1618(DNC)241775Maritime Plate
20th3709Wild at HeartTom LonsdaleAlice MarkhamUpper Thames SC(DNC)13DNC191480Tinker Trophy
21st3702Salmon en CroûteDuncan SalmonHarriet SalmonWembley SC1915(DNC)DNC1987Maritime Plate / Bald Head Trophy / Tinker Trophy
22nd3583Back to the FutureColin AndersonSean AndersonRedditch SC(DNF)DNCDNC2216106Maritime Plate / Old Boats Plate
23rd3651JupiterColin BrockbankRussell HallWembley SC18(DNC)DNC20DNC106 
24th3707MonkeyAlex JacksonSimon HaightonShoreham(DNF)DNCDNC7DNC109 
25th3744Mylo XylotoChris MartinJoe ToshBlithfield SC / Midland SC11(DNC)DNCDNCDNC113 
26th3730Blood Sweat & BeersPaul HollisLisa ScottBlithfield SC17(DNF)DNCDNCDNC119Bald Head Trophy / Tinker Trophy
27th3620Cool CookieEd GibbonsSarah BinesBrightlingsea SC(DNF)DNCDNC23DNC125Fossil Bowl / Tinker Trophy / Old Boats Plate
28th3750No Pasaran!David ConlonFinbar AndersonBrightlingsea SC(DNF)DNCDNCDNCDNC136 
28th3691Quick FixMike CalvertIan GarwoodAxe(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC136 
28th3719Fluff 'N' StuffJeremy DeaconDuncan SlimeCookham Reach SC(DNF)DNCDNCDNCDNC136 
28th3688Who dares winsBen HollisBen EavesRYA(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC136 
28th3645Blue VelvetPaul JenkinsPeter JenkinsWeir Wood SC(DNF)DNCDNCDNCDNC136Maritime Plate
28th3760ArbuckleMark ReddingtonColin StaiteBartley SC(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNC136Bald Head Trophy

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