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Merlin Rocket Downriver Race at Ranelagh Sailing Club

by Frances Gifford 9 Jun 2014 19:13 BST 7 June 2014

Saturday 7th June saw twenty Merlin Rockets rig in glorious sunshine, in preparation for a downriver race, which would take them under the eight bridges from Putney to Battersea Power Station. Racing was for a trophy first presented in 1946 and therefore probably one of the very first Merlin trophies. Visitors were warmly welcomed from as far as Lymington and as near as South Bank Sailing Club, and many in-between (Tamesis, Wembley, Hampton, Cookham and Minima).

Following a complicated briefing, regarding which arch of Battersea Rail Bridge would result in a DSQ, and when we would be permitted to hoist spinnakers (after clearing Putney Bridge), where the only mark would be laid and other local quirks, the fleet launched into a strong ebb tide (albeit luckily on neaps).

Despite the tide the start was clean, and race officers John and Margaret Stokes could sit back and wait the two hours and three minutes for our return. In the meantime, spinnakers were raised and a long run with the tide ensued, with gybing matches a plenty. Rumour has it, there were also two capsizes, one of which was under a bridge. Apart from the brown water and the inherent racing disadvantages, it was probably quite refreshing. It was a really hot day.

The leeward (and only) mark was laid, and a red flag hoisted to indicate direction of rounding (port), and the breakaway group of four boats of extremely varying ages, were quickly caught by the majority of the fleet having turned to beat into the still ebbing tide. However, the wind was good, and in fact the tussle for the lead was exciting. Hot Totty, 3676, sailed by Frances Gifford and Alex Warren led for long periods, Jon and Harry Steward (3682) had their moments in the lead, Tim and Bug Harridge (3643) put in a mid-race surge to take the lead for a short while.

The best surge came however, late on in the race when David and Caroline Croft in Panatella (3165) took the lead only a matter of metres from the line, only for the wind to reach Frances and Alex just in time for them to get moving again, to ensure the closest of all finishes. Luckily a camera was on hand, the photo showed that Hot Totty had edged it by half a boat length, and Margaret and John confirmed that this had indeed been the result.

Duncan and Jack Salmon (Salmon en Croute 3702) sailed a consistent race to hold onto third from Christopher Edwards and Una Hodgkins in Flying Wild (1944), who would have won had it not been for top batten issues (obviously this can't actually be confirmed without an identical re-run).

A barbecue and beers followed, Ranelagh were thanked by first visitor David Croft for running a great race and Ranelagh Sailing Club is very much looking forward to hosting its Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller open meeting on Sunday October 5th. The Thames Series continues at the aptly named Thames Sailing Club this coming Sunday (14th June).

Overall Results:

PosSail NoBoat NameHelm / CrewClubFinish Time
13676Hot TottyFrances Gifford / Alex WarrenRSC17:18:27
23165PanatellaDavid Croft / Caroline CroftTamesis17:18:28
33702Salmon en CrouteDuncan Salmon / Jack SalmonWembley17:19:18
41944Flying WildChristopher Edwards / Una Hodgkins RSC17:19:22
53682Red WizardJon Steward / Harry StewardWembley17:21:03
63489Love on the RocksHenri Schricke / MarvartRSC17:21:05
73751Strings AttachedMark Barwell / Louise JohnsonLymington17:21:10
83643MoistTim Harridge / Ben HarridgeHampton17:21:20
93627SnorterAlex Jones / Jack DeungCookham17:21:31
103442Armed ForcesMark Stockbridge / Lynsey WilsonRSC17:21:45
112444Scooby DooThomas Stolper / Nicola DelesalleRSC17:22:33
123346 Allan Munroe‑Faure / Toby MumfordSBSC17:23:55
132529PoohSel Shah / Ben MarshallMinima17:24:50
143579Old SocksMichael Airey / Fenella WilliamsRSC17:27:02
15214DiaboloNick Price / Sasha PriceRSC17:32:49
163606Take it EasyRichard Nourant / Sarah ElliottTamesis17:34:25
173073Birthday SuitPierre Dunoyer / Edward DoutriauxRSC17:36:35
183106EurekaNick Wilson / Zoe WilsonRSC17:42:19
192636 Jeremy Kahn / Andrea CoxSBSC17:50:14
203061UndineNick Long / HugoRSC17:52:19

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