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Merlin Rocket Open at Shoreham Sailing Club

by Mark Oakey 5 Aug 2015 14:50 BST 1-2 August 2015

What a fantastic weekend's sailing but this helming lark isn't quite as easy as it looks...

The first weekend of August saw 31 Merlin Rockets make their annual pre-nationals trip to Shoreham for some "real sea sailing" before the championship. Having lost a bet with Chris Kilsby I was given the job of writing the report. Unfortunately, I spent more time around the middle to back of the fleet so have very little idea what happened at the front, other than what is shown on the results sheet. Therefore, here is my version of how a fantastic weekends sailing unfolded.

With my regular helm on a part time return to sailing following shoulder surgery, I was let loose in the back end of the boat and had found Paralympic squad member Megan Pascoe to crew for me.

Saturday 11:00: Get down to the sailing club to see a mass of Merlins and Fireballs rigging up on the grass. Make a final check of the forecast and see that, as per usual for Shoreham, there is 15 knots expected from the South West and bright sunshine. Looks like it's going to be a glorious Shoreham day with great waves! We launched fairly early for the 2:00 start to get a bit of practice. The army of helpers taking trolleys kept the slipway moving and were hugely appreciated.

Saturday 2:00: Start of race 1. In hindsight the pin end was definitely favoured which is why most of the fleet started there and not at the committee boat with me. Oh well. We were off on the first beat in perfect sailing conditions. The boat seemed to be going ok and so far helming didn't seem to be too hard...

Saturday 2:10: William and Alex Warren round the windward mark first and head off down the first triangle with Nick Craig and Alan Roberts in hot pursuit. Megan and myself rounded in the pack but not too badly placed. Time to try and figure out going downwind with the steery stick.

Saturday 2:30: Soon after the 3rd windward mark in dramatic fashion we got rolled by Chris Kilsby, sailing with Jon Ibbotson. This was the last we saw of them in race 1, crucially relegating me to the position of report writer. I don't really know what happened at the front of the race as I was busy trying to keep the boat going. Post match interviews revealed, Nick and Alan dispatched William and Alex fairly quickly and went on to win the race. Dave Hayes and Jonny Radcliffe got to 2nd on the last lap with Tim Harrison and Fran Gifford finishing 3rd.

Saturday 3:30: Start of race 2. Having seen the error of my ways I headed for a start at the favoured pin end of the line along with all the big guns. This was going very well until a slow speed tack to take position with 30 seconds to go put us in irons and going backwards. Oops.

Saturday 4:00: Having made a reasonable recovery from my not so special start we found ourselves battling in the mid-fleet for the first 2 laps. The tight racing was fantastic with epic waves, blazing sunshine and blasting reaches. Everything was right with the world. Well, until a poorly executed gybe on my part sent us swimming on the second run. Sorry Megan! This put us back a bit but it was impossible not to enjoy picking off a few boats on the last 2 laps, in champagne sailing conditions on a perfectly set course. Maybe helming isn't quite that easy?

I am informed that up front Olli Turner and Hamish Kilburn held Nick and Alan off until the last lap.

Saturday evening: Back to the boat park for a leisurely pack up, with beer in hand, basking in the late afternoon sun. Competitors, families and friends were all treated to a BBQ. This was subsequently washed down with some Brighton Blonde Ale during bar games and the customary egg throwing competition.

Sunday 9:30: Back to the club greeted by sun shine with coffee and bacon sandwiches were on offer to get everyone in the zone for another day on the water.

Sunday 11:00: Race 3 started in a building 10 knots from the South East. Determined to get a start right we managed to get away well from the favoured pin end hoping to have learned a few lessons from Saturday. With good speed upwind and Megan's superb tactical calls we rounded the windward mark in 4th place. Not far behind Jon Gorringe and Nicky Bass who led having come out of the left. Unfortunately, this was too much excitement for a crew sailing in the back end of the boat and I may have neglected to let the kicker off before inadvertently kicking the tiller while hoisting the kite. This inevitably led to another swim. Sorry again Megan! Although, this time we created a nice chicane 5 boat lengths from the windward mark for the whole fleet to avoid. Sorry everyone else! Clearly this helming stuff isn't that easy!

After this, yet again, I have no idea what happened at the front. I think Jon and Nicky led the whole way and won the race. The results say that Alex Jackson sailing with Phil Dalby came 2nd and Caroline Croft and Chris Gould 3rd.

Sunday 12:30: Race 4 starts in a robust 16 knots. We got off the line in reasonable order again and were racing well. Jon and Nicky made it to the windward mark first again and we were in the early teens. The race turned into a bit of an epic with the leaders finishing in 1 hour and 40 minutes. We stayed upright for the entire race. Bonus!

Sunday 3:00: We finished race 4 exhausted after 4 championship length races in 2 days. Nick and Alan won with Dave and Jonny 2nd and Jon and Nicky 3rd. We turned and headed for shore grinning after 2 days of champagne sailing coupled with champagne socialising. Our result: my slightly tippy helming confirms that I should definitely be back in the front of the boat for the nationals!

A huge thank you to everyone at Shoreham who made the event fantastic from start to finish, both on and off the water!

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
13749/3774Nick CraigAlan RobertsFrensham/Burghfield11‑746
23770David HayesJonny RatcliffeHayling Island23‑516
33754Jon GorringeNicola BassParkstone‑94127
43656Olly TurnerHamish KilburnSalcombe YC526‑813
53676Tim HarrisonFran GiffordRanelagh37‑11515
63758Jasper BarnhamGraham SextonThorpe Bay‑1059317
73657Caroline CroftChris GouldMidland883‑919
83690Tim HarridgeDave ReidHampton794‑1120
93659Julian ParryBeka JonesHollingworth Lake61013(RET)29
103611Jen DoddsChris DoddsNottingham‑171281030
113766Andy DalbyPippa DalbyHSC‑1913101336
123763Mark BarnesPhilippa DanielsWhitstable‑201517739
133685Sophie MackleyPete HornShoreham131115‑1739
143665Alex JacksonPhil DalbyHampton(DNC)DNC2640
153710Jon IbbotsonChris KilsbyUTSC‑1614141240
163773Alan WarrenWill CarrollShoreham15‑17161445
173696William WarrenAlex WarrenShoreham4(DNC)12RET48
183774Jon TurnerRichard ParscowLyme Regis116(DNC)DNC49
193756Mark OakeyMegan PascoeShoreham‑2120181553
203751Mark BarwellLouise JohnsonLymington121626(DNS)54
213740Pat BlakeJill BlakeCookham Reach18(DNC)231657
223702Duncan SalmonHarriet SalmonWembley‑2219201857
233566James WellsLiz WellsStarcross271822(RET)67
243734Philip AshworthAlison AshworthWeymouth2521‑272167
253719Jeremy DeaconAlex PauseyCRSC24(DNC)242068
263648Antonia WrightJamie WrightShoreham(DNS)DNC191970
273625Richard BramleyTony ChealShoreham2622‑282270
283683Ben JonesHelen HilditchShoreham/Tenby SC23(DNC)21DNS76
293731Andy JonesSally TownendBurghfield14(DNC)DNSDNS78
303771Laurie SmartRichard PauseyUTSC(DNC)DNC25RET89
313704Jemma HughesMartin HughesThames(DNC)DNCDNCDNC96

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