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A first-time competitor's view of Salcombe Merlin Week

by Karl Thorne 20 Jul 2016 16:22 BST 10-15 July 2016

Last week I achieved an ambition and competed in Merlin Rocket Week at Salcombe, UK, this event is held within the beautiful estuary and has a limited entry of 120 boats. It is a well established event and has come about from the popularity of the Class at Salcombe Week becoming too large and the fleet requiring their own regatta.

A few illuminating statistics, the entry opened last October and was filled in 3 days! There was also a large waiting list established. The Nationals, a separate event held at alternating coastal venues elsewhere, has attracted an average of 67 boats over the last 10 years.

So what makes this event almost twice as popular than the Class' own National Championships?

  1. Well drilled race team, with a mix of PROs from one club used to running races on this patch of water
  2. Racing run in four flights - each flight meets twice in the week, start line numbers are kept (reasonably) sensible
  3. You sail one 90 minute race a day round the estuary using the club racing marks, starting at either 10.30 or 2.30 depending on your schedule. You end up with 3 morning races and 3 afternoon races over the week
  4. The starting gun fires on time regardless of conditions, i.e. 2 knots against the tide or 28 knots screaming down the harbour
  5. The challenge of the venue, every part of every leg of every race is different
  6. Ruthless but consistent race management - Black Flag start from the outset, and instant disqualification for infringing the small boat fairway that is closed to racing yachts 10 minutes before the warning signal. The start line then becomes the whole width of the estuary inside the warning signal and the area is temporarily shut to other traffic movements.
  7. Excellent socials laid on every evening in a very welcoming yacht club, attended by all ages. Especially bar diving for the over 70s
  8. Excellent holiday venue for the whole family
  9. Stadium like viewing for the start and finish, especially popular on the 28 knot days!
  10. No hanging about all day either on or off the water. Being able to plan other activities around your racing.

I think the best way to describe the event was a family holiday interrupted by some very highly competitive racing which took up no more that 3-4 hours of your day. As for our result, that didn't really matter it was just so much fun and very different to any sailing I've done before – the only similarity is that the best sailors in the fleet on the open circuit take the top thirty positions at Salcombe!

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