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Craftinsure Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller at Shoreham Sailing Club

by Fran Gifford 30 Jul 2018 16:38 BST 28-29 July 2018
Launching for match racing at the cancelled Merlin Rocket Craftinsure Silver Tiller at Shoreham © Fran Gifford

It turns out if racing is cancelled early due to extreme weather and sea state, there is actually no better place to be than Shoreham Sailing Club. With a week to go and the country basking in sunshine and glorious sea-breezes, imagine the disappointment as during the week the forecast got increasingly colourful, whichever one you used.

But there was still so much to look forward to. Shoreham Sailing Club has a NEW SLIPWAY!! And it is truly wonderful. Made of stoney concrete, extremely wide, with inbuilt drainage grooves and it goes directly from the dinghy park to the sheltered launching of Shoreham Harbour.

So the Merlin and Osprey racing was cancelled early by the very wise race officer Bill Whitney, which led to prompt rigging of some Optimist lookalike type boats. A match race championship schedule was drawn up, first round opponents were pulled from a hat, and numerous tasty pairings were drawn. In the first round, Rob Henderson sank, Caroline Croft overcame the challenge of her merlin crew Matt Lulham-Robinson and Mary Henderson made the youthful mistake of thrashing her landlady Frances Gifford. We now call her homeless Mary.

The pairing of two of the larger males, Tim Harridge and Jamie Wright, led the boats to twist into some extraordinary shapes but Tim survived the challenge despite his mast falling down on more than one occasion. Eight matches were sailed, and then straight to the quarter-finals.

Tom Harrison, Chris Gould, Alex Warren and Tom Ballantyne were all looking sharp, and manoeuvring their boats like they were born to sail twisty rotomoulded bath-tubs, and as the championship progressed the match racing manoeuvres were becoming increasingly America's Cup like. These four progressed to the semis.

The final was live-streamed on Facebook for the benefit of the four people that tuned in. It was a best of three final and it truly went to the wire with a race each to Chris Gould and Tom Ballantyne. In the final race (race 17 of the day), Ballantyne once again won the start and the challenge never came.

So there it was, Tom Ballantyne was crowned Merlin Rocket Shoreham Silver Tiller Optimist Match Race Champion 2018 giving him the entitlement to have MRSSTOMRC2018 embroidered on his socks. Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey were crowned world champion bimblers for the longest non-stop bimbling ever to occur anywhere ever (no sock embroidery entitlement).

Surf was up in the harbour so a few hardy souls ventured out on their SUPs. Apparently the closer one got to the harbour wall the better the surf. No-one died. Long games of cricket were played, until the bat broke in half and then came the EGG-THROWING.

Even when racing has occurred, the Shoreham egg throwing is considered the most important event to win, and this year was no exception. It was clear who had been practising and who hadn't, with Chris Gould and Caroline Croft emerging as victors. It is clear that living with your egg-throwing partner provides a strong advantage with greater training opportunities. They threw their egg very far (and caught it safely).

And then the party started. It has now become clear that when S-Club 7 sang their song – there aint no party like an S-Club party - they were actually singing about Shoreham Sailing Club. Who knew. The BBQ was amazing, local band Hammond and the Hurricanes were awesome, the DJ Phantom Spinner spun his decks, a few shapes were thrown and the bar kicked off.

There is nothing like knowing you're not going sailing the next day to confuse those of us who don't really like drinking too much. Many tried to reconfirm whether they are in the do-like-tequila or the don't-like-tequila camp, and then the bottles of pinot grigio were strawpedo'd. A small amount of break dancing, and then it was home time. Or tent time for the extremely unfortunate.

Sunday dawned and no-one spoke. The wind was full of 45 knots of rain so we all hitched on and left quietly. After a quick game of table tennis.

Thank you to all at Shoreham Sailing Club for the most amazing cancelled sailing event ever. You rocked.

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