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Harken 29mm Block - 348
Harken 29mm Block - 348

Merlin Rocket Downriver race at Ranelagh Sailing Club

by Fran Gifford 1 Nov 2018 13:41 GMT 28 October 2018
Merlin Rocket Downriver race at Ranelagh © Brian Clark

Sunday 28th October saw the Merlin Rocket Thames Series finale take place at Ranelagh Sailing Club. In the days preceding the event, it became apparent that no-one was coming. A full money back guarantee was offered if the day was not enjoyed by anyone, and eventually late on Saturday night the text came through that there would indeed be one visiting boat.

The day dawned extremely cold and rainy. And blustery. But the one visiting boat did indeed turn up, and seemed extremely pleased to get a tour of the Ranelagh shed. Five local boats rigged up, a couple of others having had a crew mutiny.

It was a downriver race, from Putney towards central London, generally turning somewhere near Battersea Park, timed to coincide with the tide slackening from the ebb and proceeding to flood back to Putney. A late briefing and strong ebb tide at the start, mainly caught out the offerer of the money back guarantee, Frances Gifford and crew Sophie Mackley in the mighty Hot Totty (3676).

The individual recall and subsequent immediate lack of wind saw an almighty struggle to get back to the correct side of the line. It took about ten minutes, which felt like an hour, and it seemed as though they would be the ones wanting a refund (or an early cup of tea), which was problematic.

Visitors from Chichester, John and Charlotte Fildes (3585) got the start that dreams are made of, with no-one else really starting at start time. And off they went out of sight. Finally everyone else started with Greg Brougham and Nick Wilson (1633) leading the chasing pack.

A characteristic of a Ranelagh downriver race is that the first boat round the only buoy will generally turn into some adverse ebb, allowing the advancing pack to close up. And so it was that by the time Hot Totty got to the buoy, they could see the Fildes's. John and Charlotte swapped places onboard to mix things up a bit, and now the chase was really on. Gifford and Mackley hid from the tide, to the detriment of their foils, but in doing so closed the gap some more and subsequently overtook.

The Fildes's persevered with their spinnaker to great effect, re-overtaking Gifford and Mackley on a number of occasions. But approaching Putney Bridge, the final bridge, Gifford and Mackley opened up a small lead and with a now strong flood tide and some wind from a variety of directions crossed the line to cheers and surprise from the home crowd.

The battle for third was no less closely fought, with Una Winfield and Maury Shenk (3106) finishing strongly to take third and the photo finish for fourth was won by Greg Brougham and Nick Wilson from Guillaume and Alizee de Muscadet in the beautiful Diablo (214). Commodore Nick Long sailing with Gregoire (3061) diligently brought up the rear in sixth, not far behind at all.

As usual we all sat down to an extremely civilised two course meal, no-one asked for their money back, and the wonderful Royal Thames trophy (affectionately known as the umbrella stand) was presented by the commodore. Visitor John Fildes thanked the club for being a proper sailing club and the warm welcome and great race.

The next merlin open meeting at Ranelagh is an upriver Silver Tiller on the 2nd June 2019. Everyone that can lay their hands on a merlin rocket should attend and enjoy the actually wonderful experience of a Ranelagh open meeting. Merlins love Ranelagh and Ranelagh loves merlins.

Overall Results:

1st – 3676 Hot Totty - Frances Gifford and Sophie Mackley – Ranelagh SC
2nd – 3585 After Hours – John and Charlotte Fildes – Alderney YC
3rd – 3106 Eureka - Una Winfield and Maury Shenk – Ranelagh SC
4th – 1633 Undine - Greg Brougham and Nick Wilson – Ranelagh SC
5th – 214 Diablo - Guillaume and Alizee de Muscadet – Ranelagh SC
6th – 3061 Undine - Nick Long and Gregoire – Ranelagh SC

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