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Fantastic diversity for the Aspire Merlin Rocket Nationals 2019

by Ian Mackenzie 14 Aug 13:22 BST 17-23 August 2019
Andrea Brewster & Charlotte Fildes in Rockatross © MROA

Nearly there. Prize glassware received and checked. Sponsors awards safely received and sorted. Social programme printed and published. Dinghy park pristine and ready for our 65 entrants. Race Management primped and preened ready for the fray.

We've already looked at the hot favourites in an earlier item, the hopeful few and the new, young bloods but a quick look at the registered entries also shows the fleet in a good light; 27 Gold Fleet hot shots, 18 Silver Fleet hopefuls and 20 Bronze Fleet to keep Gold and Silver on their toes.

But what can we see behind that? Not least that in 27 of our boats we will have at least one lady aboard. Two of them with all-lady teams and 5, yes 5, lady helms. Ten of our boats will be raced with husband and wife partnerships but honourable mention must go to Phil Emery who will be crewed by grand-daughter Phoebe. Fantastic. If that's not enough, Emma Robertson (one half of our NSSA team for this year) is under 18. Ably assisted by her crew Carl Weighill, also under 18. The Weighill family are supporting us even more, elder brother Liam will be jumping into the front of Richard Bramley's steed - hope you both have fun.

But it doesn't end there in terms of family involvement, another 10 of our boats will sport father/son or father/daughter combinations. This is what the Merlin was designed for, 73 years young and still at the forefront of challenging, technical, rewarding dinghy performance for all.

So, an old boat, an "old man's boat". Well, there's nothing wrong with that is there? 26 of our helms will be north of 50, 6 laudably over 65 and 3 honourable veterans of 70 plus. There's life in the old dogs yet. Just wait for the fancy dress. But hang on, what about the other end of the scale? 39 of our helms are south of 50; 7 under 25 and 3 under 21. So, strong competition for the Anniversary Trophy. If that youth element wasn't enough; 18 of our crews are under 25, 12 under 21 and 8 under 18. So, even more competition for the Grafham Goblet.

So much for the competitors, what about their mounts? We will have the latest offerings from Dave Winder and Jon Turner on show plus of course left-field and the welcome radical approach of John Fildes' Rockatross. For this occasion piloted by Andrea Brewster, ably assisted by John's wife, Charlotte. So, new boats rule do they? Well, I don't think Andy and Pippa in Keyser Soze (13 years young), Caroline Croft in The Oldie (also 13), Chris Jennings in Bernard (14) and Mike and Jane Calvert in Quick Fix (12) will regard themselves as anything less than fully competitive. Plus, we also have 7, yes 7, boats qualifying for the "Old Boat's Trophy" for the 20 plus vintage machines.

Two of the older boats will be in the hands of our Magic Marine and TMS sponsored entries. Ben Pickering and Nathan King will be driving "Class Boat" 3582, fresh from practice at Bass Week and sportingly pitched into Silver Fleet - one to watch with interest, whilst our NSSA sailors (Emma and Carl) will be piloting a fully fettled, one-strung, pole-launcher "Light Fantastic" and will be aiming to give Bronze Fleet a fright.

So, where does that leave us? Top to bottom, front to back, left to right, young or "old" - it's going to be a full on week. And that's without the socials! Thank you to our headline sponsors, Aspire Financial Advisers, and to our hosts, Looe Sailing Club. Would you like to be part of this? We can still squeeze you in for this year if you call quick or do start planning for 2020 in Tenby and 2021 in North Berwick. See you there?

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