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Merlin Rocket eSailing Spring Series Championships

by Nick Craig, Tim Medcalf, Arthur Henderson & Matt 1 Jun 2020 10:56 BST 26-29 May 2020
Merlin Rocket eSailing Spring Series Championships © Virtual Regatta

The Merlin Rocket Class eSailing Spring Championships saw 46 people enter in what would be our first eSailing event of the season (or in fact ever). COVID-19 has had us all wanting to be sailing and the Virtual Regatta has allowed us to do so, albeit virtually!

The racing would be undertaken in three flights with a final for the top six in each flight. J70s were the e-Sailing boat of choice with five long races and two discards constituting the series.

The weather was peachy every day of the championships allowing for some excellent and tight racing. Racing was organised by Megan Pascoe, Chris Jennings and Chris Kilsby, with Zoom and WhatsApp used throughout. It was fantastic to see such a wide range of the Merlin Rocket fleet come to play, representing all regions as well as the pondy, river sailor and sea-farer - something which would be rare in the real world! If you enjoyed the Merlin Rocket e-Sailing and would like to support the class in running occasional events, please do get in touch with the MROA - we'd love to run something similar again!

Merlin Rocket e-Sailing - Red Fleet - Tuesday 26th May - written by Nick Craig

With no real Merlin racing on, Merlin VR is proving popular with Tuesday night the 1st round of 3 to qualify for the final. Megan Pascoe did a great job of both running the racing with a variety of international venues and courses as well as making a late charge to qualify for the final.

Matt Smith put on a fine display of virtual sailing to win the qualifier both with and without discards, he will be a favourite to win the grand final. Tim Saxton turbo-charged his broadband just in time to win the last two races beating Nick Craig on countback. Supercrew Will Crocker won the opening race by a country mile plus some other useful results secured qualification for the final. Real life multiple Merlin champ Taxi Davis scraped qualification despite running aground (WiFi failure!) in race 3.

Racing was really close with only 10 points separating the top 10, just like real Merlin sailing. Unlike real Merlin sailing, there were many collisions and penalties in every race, windward mark pileups and top sailors getting stuck in irons - it would have been a very expensive day on the water in real life! All good fun and we look forward to returning to Merlin racing and socials too.

Red Fleet Results:

1Matt Smith
2Tim Saxton
3Nick Craig
4Megan Pascoe
5Will Crocker
6Andy Davis
7Gareth Griffiths
8Alex Warren
9Will Carroll
10Matt Greenfield
11Mike Blackledge
12Jonathan Cowper
13Pete Slack
14Caroline Croft
15Mike Blunt

Merlin Rocket e-Sailing - Yellow Fleet - Wednesday 27th May - Written by Tim Medcalf

The second flight of Merlin Rocket virtual racers took to the start line on Wednesday evening in the hope of securing one of the six qualifying slots for Friday's finals. While the J70s offered less string to pull than a typical Merlin, there were plenty of buttons to press with quick reactions and the ability to make changes on the fly still at a premium.

Five races were sailed with three to count, the OOD choosing an exotic array of locations including Rio, New York, Cowes, Palma, and Aarhus.

Start lines seemed to marginally favour the boat end and the last few second of the countdown invariably saw jostling for position and a few skippers dragging the unwelcome sea anchor of a penalty up the first beat. Reading the shifts was key to success and short tacking to keep in the pressure was often required.

As typically happens in the real world, the first mark rounding required some delicate manoeuvres and saw an increase in the penalty count.

Downwind with an asymmetric spinnaker may have been a new experience for some and more savvy virtual skippers used some sharp practice gybes to put others in jeopardy.

The mid-fleet action was fast a furious but, as the evening developed, it became increasingly clear that the small group occupying the places at the pointy end were a class apart from the rest.

Rob Henderson came home a clear winner with a net of four points. Graham Webb was second and Luke Moores third. Only five points separated third and sixth with Peter Impey, Andy Dalby and Neal Lillywhite rounding out the final qualifying slots. Good luck to them all!

Thanks go to Chris Kilsby for organising the Yellow flight's qualification races, especially for introducing a compulsory beer break after race three.

Yellow Fleet Results:

1Rob Henderson
2Graham Webb
3Luke Moores
4Peter Impey
5Andy Dalby
6Neal Lillywhite
7Timothy Barr
8Stuart Bates
9Chris Kilsby
10Tim Medcalf
11Paul Rayson
12Brian Corking
13Phil Dalby
14Paul Dean
15Chris Balmbro
16Pippa Kilsby

Merlin Rocket e-Sailing - Blue Fleet - Thursday 28th May - Written by Arthur Henderson

On Thursday evening it was the turn of the Blue fleet to jostle for the last six places in Friday's final.

As the competitors took to their MROA-provided, brand new, rigged, crewed and ready J70s for race 1 in sunny Sydney, the hot favourite was Will Warren (Robert a), who was rumoured to have invested in a water-cooled gaming PC specifically for the event. As competitors dealt with unusual outside influences, including Wi-Fi connections and poorly timed phone calls, Chris Jennings (CJ Gone Sailing) and Arthur Henderson (Arthur H) battled it out at the top, closely followed by a bunch of yellow boats continually occupying the same space on the water and sounding the umpire's whistle. A win for Arthur from Chris followed by Andy Harris (Point Break) got the evening started and the races flowing.

Another trip to Sydney on the long and not very shifty course lead to extremely tight racing, with seconds separating the middle of the bunch. Meanwhile on the Zoom, a G&T or two was enjoyed and one sailor admitted to having had an account for "2 or 3 years", showing that they were well and truly ahead of the curve. A top three of Arthur, Richard Harris (1079Cloud) and Chris settled the scoreboard, but with 3 races to go and 2 discards to count, anything could happen in the mid fleet.

Race 3 saw a trip to San Francisco - where Andy admitted that he was getting some tactical advice from the younger members of his household who were watching over his shoulder, "They tell me where I should have gone." Maybe he should have listened? Not too much to comment on the sailing, we were all trying hard to concentrate whilst blocking out the exclamations and occasional curses that popped up on the audio. The top three were Arthur, Mary Henderson (MJHendo), and Richard Bates (Carbonator).

Portsmouth was next on our world tour (of all the lovely venues we could have chosen!), but the Solent put on sunshine and another excellently laid windward/leeward course. By now we'd lost a boat to gear failure and Sophie Mackley took a break from backseat-of-the-sofa driving Will Warren to join in, only for the two of them to tack on each other all the way up the 2nd beat. This didn't help them get on the podium however, with Arthur leading Mary, followed by the consistent Roger Phillips (merlin3736) who was putting in all the right scores to breeze through qualification.

As we went into the final race, the midfield was tight, with any of 5 or 6 boats pushing for the last qualification space. Suddenly the Zoom became quiet, a mosaic of concentration faces captivated by virtual sailing - no more contempt for video games now we've also got the bug. The left came good on the first beat, and racing continued to be close from then. Chris took the win, followed by Roger, and Ben Rayner (Reign). As we crossed the line, the mosaic disappeared, and the post-race debrief was cut short only by the 40-minute group call limit.

Thanks go to Chris Jennings for hosting the Blue group, well done to all the competitors for getting involved and giving it a go, and best of luck to everyone in the final.

Blue Fleet Results:

1Arthur Henderson
2Chris Jennings
3Mary Henderson
4Roger Phillips
5Richard Harris
6William Warren
7Andy Harris
8Richard Bates
9Ben Rayner
10Livvy Bell
11John Hollands
12Sophie Mackley
13John Buckley
14Joseph Woods
15Adam Craig
16Jack Tosh

Merlin Rocket e-Sailing Spring Series Finals - Friday 29th May - Written by Matt Smith

46 Merlin Rocket helms and crews battled for a spot in the finals - but who came out on top?

The Merlin Rocket e-Sailing Spring Championships has drawn to a close after a week of evening racing in J70s on Virtual Regatta Inshore. The championship consisted of three flights of qualifying series, each with 5 races and allowing 2 discards. The top 6 of each of these qualifiers advanced to the final series, which took place on Friday evening (29/05/20) and followed the same format. Competitors in the final enjoyed extremely close and competitive racing.

Third place in the championship was the winner of Tuesday's qualifier series, Matt Smith, who pieced together three decent results from a shaky final series on Friday evening. He finished on 8 points.

Chris Jennings, with a run of good scores in his qualifier and the final, finished the championship in second place. His podium position in the last race finished him on 7 points.

Following an impressive run of wins in his qualifying series, Arthur Henderson secured the championship with a first place in the final race. A consistent end to the final awarded him with 5 points. Well done Arthur!

Final Race 3

Final Race 4

Final Race 5

Final Results:

1Arthur Henderson
2Chris Jennings
3Matt Smith
4Rob Henderson
5Megan Pascoe
6Tim Saxton
7Graham Webb
8Roger Phillips
9Richard Harris
10Andy Dably
11Mary Henderson
12Luke Moores
13Will Crocker
14Peter Impey
15Gareth Griffiths
16William Warren
17Neal Lillywhite
18Andy Davis

Whilst we would all very much prefer to be racing in real-life, this virtual championship has reminded us how much we enjoy competitive racing throughout the Merlin Rocket class. Why not give it a go? The RYA have a fantastic set of instructions to get started in your club or class at

Many thanks to all the competitors who provided such close, enjoyable racing. A special thanks to Chris Kilsby, Megan Pascoe, Chris Jennings, and all the organisers who made this championship so enjoyable and straightforward.

Hope to see you all on the water soon!

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