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Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Gilbert & McGrane grab the Tiger by the tail

by Andy Rice 8 Feb 19:00 GMT 5-6 February 2022

Five-Oh heroes Roger Gilbert & Ben McGrane take their third win of the season in the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series as they storm to victory at an impossibly windy Tiger Trophy at Rutland Water...

Even gusts close to 30 knots proved incapable of knocking Roger Gilbert & Ben McGrane off course from winning the Tiger Trophy in their 505 last weekend. On both days the inland sea at Rutland Water came alive with white horses as the 96-entry fleet decided whether or not they were up to the job of taking on the harshest of the gusts in the high 20s.

Principal race officer David Wilkins has built a reputation for going ahead on day when most race committees would have cancelled. "I like to think in terms of what I would want if I was going to go racing that day as a sailor, and I think I would have wanted to sail," said Wilkins. Then again, he is an Olympic silver medallist (Moscow 1980 in the Flying Dutchman), so maybe he's not the best measure of what's possible for most competitors. "The thing is, we have so many world class competitors coming to race at the Tiger, it would be a shame not to be able to let them show what they're capable of," he said. "If it had been a youth event I probably would have cancelled racing but I felt the majority of the Tiger fleet were sufficiently competent and capable to take on the conditions."

Those who competed in the similarly off-the-charts windy Tiger Trophy of 2020 still recall that weekend as one of their best ever sailing days. No wonder there were so many repeat customers this year, with around 80 per cent of the fleet getting on to the water on the Saturday, the remainder deciding to preserve bodies and boats for another day.

Double winners from 2019 and 2020 - two breezy Tigers - were back this year. Except that rather than the 420 which they blasted to consecutive victories in those years, Neil Marsden and Jonny McGovern were out in their 470. Extra power, extra sail area, which proved anything but helpful in the high wind of the weekend.

Marsden and McGovern were certainly in the hunt at times, but the 505s were a class apart. Andy Smith and Stewart Mears took the first of two races on Saturday afternoon, closely followed by Gilbert and McGrane. It was Gilbert and McGrane who took victory in the second race of the afternoon chased by last year's Tiger victors, the evergreen Fireball team of Dave Hall and Paul Constable.

The Tiger Dinner on Saturday night at Rutland Sailing Club was a chance for old friends to catch up again after all the strange times of the past two years. It was also an opportunity to raise a glass to the late John Merricks, Rutland's most famous son who won the first every Tiger Trophy back in the nineties before going to win an Olympic silver medal in the 470 with Ian Walker at the 1996 Games. Dick and Vicky Sanders were welcome guests at the dinner. It was they who started the Tiger Trophy back in the early 90s before it became the John Merricks Tiger trophy after John's death in 1997. The event has continued to support the John Merricks Sailing Trust over the years. Even though the JMST is soon to close its doors after almost a quarter century of excellent charitable work, the Tiger Trophy is looking to continue as a charity event in the future.

Sunday dawned to another day with the breeze in the mid-20s, occasionally gusting higher. A seaway had built up overnight, so it would be even more challenging. Around 60 boats took to the water for the Pursuit Race. Ben Flower in his ILCA 7 (Laser Standard) was chasing Jon Emmett in the ILCA 6 (Laser Radial), but Emmett actually pulled distance on the bigger rigged Lasers. It was an exceptional performance all round by Emmett, as the hiking veteran and multiple Masters world champion held on to third across the line, beaten only by the two 505s, Gilbert/McGrane coming in ahead of Smith/Mears. Behind the leaders there were many capsizes and retirements, but plenty of rescue boats on hand for anyone that required assistance.

It had been a challenging but rewarding experience. Jon Emmett even found the energy to film an interview with Roger Gilbert after the racing, both of them sporting war wounds from the Pursuit Race. You can find out how Roger got his when you watch the video:

"It was a full-on weekend," said Roger. "We thought yesterday was windy, and then today was up again. We were watching the other boats already racing and we said, really? Are they really going to send us out in that? And I'm glad they did! That was a proper weekend's sailing."

While Roger was recovering from his facial injury, so too was Jon Emmett: "I have to be very careful not to hit my head on the boom through the tacks," he said. "Instead I headbutted the deck with my eye on the first tack at the bottom of the course. I actually thought I had damaged the eye because my vision immediately went cloudly. Only after a few seconds I realised my eye was full of blood when I wiped it with my hand."

No regrets for Jon who sailed phenomenally to take third overall in the Tiger, well ahead of many of the faster trapeze boats. Jon has been a regular at all the events over the winter. "For me, a big part of the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series is to put back into the sport after the Olympics and the social aspect of seeing friends in different classes."

There were many other outstanding performances in the fleet, including Val Millward whose 16th place overall earned her prizes for Top Lady and First Senior.

SailRacer trackers were fitted to every boat and recorded some impressive speeds:

Outright Fastest
Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane -505 9215 18.7 kts
Phil Hardisty, Chris Hill & Pete Richardson - N18 18.5 kts

Fastest adjusted to Great Lakes Handicap
Simon Horsfield & Katie Burridge - 2000 17.1 kts
Ollie Williamson - RS Aero 5 2713 - 15.9 kts

David Wilkins paid tribute to all who helped create a memorable weekend: "There are aways a lot of thanks due to many people to make the Tiger happen: to all the competitors who came and for their contribution to JMST; to all the volunteers who made the event possible - Race team, Safety team and all the people on shore - Results, Simon Lovesey for tracking, catering and club office and bosun. And a big thanks to Everards Beer who have supported the Tiger from the very first year through to the present day."

Gilbert and McGrane have won the last two events, a light airs Gallop and a fresh to frightening Tiger. What will the final event of the season bring? Almost 50 are already entered for the Oxford Blue, and it should be a great showdown to this season's competition.

For full results, more info on the Series and to enter the Oxford Blue on 19 February, please visit

The Events

The following events are in the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series 2021/22:

  • Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash, Draycote Water SC
    20 & 21 November 2021
  • Datchet Flyer, Datchet Water Sailing Club
    11 & 12 December 2021
  • CANCELLED - Yorkshire Dales Brass Monkey, Yorkshire Dales SC
    27 December 2021
  • Burghfield Breezer, Burghfield Sailing Club
    27 December 2021
  • CANCELLED - Grafham Grand Prix, Grafham Water Sailing Club
    2 January 2022
  • CANCELLED - GJW Direct Bloody Mary, Queen Mary Sailing Club
    8 January 2022
  • King George Gallop, King George Sailing Club
    22 January 2022
  • John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Rutland Sailing Club
    5 & 6 February 2022
  • Oxford Blue, Oxford Sailing Club
    19 February 2022

You can find out more about the Series at

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