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Merlin Rocket South West Series at Salcombe Yacht Club

by Christian Birrell 17 Apr 18:01 BST 15-16 April 2023

The Merlin Rocket fleet were welcomed on Saturday 15th April morning to yet another perfectly sunny day in Salcombe for the South West Series spring open - they only seem to serve one type of weather in this perfect corner of Devon.

Equally as characteristic, there was very little wind! That is never an obstacle for the race team at Salcombe Yacht Club though, so the fleet set off for the first race of the day in a light northerly breeze. The husband and wife team of Mary Henderson and Rupert White were first out the blocks, and led the fleet into a very light wind sniggle through the bag. Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey managed to sneak through into the lead halfway up the Kingsbridge Estuary and opened up a very comfortable lead on the fleet. But things are never over until they are over in Salcombe, and what little wind the fleet were enjoying all but shut off, before filling in from behind to re-compress the fleet after an hour of racing. Christian & Sam's lead was quickly eaten up by the chasing pack, and Taxi Davis and Ollie Meadowcroft briefly took the lead. A couple more 90 degree shifts later and Christian & Sam regained control, and were delighted to see the shorten course flag. Taxi and Ollie followed in second, with Caroline Croft and Faye Chatterton sneaking through into third just before the finish.

The first rule of racing around Salcombe is to always be ready for a major change. True to form, the second race started with the wind now flowing from the south, with the first leg now a beat towards Sunny Cove. Tim Fells and Fran Gifford used their superior local knowledge to lead around the first mark and extend away to an easy victory. The fleet remained very tight all the way down Southpool Creek, but it was another local team in Will & Rob Henderson that picked up a big left shift coming out the creek to sperate themselves from the pack. These two enjoyed a quiet race to the finish, followed in by Salcombe newbie's Ed Chapman and Hannah Peters.

Day two started uncharacteristically overcast, but characteristically light again. Of course, the sun arrived by start time and it was a day for the two boats being driven by the future Mr and Mrs Gould, who spent the day battling it out for the top spot. In race three, Caroline and Faye rounded in one, with Chris Gould & Sophie Mackley closely behind in two. Chasing them into the bag was a very tight battle between Christian and Sam, Taxi and Ollie, Alex Warren Jonty Freeman, Tim and Fran and Simon Potts and Charlotte Fildes - with continual place changes as the pack exchanged gybes to try and stay in the pressure. Christian & Sam managed to get to the front of the pack by the leeward mark and set about chasing down the real race. Coming back out the bag, Chris & Sophie picked to avoid the tide on the right shore, while Caroline took the left. Chris had got it right, and held the lead to the finish, with Caroline & Faye in two and Christian & Sam in three.

That result set the stage for a final race showdown between three boats. Christian & Sam had sailed a consistent series, but Caroline & Faye and Chris & Sophie had big discards to bring drop from their scorecard. Whoever won the last race out of the three boats would win the regatta. First out was Christian & Sam, who suffered a boat breakage just after the start. By the first mark, it was clear it was going to be one of the Gould/Croft family that would be taking the trophy home. Rivalry is clearly strong in this household, as the two continually traded places throughout the race for the regatta win. Chris seemed to have one hand on the trophy, but rumours are he got a bit concerned about the reception he might get on the long car journey home if Caroline hadn't won, so he kindly hunted out a few bad shifts until Caroline had got round him. Caroline & Faye crossed the finish line first to take the regatta, and Chris remains happily engaged to Caroline.

A big thank you to Salcombe Yacht Club for putting on another brilliant weekend. Always a highlight in the Merlin Rocket calendar, and a pleasure we get to enjoy twice more this year with Merlin Rocket Week on the 9-15th July and the Silver Tiller (and Black-Tie Dinner) on the 28th October. The next event in the South West Series is Hooe Point Sailing Club on 10th and 11th June.

Overall Results:

PosBoat NameSail NoHelmCrewR1R2R3R4Pts
1st 38Caroline CroftFaye Chatterton3‑8216
2nd 3803Chris GouldSophie Mackley4‑11127
3rdBlue my Mind3788Christian BirrellSam Brearey143(DNC)8
4thPokey3801Andy DavisOllie Meadowcroft254‑911
5thFancy Licquor3764Tim FellsFrances Gifford‑817412
6th 3726Will HendersonRob Henderson‑2429516
7thTiger Tiger3696Alex WarrenJonty Freeman5‑135818
8th 3802Simon PottsCharlotte Fildes12(RET)6321
9th 3812Tom StewartRob Allen7‑158722
10th 3687Matthew Greenfield 6612(WAY)24
11th 3683Arthur HendersonOlivia Bell‑111010626
12th 3775Chris Jennings 97‑201430
13th 3799Paul RaysonChristian Hill139‑161234
14thRoberta3796William WarrenMegan Pascoe‑1814131138
15thPoint N Squirt3746James WellsAnna Aylward‑1512151340
16thEcstacy3809Jon TurnerRichard Parslow102011(DNC)41
17th 3666John MeadowcroftKaty Meadowcroft‑1918141042
18th 3782Ed Chapman 163DNF(DNC)47
19thRockatross3804Rupert WhiteMary Henderson1417‑191849
20thPuff the Magic Dragon3641Mark WaterhouseIsobel Stewart‑2516181650
21st 3770Jon Steward ‑2719211555
22ndLearner Driver3747Clive EplettRebecca Videlo‑2222171756
23rd 3607Steve ConroyAnna Rayson2021‑232263
24thMoondance Assasin3547Peter MaleTim Male2123‑242064
25thBronte3663Nick Yannakoyorgos ‑2625222168
26thIsland Girl3725Andrew SquireTristram Squire‑2824261969
27thMonkey Business3707Stuart JenkinsNicola Scaddan232625(DNC)74
28th 3769Graham Cranford‑SmithFiona Cranford Smith17(DNF)DNCDNC75

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