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Allen Merlin Rocket Inland Championship 2024 at Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club

by Sophie Mackley 12 Jun 12:25 BST 8-9 June 2024

The Merlin Rocket Allen Inland Championship on the 8 and 9 June was raced at Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club, a fantastic venue with a wonderful expanse of fresh water which the Merlins haven't been to for many many years - although no-one could remember quite how long ago.

The forecast was for a warm 12-20 knots from the North West, and it was 20 knots (gusting 25 knots) when we were racing, but did drop to 12 knots and less when were on the shore, which was lovely for sitting outside the club in the sunshine enjoying a drink.

Forgive me if I get any of this wrong, but having done nine races, many more starts and 27 laps of a trapezoid, in a similar wind direction and strength, things got a little blurry, and at a time when it was as fresh in my mind as it was ever going to be, I fell asleep on the journey home.

After a couple of failed starts, the U-flag came up and we were away. Fast out of the blocks were Chris Jennings and Pete Nicholson - two races and two wins, and with the reigning champions taking an uncharacteristic dip in race two they were looking fallible.

Race three saw a return to form for Tom Gillard and Rachael Gray, with Tom Stewart and Rob Allen notching up their first second place of the weekend. The tight reaches favoured the strong and tall but not the toe strap fittings of Chris and Pete, resulting in a perfect back somersault on the tight three sail bottom reach. Sadly this was terminal and the end of the weekend for them and a long drive home to Essex for Pete wondering what might have been.

With helms complaining of forearms cramping and crews complaining about everything, we set off for races four and five with no sign of the wind abating. Consistency was going to prove the key to success and despite a swim in the first race James Wells and Anna Aylward, were back on form notching up 4, 3, 3 and then came race five, which for them ended with the kite in the water with a rudder shaped hole. Tom and Rob had also kept their finger on the go button, only to be awarded the only black flag of the weekend in race four, but came back with second in the last race of the day.

Going into day two, the quietly consistent Tim Saxton and Holly McArthur were second behind Tom and Rach, with Chris Gould and Sophie Mackley third. The course was the now very familiar trapezoid, the wind direction uncannily similar and the strength a bit more than we all wanted after the day before.

Race six and Tom and Rach, Tim and Holly tacked off the port end of the line and fought with each other round the course to finish in that order, with Chris and Sophie climbing to third just infront of Mike and Jane Calvert.

Throughout the weekend many boats led a race at the windward mark but didn't quite manage to hang on to take the race win - these included Mark Barwell and Louise Johnson, James and Anna, William Warren and Charlotte Fildes, Chris and Sophie, James Goodfellow and Richard Cornes.

James and Richard sadly ended their weekend early when on the boat breaking bottom reach which saw their mast disappear over the side with a loud bag that echoed round the reservoir. Prior to that they had been putting together a great series.

The racing was ridiculously tight, with lots of place changes throughout the fleet on the shifty beats and runs. It was great to see lots of new and old faces with particular mention to Dan Alsop (of unknown age) sailing with youngest crew Noah Helm, who won the old boats prize. A new pairing of brothers Matt and Ben Shorrock showed great speed in their recently purchased Merlin and are certainly ones to watch in the future. Youngsters Rory and James Gifford travelled from Scotland to hone their skills with their respective helms for Salcombe week, and Tom Ballantine and Maddy Anderson peaked right at the end with a fourth showing that their Salcombe training is on track.

Points for artistic merit went to Alex Warren and George Bender for their pitchpole on the bottom reach of chaos, Clive Eplett sailing with Nigel Hufton nailed the committee boat end only to sheet in and fall out, and Nigel and Freya Hudson who had a heartbreaking capsize just before the finish line when Nigel left the boat.

Overall the well deserved winners were Tom Gillard and Rachael Gray with an impressive scoreline of six firsts and a second, although reassuring they had to work hard for it. Tim and Holly sailed a fantastic second day to firmly secure second (including a win in race eight, which I forgot to mention earlier), and Chris and Sophie finished third.

In the fleets, winners of gold were William and Charlotte, followed by Mark Stockbridge and James Gifford, Mark and Lou. Silver was won by the increasingly hard to beat Dave Lee and Angela Bridges from Matt and Ben and Dan and Noah. Racing in the Bronze fleet was super-tight across all nine races and the top three finished in consecutive places, with brother and sister Ali and Cat Wallace being crowned winners, from Nigel and Freya Hudson, with Guy Browne and Greg Martin in third.

Tom and Rob won the aptly titled Bald Head trophy for doing well and being old. John Tailby was the first under 25 crew, sailing with Chris Martin and finishing and impressive fourth overall. Female crews outnumbered the men in the top ten and it was Rachel Gray who won first female and Caroline Croft crewed by Livvy Bell who won first female helm. Mike and Jane Calvert won the Martime cup for first related helm and crew and Shoreham won best club.

At the end of racing, many helms were heard to mutter that they thought it had been a pretty tough weekend for the crews - words not often spoken in the back of the boat, and a true testament to how exhausting it was.

A massive thank you to our generous sponsors Allen, to Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club, our race officer Arky and his team.

The next Merlin Rocket event is the Craftinsure Silver Tiller at Whitstable on the 22nd and 23rd June combined with the Allen SE Series event.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9PtsNotes
13759Tom GillardRachael GreySheff Viking21511111218Tinker
23807Tim SaxtonHolly MacarthurItchenor43664221dnf22 
33803Chris GouldSophie MackleyShoreham68823347227 
43787Chris MartinJohn TailbyBartley135586983338U25 Crew
53812Tom StewartRob AllenSalcombe1462bfd21195540Bald head
63793James GoodfellowRick CornesWarsash72748153dnfdnc46 
73796William WarrenLottie FildesShoreham1194578713949 
83691Mike CalvertJane CalvertAxe57119104dnf8851Maritime
93820Caroline GouldLivvy Bell 3111071161118654Female Helm
103727Mark StockbridgeJames GiffordRanelagh91214105ufd124759 
113746James WellsAnna AylwardRYA17433dnf121312ufd64 
123683Tom BallentineMaddy Anderson 1210151513231010474 
133696Alex WarrenGeorge BenderShoreham27161216910691577 
143815Mark BarwellLou JohnsonLymington Town181919121216561079 
153751Mary Henderson‑WhiteRory GiffordSalcombe151317111451511ufd84 
163716Steve LeneyGill LeneyBlithfield192118141671716dns109 
173779Dave LeeAngela BridgesStarcross1621211717ufd141413112 
183745Paul DeanRussel HallWembley20201918dns17181511118 
193747Clive EplettNigel Hufton 221820191520161716121 
203658Matt ShorrockBen ShorrockFrensham10171321dnc19dnfdnc14125 
213801Matt BiggsAnnabelle StewardBartley814161318dncdncdncdnc131 
223627Ali WallaceCat WallaceSouth Cerney2625262019132120dnc144 
233662Nigel HudsonFreya HudsonBartley25222323dns21192217147 
243690Guy BrowneGreg MartinTrent Valley2826252220ufd221918152 
253539 (3691)Dan AlsopNoah HelmLyme242422dnsdns14dnfdnf12158Old boat
263813Steve HarlingEleanor ThomasStarcross29272724dnc222323dnc175 
273821Gavin WillisJohn TeagueBCYC23rtddncdncdnc182021dnc185 
283642Stephen GrahamDanielle Graham 212324dnsdnsdncdncdncdnc192 
293368Ian LaingAndrew HuntHollingworth30dncdncdncdnc2424dnfdnc202 
303775Chris JenningsPete NicholsonBrightlingsea11dnfdncdncdncdncdncdnc219 

Team Prize: Shoreham
Not awarded: Fossil Bowl

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