by Suzy Hamel
As the snow disappears and the slightly warmer light to moderate breezes drift across Rutland Water, Rutland Sailing Club readies for the arrival of nearly 200 dinghies for the 20th John Merricks Tiger Trophy in aid of the Sailing Trust established after his untimely death in 1997. The two day event follows the same format as previous years. Three races on Saturday based on average lap times with a fast and slow handicap start will be followed by a non discardable pursuit race of around two hours on Sunday. Live commentary and media updates will be supplied as part of the Sailjuice Winter Series by Simon Lovesey.
John Merricks Tiger Trophy 2012
An important aspect of this winter event is the Tiger Dinner on Saturday night. With a short period of light available for running the racing, an opportunity is presented to emphasise the other social side of John’s character. Rutland Sailing Club are serving his preferred simple fare of 'bangers and mash' followed by apple pie and washed down with Everards Tiger Bitter. Half the entry fee, a third of the dinner and a good proportion of the bar profits will be donated to help young sailors get started in the sport.
This year, a new trophy, the ‘Tony Everard Trophy’ will be presented at the dinner to the leading boat after the racing on Saturday. This is to commemorate Tony who gave John the ‘leg-up’ opportunity of a new 420 at the critical moment in his sailing career. Callum Airlie whose other claim to fame was to light the Olympic flame at the London 2012 opening ceremony was the recipient of a ‘Far East’ Optimist that set him on cause for his successful junior career. He joins Rod Carr, the field of play manager at Weymouth and Trustee of the Trust and Paralympian Sonar sailors Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas as guests of Honour at the dinner.
The Tiger beer is again presented by Everards Brewery as are the now traditional Tiger pint glasses given as ‘keeper’ prizes. Over £800 worth of sailing clothing and books have been donated by the industry including personally signed garments from Ben Ainslie and Volvo Ocean teams to fuel the after dinner auction where a system of ‘bids’ will be introduced. A raffle will run throughout the weekend for those not able to get tickets for the dinner. Tiger Dinner.
Dennis Merricks, John’s father, who will also be attending the Dinner, will take the opportunity to present Peter Ashworth RSC Commodore with a framed portrait photograph of his son as featured on the website. He also has a photo in his archive of John shaking hands with John Major at 10 Downing Street. It was representations from medal winning athletes like John that persuaded the PM to introduce the lottery, the funding stream from which has had such an impact on British sailing in particular and sport in general. To get to the level where this funding can sustain a sporting career requires additional support and this is the important position occupied by the John Merricks Sailing Trust. The funds for this come from the weekend warriors in their dinghies supported by Club volunteer safety boat and race committee members braving the elements to grow the sport.