by Pat Blake
When the Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller fleet descended on Salcombe for the annual spring weekend they were blessed with almost unbroken sunshine and fresh, if chilly, sailing breezes. This was April 8 and 9, a weekend that saw snow in many other parts of the country. A change in the format this year to two races a day; giving a conventional four race series with one discard, proved highly successful if pretty tiring!
At times like this you need a Helm
Mike Calvert was sailing his ‘Business As Usual’, which has been modified considerably over the winter, with Chris Downham. They took an early lead in the first race on Saturday catching a lovely lift on the first beat down to Blackstone Rock, rounded the mark in breeze and planed away into an unthreatened lead.
Merlin pre start at Salcombe
Racing was much more challenging for second place however; Dave Winder and Jilly Blake were tussling with Glen Truswell and Jim Lowbridge and Will Rainey and Rachel Williamson. On the long beat from Gerston to Blackstone and then back through the bag the lead of this little group changed several times. But all the while John Bell and Graham Williamson, who had been buried at the start, were progressing up the fleet picking off boats one by one. At the gun Calvert was still well clear but there were only seconds separating the next few and it was Bell ahead of Winder and Rainey.
The breeze had really freshened for the second race which was right on the top of the tide enabling the race committee to set a classic Salcombe course that went up every arm of the beautiful ria valley. First a tricky beat to Blackstone rock saw William Warren and Chris Robinson with Winder/Blake and Truswell/Lowbridge leading a tight pack back down the really hairy run back past the club and the ferry. Exciting moments for spectators and competitors alike, with quite a bit of swimming in the front and back of the fleet.
The reach got tighter through the bag and was a very fast two-sailer all the way to Kingsbridge and back. By the time the fleet took a sharp left turn at Saltstone Rock to run up Frogmore creek it was Winder/Blake ahead of Warren/Robinson. Then it was through the bag and another long run up Yalton creek.
Merlin after start at Salcombe
All the time Calvert/Downham who had been stuck at about fifth started creeping closer to the leading bunch. On the beat back from Yalton the breeze was on and most boats were fully raked, the leaders were so close it was hard to say who had it at any one time. The race officer didn’t shorten course and there was another beat to Mill Bay and back to Crossways – approaching the line it looked as if Truswell had it but Calvert just sneaked through to leeward to take his second bullet of the day.
It was a tired but happy bunch of Merlin sailors trying to do the traditional partying in the Yacht Club on Saturday night!
Sunday dawned lighter with wind more in the north but still sunny! The start was north going in tricky conditions and it was Pat Blake and Alex Jackson who lead into the bag from Calvert/Downham with Truswell/Lowbridge and Warren/Robinson close behind. Calvert managed to squeak ahead of Blake through the bag but rounding Crossways buoy he mistook it and rounded a mooring instead! Blake did tell him, but not until he had lost his lead. Blake/Jackson extended this lead to the finish from Calvert/Downham, Truswell/Lowbridge and Bell/Williamson playing catch up again.
Merlins spinnaker up at Salcombe
Final race saw another tricky start and it was Justin Eddie and James Beer from Starcross who got away and led the fleet up towards Gerston with Dan Alsop and Ellie Bremer in the baying pack close behind. The wind was increasing but blowing over the town and was stressful for most competitors.
Dave Winder and Jilly Blake made no mistakes however and pulled out a commanding lead from the little group behind playing ‘Salcombe Snakes and Ladders’. Steve and Gill Leaney had a very good race but slipped down a ladder at the end. Dan and Ellie were second from Calvert/Downham and Blake/Jackson.
Everyone agreed it had been a most enjoyable weekend and nice little taster for the 92 Merlins that are looking forward to the weeks racing in July.
Final leading results:
1st 3626 Mike Calvert and Chris Downham
2nd 3662 Dave Winder and Jilly Blake
3rd 3640 Pat Blake and Alex Jackson
4th 3543 Glen Truswell and Jim Lowbridge
5th 3652 John Bell and Graham Williamson
6th 3539 Dan Alsop and Elena Bremer
7th 3643 William Warren and Chris Robinson
8th 3660 Will Rainey and Rachel Williamson