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May Merrie Open at Minima Yacht Club

by John Forbes 5 May 2015 00:12 PDT 4 May 2015

The month of May, 2015 style, is proving decidedly Merrie on the Thames, with winds ranging from boisterous blasts to benign breezes to nothing at all, and Minima Yacht Club enjoyed all the variations for its Spring long distance contest.

With 16 boats going for the overall May Merrie prize and another for the Minima winner the start was crowded and exciting, with the wind gusting to force 4 from the south-south-west which guarantees maximum turbulence over the trees on the Middlesex bank on the north-south reach at Kingston.

The sharpest operators found some clear air, but the turbulence meant a slow start for the back markers, so we were already pretty spread out by the time the leaders reached the river island of Ravens' Ait, half a mile upstream.

Here the eventual winner Stephan Gettner's Merlin was briefly headed by Minima's Dennis Lockwood, however overcome by excitement and the gusty wind Dennis was unable to avoid a collision and ended up doing penalty turns after a dip in the river which he cleverly achieved without capsizing. Neither he nor his crew Erica Bishop could later recall the exact way he did this. Stephan proceeded untroubled to finish five minutes ahead of Paul Seaman's Merlin, after Paul crewed by Eileen Barry pipped Dennis by four seconds with a slick spinnaker set in the 40 yards between the last mark and the line.

Dennis was not the only one to get wet: although there were no capsizes there were many close shaves particularly on the straight reach upstream of Thames Sailing Club, where the old waterworks wall provides a wind tunnel for south-westerlies. All credit to back marker Aurelio Laino, of Thames, for staying the right side up in his first race ever.

The contest was enlivened by a good flow of Bank Holiday river traffic, notably a Turk's pleasure boat which showed great restraint by hanging back just below the start line, giving the passengers a grandstand view of the flock of dinghies scooting back and forth. And it was good to see the first few sand martins already taking up their regular nests in the holes in the metal piling round the top of Ravens' Ait.

Kingston's deputy mayor, Councillor Cathy Roberts, presented the prizes.

May Merrie Trophy Results:

1st Stephan Gettner (Merlin, Thames Sailing Club) 2nd Paul Seamen (Merlin, Minima RNLI Trophy) 3rd Dennis Lockwood (Merlin, Minima) 4th Chris Rowsell (Enterprise, Lensbury)

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