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Merlin Rocket SW Series Round 1 at Chew Valley Lake Sailing Club

by Dave Lee 4 Mar 22:11 PST 2 March 2024

In like a lion?

The 2024 Merlin Rocket South West series got under way with a one day event on Saturday 2nd March at Chew Valley Lake Sailing Club (CVLSC). There was an interesting variety of weather forecasts on the run up to the event (including a weather warning for snow!) and this may have deterred some potential competitors, but 10 hardy teams arrived at CVLSC for an open meeting shared with the Scorpion and Flying Fifteen classes. There were epic tales of a battle through the snow drifts in mid Somerset from some of the South Coast competitors, whilst the two teams from Bartley SC in the Midlands just shook their heads and quietly got on with rigging their boats. However, it did turn out that local sailor Matt Greenfield had actually been snowed in and was unfortunately unable to reach his home club event, so there certainly were some local variations.

The conditions at CVLSC were somewhat different to the Met Office forecast of sunny spells. There was some light rain initially, but this did clear away to leave a grey overcast day. The wind forecast was about 10 - 12 mph SW which was very bracing with the wind chill, with most competitors wisely opting to use every layer of clothing in their kit bags. There were some big wind shifts and variations in pressure which made for some very interesting racing, with plenty of opportunities to gain or lose ground.

In race 1 Dave Lee (your reporter) and Angela Bridges (3779) found a clear lane from the middle of the start line and managed to link the shifts together to arrive at the windward mark first with a modest lead. However, in his excitement and focus on a quick spinnaker hoist, Dave hadn't spotted that the first reach was rather tight so quickly relinquished the lead to Mike and Jane Calvert (3691) who zoomed past to windward under main and jib. A further wobble by 3779 on the gybe mark enabled James Wells and Jennie King (3746) and Tim Harms and George Bender (3633) to pounce on the second reach. The Calvert's gradually pulled away through the rest of the race and were never really challenged, but there was a close tussle for the remaining podium places with 3779 eventually breaking back through to finish second and 3633 taking third.

Race 2 started in similar conditions but with the gybe mark pulled in to provide a manageable top reach under spinnaker. Mike and jane were first to round the windward mark, this time closely followed by Ben and Roman Archer (3767) who had had a superb start in what was Roman's first Merlin Rocket open event. Mike and Jane again gradually pulled away to take the win, chased by James and Jennie who took second and Dave and Angela in third.

The wind had started to ease by the start of race 3 and a number of competitors opted for an early hot shower. This time James and Jennie rounded the windward mark first, followed by Dave and Angela, then Mike and Jane in that order. James and Jennie led for most of the race but there was some very close racing and several place changes with Mike and Jane eventually getting clear of Dave and Angela, then managing to snatch the lead from James and Jennie on the last reach into the finish to take their third win of the day. With first place overall decided and the wind strength dropping to drifting conditions as the sun finally made a belated appearance, the fleet collectively opted out of the fourth scheduled race and returned to shore.

It was great to see such a diverse range of competitors including 15 year old Roman Archer of Parkstone crewing for his father in 3767 and Jennie King crewing 3746 in what is now her 45th year of Merlin sailing. The youth pairing of Tim Harms and George Bender sailed consistently well and were always challenging for a podium place, so clearly this will be a team to watch this season. A big thank you to all the CVLSC volunteers for their warm welcome and running an excellent event both afloat and ashore. The Merlin Rocket fleet will look forward to returning again soon.

The next event on the SW Series is at Parkstone Yacht Club on 30th and 31st March.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3Pts
1st3691Mike CalvertJane CalvertAxe YC1113
2nd3746James WellsJennie KingRYA4228
3rd3779David LeeAngela BridgesStarcross Yacht Club2338
4th3633Tim HarmsGeorge BenderMidland SC35513
5th3815Mark BarwellLouise JohnsonLymington Town SC54413
6th3662Nigel HudsonFreya HudsonBartley SC66618
7th3805Mark ReddingtonLewis FowlerBartley SC88723
8th3560Ollie HousemanEgle TumosaChew Valley Lake SC97DNC28
9th3767Ben ArcherRoman ArcherParkstone YC79DNC28
10th3432Rick KnappFiona WisloffChew Valley Lake SCDNFDNCDNC36

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