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Combined Midland Classic & Vintage Merlin Rocket Open Midland Sailing Club

by Martin Smith 21 Mar 23:15 PDT 17 March 2024

A road closure outside Midland Sailing clubs entrance forced most competitors to take a diversionary route past City hospital situated on Dudley Road, this road which was subject to repairs more closely resembles the surface of the moon such were the craters and provided the first challenge in protecting one's boat from damage at this event.

Six classic or vintage Merlin Rockets of various ages and designs were in the process of rigging when I arrived with my boat taking the total to seven. 3567 Fat Boy Slim is a MK1 Winder built in 1999 qualifying her for the Classic series, the hull is the same shape as the day she came out of the mould and apart from the retro fit of a one string raking system and twin carbon self launching spinnaker pole system the rest of the boat is pretty much as was the case in 1999, indeed many of the fittings are from the original build.

We rigged with Merlin 852 to one side of us, a stunning example of the class from 1958 beautifully varnished and properly "blinged" with carbon spars and a multitude of modern blocks and fittings. To the other side was 3547 a wooden boat from 1997 with a bright yellow interior and striking orange numbers on her sail.

As this was also part of the HD Sails Midland Circuit the seven Classic and Vintage Merlin Rockets would be on the same course as the 15 that are classified as modern boats. A total of 22 boats launched for the first race with 3547 sailed by Peter & Tim Male finishing a creditable 11th with two 37xx and one 36xx boats behind them, the best vintage finisher came in race 2 with Guy Browne and Greg Martin bringing home 2681 in 13th place with a 36xx and several 35xx boats behind them, this shows once again how the classic and vintage boats can mix it with much younger boats.

Rule 14 of the racing rules of sailing states; A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably practical. However, a right of way boat, or one sailing within the room or mark room to which she is entitled, need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark room.

So, it was with Rule 14 in mind and more importantly no desire to damage the stunning 852 that two teams went for a swim in race 3 and effectively ended their races so what happened?

As is so often the case at leeward marks something akin to a raft developed the lead boats started to slow down as the keenly fought mid-pack started to bunch behind them stealing their wind slowing them further, shouts of "water" & "NO WATER!" could be heard. Then the rear of the fleet stated to do to the mid fleet the same that they had just done to the frontrunners. The rear fleet split with some boats going the long way round and a couple trying their luck on the shorter inside route! Calls of "don't go there 852, you have no rights" were followed by more calls of "water" & "No Water" from other teams.

At this point the wind thought it would like to get involved and through in a sizeable gust from a random direction! Boats started to accelerate with the gaps between them disappearing and whatever gap 852 might previously have thought they could squeeze through disappearing in an instant, the result of this was boats making rapid course changes to prevent bow & transom interactions or bow & gunwale interactions which I think by and large were avoided at this point. In avoiding 852 & 3705 the unfortunate helm of 3567 was ejected from his boat by the boom which had conspired with the gust to gybe the boat, 852 now had an even smaller area in which to manoeuvre as the previous clear water ahead all be it to the wrong side of mark 6 was now occupied by the mast of 3567, 852 joined in with the unintended gybe antics and duly capsized.

On surfacing some 10 yards behind 3567 I was quite impressed that it had got that far before capsizing and was even more impressed that the boats behind managed to avoid not just myself but also both 852 & 3567 whilst managing to get around the mark!

The wind now decided to play its next trick on 852 & 3567 and promptly switched off making the recovery of these boats and the subsequent removal of the water from within them a far harder task, eventually 852 retired whilst 3567 managed to complete the race.

Sadly there were a couple of collisions during the event which is the first time that this has happened in one of these combined events and isn't something we are keen to see a repeat of, however its worth noting that the two wooden boats involved came off with less damage than the other parties, indeed the one wooden boat received no damage and the other the sort of damage to her gunwale that could easily happen at one of your own club races.

It just goes to show that owners of older boats have nothing to fear and much to enjoy in the form of close competitive racing by participating in the combined Midland, Classic & Vintage Circuit events.

22 Merlins competed in the Midland Series Event.

1st Classic Merlin 3547 Pete Male and Tim Male in 13th overall
1st Vintage Merlin 2681 Guy Browne and Greg Martin in 16th overall

The next event at combined Classic & Vintage is at Ranelagh Sailing Club on April 7th and is part of the Thames Series.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoBoat NameHelmCrewClubR1 R2R3
13547Moodance AssasinPeter MaleTim MalesBlithfield SC111
23530Sir TopazMike CollesSophie ForbesMidland SC422
33567Fat Boy SlimMartin SmithKaren BestonRedditch SC233
43517Shooting StarDan BarrettRachel TaylorMidland SC3DNFDNF
12681Atomic MustardGuy BrowneGreg MartinTrent Valley SC11DNF
2852ChouchouPaul AtwellLyndall MerryLlangorse SC32DNF
32037Lady HyperionRichard BurtonMarbella Burton‑MooreMedley SC2DNFDNS

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