Please select your home edition

Classic and Vintage Merlin Rocket open meeting at Fishers Green Sailing Club

by Christian Hill 24 Apr 02:39 PDT 20 April 2024

Saturday 20th April was a day of trials and tribulations and epic wind conditions, throw in some superb boat handling skills, mainly from the crews race, more about that later.

Two Classic and fourteen Vintage Merlin Rockets arrived at a chilly blustery vintage open at the beautiful surroundings of Holyfield lake home to Fishers Green Sailing Club.

FGSC Solo fleet captain David Walford along with Roberto Manicni had front row seats taking charge of the days racing, blessed with a steady favourable wind direction for the green, a relatively simple but fantastic course was set (even though some would still get it wrong).

Race 1 the fleet got away cleanly as you would expect with the Vintage class a more refined crowd.

I say "cleanly" unfortunately, 3232 Jon Steward/Blake Newman sailing 'Bad Dog' were the first casualties of the day, having a clean break of their mast during the starting sequence. Hitting the front were father daughter team of Tony/Jess Cooper in 'Patriot' 3252, as the fleet held on for dear life downwind, 3055 Nick Yanna/Angie Meyer sailing Shogun unfortunately broke the mainsheet block and had to sheet straight from the boom, Nick's would be somewhat longer after three races.

Godfrey Clarke/Oz Ahmet in 3216 'Prospect' hit the front and held the lead for some time until a navigational error, which wouldn't have been so bad if it was the first lap, but on lap two!, 3252 team Cooper unfortunately followed 3216, allowing Richard Coulter/Louis Lappage who were putting the band back together, sailing a national winning boat 3314 'Passion' and gratefully took the lead and held it by some distance till the finish.

In second was the father and son team Christian/Gabe Hill 2997 'Cream Cracker' and third 1742 'Nutshell' Harry Steward/Claudia Mancini.

Race 2 and the casualty list really ramps up. Another clean start, with the fleet safety rounding the windward mark, team Cooper 3232 lead the way again, the fleet possibly lulled into a sense of insecurity. The fleet were hit by monster gust team Hill 2997 went down the mine never to return, second mast break of the day along with a snapped king post, people ask "what went first" to which I reply, "I have no idea".

Unfortunately 1742 Harry Steward/Claudia Mancini in 'Nutshell' had to capsize to take avoiding action to prevent further damage, in the same gust the all female team of Hannah Burt teaming up with the legend Annabel Steward broke a spreader which also ended their day. 3506 (Classic) 'Smarty Pants' became another causality sailed by Graham Webb and Clive Gladwin, unfortunately Clive fell backwards in a surge of acceleration landing on the mainsheet block which caused a chain reaction resulting in a centre board case damage.

The rest of the fleet hurtled down wind, brother and sister team Mike/Annabel 3402 (Classic) 'Hot Goblin' surged into the lead with determination and grit. 3402 defending it fiercely against the relentless elements. As they neared the finish line, the brother and sister team held on tight, crossing it triumphantly for victory, while others were becoming casualties to the conditions 3314 Richard/Louis kept cool heads and sailed through the fleet to take second and take control of the event.

Third place to visiting team of Mike/Deb Steel in 3152 'Pandemonium' taking the sensible decision not to fly the kite which appeared to be a master stroke.

Lunch provided a welcome break for the weary sailors and provided time for running repairs. Commodore Kevin O'Brien and Jessica Mancini provided a cracking lunch, with the racers refuelled and boats patched back together, the fleet hit the water once again.

Race 3 and it was Richard/Louis 3314 event to lose, but Mike/Annabel 3402 would have to win the final race to secure victory. A course change for race 3, was a simple windward/leeward, but to be fair nothing was simple in these conditions. Normal service resumed as team Cooper 3252 in 'Patriot', executed plan A to perfection hit the windward mark first and were never really troubled and took the victory, 2nd Harry/Claudia 1742, 3rd Mike and substitute crew Christian Hill 3152.

3314 Richard/Louis unfortunately had gear failure and had to retire, but with Mike/Annabel 3402 not troubling the leaders on this occasion, the open meeting win was secure for 3314 Richard/Louis.

As with tradition at FGSC we hold a fourth race being the much-anticipated crews race, while virtually the entire fleet headed for shore three inspired, brave, courageous teams took on the challenge, all three having never helmed Merlin race before, let alone in 15+ winds. 1742 Claudia/Harry, 3055 Angie/Nick and 3216 Oz/Godfrey. The course was two laps of a triangle course with a gybe mark!

3055 Angie/Nick won the start and trucked up wind, closely followed by 1742 Claudia/Harry, 3055 decided (sensibly) not to fly the kite, while 1742 popped the kite up and took the lead.

3216 had to make ground, I'm not sure how much choice Oz (only been sailing 18 months) had in the kite going up to be honest, as Godfrey hoisted. Gybe mark safety negotiated by all three in various fashions. Lap 1 complete 1742, 3055, 3216. Then the breeze really ramped up, to survival mode for experienced helms let alone those taking charge of the tiller for the first time.

The beat safety navigated by all, 1742 Claudia/Harry, 3126 Oz/Godfrey went where the breeze took them, but not towards the gybe mark! While 3055 Angie/Nick went for it, but unfortunately capsized in the second biggest gust of the day while leading. 1742, 3216 eventually headed for the gybe mark once the breeze had eased, 1742 Claudia/harry took the win and second 3216 Oz/Godfrey. An absolute heroic effort by Claudia, Angie and Oz for giving it a go, and to Harry, Nick and Godfrey for passing over the reins.

Some facts from the day:

  • 18 boats competed
  • Six family teams
  • Over half the crews were ladies, an all female team, loads of returning crews reigniting the Merlin Rocket flame.
  • Five boats completed all three races, only two completed all four! Take a bow 3216 Godfrey/Oz and 3055 Nick/Angie.

A cracking day on the water showing that the Vintage/Classic boats still have plenty of life left in them, some will need TLC to get back afloat!

Many thanks to our visitors and all competitors and organisers, special thanks to Godfrey, Jon, Nick spending their time, rescuing, repairing, restoring these beautiful bits of history. I nearly forgot to thank our over worked rescue crew, Bill Noakes, Lance Bourne, legend Ken Daniels, Roger castle.

The next Vintage open is at Thames Sailing Club on 11th May. The next Classic open is at Blithfield Sailing Club on 19th May.

Overall Results:

1st Vintage Merlin - 3314 Passion Richard Coulter/Louis Lappage
1st Classic Merlin - Hot Goblin Mike Atkinson/Annabel Williams
1st Family team - 3252 Patriot Tony/Jess Cooper
1st Crews race - 1742 Claudia Mancini/Harry Steward

PosClassBoatSail NoHelmCrewR1R2R3Pts
1stvintagePassion3314Richard CoulterLouis Lappage12(DNF)3
2ndvintageNutshell1742Harry StewardClaudia Mancini3(DNF)25
3rdvintagePatriot3252Tony CooperJess Cooper5‑616
4thvintagePandemonium3152Mike SteelDeb Steel‑6336
5thclassicHot Goblin3402Mike AtkinsonAnabelle Williams‑8189
6thvintageShogun3055Nick YannaAngie Meyer4‑559
8thvintageProspect3216Godfrey ClarkOz Ahmet‑127613
9thclassicSmartypants3506Graham WebbClive Gladwin9(DNC)716
10thvintageFlinkidink1097Stuart JenkinsNicola Scaddan108(DNS)18
11thvintageCream Cracker2997Chris HillGabe Hill2(DNF)DNS19
12thvintageAttila the Hunt2410Ian LangAndrew Hunt(DNS)10919
13thvintageBad Dog3232Jon StewardBlake Newman(DNF)4DNF21
14thvintageWar Horse1939Peter ImpeyAlison Cooper‑13111021
15thvintageTiercel901Pat BlakeJilly Blake(DNS)9DNF26
16thvintageRiot3025Hannah BurtAnnabel Steward11(DNF)DNS28

Related Articles

Allen Merlin Rocket Inlands at Bristol Corinthian
Racing at a fantastic venue with a wonderful expanse of fresh water The Merlin Rocket Allen Inland Championship on the 8 and 9 June was raced at Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club, a fantastic venue with a wonderful expanse of fresh water which the Merlins haven't been to for many many years. Posted on 12 Jun
New Format for Merlin Rocket Class Magazine
It's now available in digital format The Merlin Rocket Class has launched their latest edition of their class magazine and it's now available in digital format. Posted on 10 Jun
Merlin Rockets at Starcross
Summer officially starts during Craftinsure Silver Tiller Round 4 The weekend of the 1st and 2nd of June was officially the start of summer and boy was it, as the Merlin Rocket Craftinsure Silver Tiller headed to sunny Starcross Yacht Club. Posted on 4 Jun
Merlin Rocket River Championships at Upper Thames
Excellent racing on the widest non-tidal stretch of the Thames As is now becoming tradition, the coveted Merlin Rocket River championships were once again held across a sunny May bank holiday at Bourne End Week, Upper Thames Sailing Club's premier event of the year. Posted on 31 May
Merlin Rockets at Blithfield
No more Chat GPT - is this purely human eloquence? The day was set for the HD Sails Midland Circuit shared Classic Circuit event at Blithfield Sailing Club. 8 knots gusting 16 (allegedly) and wonderful sunshine. Among the 12 boats and 24 sailors, there was an almost palpable hum of anticipation Posted on 23 May
Merlin Thames Series at Tamesis
Even with wide boats present, the newest boat in the top three was 60 years old Following a successful Vintage Merlin Open on the Saturday, newer Merlins were invited to join the fleet for the Sunday Open meeting, part of the Merlin Thames Series. Bright sunshine and a 5 - 8knt breeze greeted the 12 boat fleet. Posted on 22 May
Merlin Vintage Series Open at Tamesis Club
A quality 7 boat fleet despite the fickle and damp looking forecast On Saturday 18th May 2024, Tamesis Club hosted a Merlin Vintage Series open event sponsored by Craftinsure. Despite an increasingly fickle and damp looking forecast a quality 7 boat fleet of vintage Merlins turned up. Posted on 21 May
Merlin Rocket Thames and Vintage Series at Minima
Eric Archer Trophy and Chindit Trophy contested on the River Thames On Sunday 12th May 2024 Minima Yacht Club hosted a combined Thames & Vintage Series Event. Minima Yacht Club first raced in the summer of 1889 on the Hamble River. In the early days there were several Divisions of the Club. Posted on 15 May
Vintage Merlin Rockets at Thames SC
A crucial third race with a shorter course was the decider On Saturday 11 May 2024 Thames S.C. hosted a combined Thames & Vintage Series Event for older Merlins. Posted on 14 May
Merlin Rocket Allen SE Series at Brightlingsea
A great challenge to the skills and fitness of helms and crews The weather could hardly have been better. The competitors were greeted by warm sunshine and a force 3 to 5 Easterly on Saturday with a quieter Force 1 - 2 on Sunday. Posted on 14 May