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Merlin Rocket Allen SE Series Round 3 at Fishers Green Sailing Club

by Paul Dean 24 Apr 09:23 PDT 21 April 2024
Caroline Croft and Livvy Bell win the Allen SE Series Round 3 at Fishers Green © Rob O'Neill

April 21st and round 3 of the Allen South-East Series at Fishers Green Sailing Club saw the day start with bacon rolls, tea and a few hangovers from the overnight festivities of the previous day's Vintage and Classic Merlin event.

The forecast was 11 gusting 20 knots but the stiff, cold Northerly onshore breeze which had gusts in excess of the forecast 20kts meant that a lot of the fleet were doing last minute boat checks before heading out. The last thing anyone wanted was gear failure at a critical time... more on that later!

Race 1 started in true Merlin fashion with the obligatory general recall. The race team then kindly allowed the fleet a second opportunity to get going without reaching for the black flag and everyone was much better behaved and off we all went. Fishers Green SC has a number of islands in its lake, the biggest being named Race Island.

The windward mark was positioned on the far side of Race Island and the fleet had to decide whether to go either left, where there was more pressure and the smell of sausages being barbecued on the island by the rescue crews, or the right where there was a little less pressure, but fewer boats and a wind-bend providing an unpredictable lift into the windward mark.

Caroline Croft & Livvy Bell, Paul Rayson & Christian Hill and Richard Cooke & Russell Hall led the pack into the windward mark which was followed by a do-we don't-we tight (kite) reach. Those who opted to fly the kite peeled off to leeward very quickly while the non-flyers planed on a two-sail reach to the next mark and back onto a second beat to the top of the lake. The three leaders managed to put a bit of distance between themselves and the pack with Steve Conroy & Anna Rayson chasing in fourth followed by Colin Brockbank & Vana Vlastaki (fifth) then Paul Dean & Hannah Burt (sixth) and Duncan & Harriet Salmon (seventh) all in hot pursuit in having worked their way through the pack.

Next there was a long dead run the full length of the lake with a choice to go left of Race Island with a gybe and come into the leeward mark hot on starboard, or right and sail fast but slightly by the lee. Caroline & Livvy narrowly gave up the lead to Paul & Christian and it was nip and tuck for first until Caroline & Livvy gradually turned the screw and eased away to take the win from Paul & Christian in second. Steve & Anna overhauled Richard & Russell to take third place.

Colin & Vana appeared comfortable in fifth until a swim put paid to their hopes of a top five finish. Duncan & Harriet overtook Paul & Hannah in a close battle and then Paul & Hannah retook the position near the end of the race and held them off downwind to take fifth. Duncan & Harriet ended in sixth.

Race 2 had many similarities to Race 1. Caroline & Livvy won putting the meeting overall result beyond doubt from Paul & Christian in second. Duncan & Harriet put on their race faces and held off Paul & Hannah for third in another tight battle. Colin & Vana finished fifth and were prevented from a better result having made a strong start by the "string wot holds the rudder down" breaking. Steve & Anna finished sixth with Jon Steward & Blake Newman ending in seventh.

There was a short delay before race 3 and the teams circled and realised that Paul & Hannah, Steve & Anna and Duncan & Harriet were tied on nine points and all very much in danger of finishing third overall and having the pleasure of writing the report for Y&Y as part of their overnight duties.

Duncan & Harriet were so concerned that they (luckily) noticed that the "bit of string wot holds that block onto the hoop for the mainsheet" had broken and they sailed into the sunset to carry out repairs. They started the race late and that put paid to their ambitions to get to write the report this time.

After a final general recall of the day, the fleet finally got away. The wind had eased a bit since the morning, but there were still occasional big gusts and even bigger holes with headers attached and shortly after the start at least three teams filled up having been hiking hard only to find their boats had decided they wanted to tack.

Paul & Hannah, having decided they didn't want to write the report either, opted for an average to poor start. They then decided to avoid this mayhem and go to the right of Race Island looking for the unpredictable aforementioned lift.

Luckily the lift turned up as hoped, and they popped out in second at the windward mark close behind Caroline & Livvy with Paul & Christian right on their transom. Paul & Christian were climbing all over Paul & Hannah who only managed to break the overlap at the last second before entering the mark zone meaning a late kite drop for both crews and a less than satisfactory mark round by the helms.

This gave Caroline & Livvy a five-boat length breathing space lead on the next beat from Paul & Hannah. Paul & Christian, clearly believing they were out of danger of writing the race report, decided to get the spinnaker stuck during the last-minute drop caused by the halyard getting it wedged in the side of the "sheave wot sits in the mast at the top for the spinny rope".

They headed off to an island to see if it could be repaired but it couldn't and they limped home clearly worried that if Paul & Hannah overhauled Caroline & Livvy and took the win, that they would end up having to write the report!

Meanwhile, a gap had opened up behind the two leading teams and into it popped Richard & Peter Beetles, Jon & Blake, Richard & Russell, Steve & Anna. It was very close behind for third through to seventh with Steve & Anna and Richard & Russell still believing that there was enough time left in the race for them to overtake the leaders and get their chance to finish third overall in the event and write the report.

As the race wore on, Caroline & Livvy got tired of Paul & Hannah being 8 - 10 boat lengths behind and opened up an unassailable lead to take their third bullet of the day and complete their lake sailing masterclass. This also meant that Paul & Christian finished second overall with a solid result at their home club keeping Paul Rayson top of the overall series leaderboard for helms and moving Christian Hill into 1st overall for the crew's trophy at the half-way point of the series.

Paul & Hannah spent some nervous moments watching Richard & Russell in breeze powering towards them on the runs but by the end they had opened enough of a lead to ensure they finished a comfortable second in the race and third overall in the event. Richard & Russell, who would have had to finish second to get their chance to show their literary skills ended in third in the race and fourth overall, with Jon & Blake getting their best result of the day in fourth.

Steve & Anna finished fifth in the race and fifth overall with Harry Steward & Claudia Mancini getting their best result of the day finishing the race in sixth.

The fleet headed to shore for the famous Fishers Green hospitality, prize-giving and tall tales. Thanks to all the organisers; another brilliant day out on the Allen South-East Circuit!

The next event on the Allen SE Circuit is at Brightlingsea on 11th and 12th May.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3Pts
1st3820Caroline CroftLivvy BellLymington Town‑1112
2nd3799Paul RaysonChris HillFishers Green22(DNF)4
3rd3745Paul DeanHannah BurtBroadwater‑5426
4th3715Richard CookeRussell HallWembley4‑837
5th3692Steve ConroyAnna RaysonFishers Green3‑658
6th3702Duncan SalmonHarriet SalmonWembley63‑99
7th3770Jon StewardBlake NewmanFishers Green‑87411
8th3575Harry StewardClaudia ManciniFishers Green7‑9.5613
9th3790Colin BrockbankVana VlastakiWembley95(DNC)14
10th3578Godfrey ClarkBill NoakesFishers Green(DSQ)11718
11th3607Richard BettlesPeter BettlesFishers Green10‑12818
12th3402Mike AtkinsonGraham NewmanFishers Green12‑131022
13th3774Richard CoulterLouis LappageFishers Green149.5(DNF)23.5
14th3465Graham WebbClive GladwinFishers Green‑15151126
15th3817Geoff KimberHelen KimberStone1314(DNC)27
16th3663Nick YannakoyorgosAnnabel StewardFishers Green11(DNC)DNC29
17th1097Stuart JenkinsSteve LongHampton16(DNC)DNC34

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