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Salcombe Gin Merlin Rocket South West Series Round 3 at Salcombe Yacht Club

by Tom Stewart 1 May 01:32 PDT 27-28 April 2024

27th April 2024 and the 70 competitors might have wondered why they had made the trip to the Southwest as they donned full sailing kit just to rig in Saturday's rain squalls, but by the end of the weekend the sun was shining and yet again Salcombe had delivered a fine weekend of Merlin racing.

This was Round 3 of the SW Series hosted by Salcombe Yacht Club with sponsors by CF by L and L.

Race 1

With 35 boats on the start line, the fairway in place, a first leg that might be a beat or a fetch to number 3 against the ebb, in 5 to 10 knots of breeze made getting a clear start critical. Tim Fells and Fran Gifford nailed it and led the fleet, hotly pursued by Chris Jennings and Pete Nicholson. Tim and Fran looking like a slick well-oiled team, slipped gently away down the run while the fleet behind them, looking for any advantage in pressure or direction got plenty of gybing practice, on the way to number 1. Tom Stewart and Rob Allen got the second beat right by going left (town side) and worked their way into second, but Tim and Fran looked out of reach until they hooked a mooring, after which the leaders had a great nip and tuck race including a tacking match to the finish. The first bell of the weekend went to Tim and Fran.

Race 2

Having had a warm-up followed by a long lunch break the fleet was keen for the second race to start. With a more obviously starboard-biased line, the fleet was mostly OCS, so we had another go at starting, this time under a black flag. Tom Gillard and Ollie Meadowcroft pulled the trigger to perfection and led up the first beat from Ollie's parents, John and Katy, who rounded second. With the windward leeward 1,3,1,3, course in play again, the chasing bunch had tight racing with a whole load of place changing. Mary and Rupert Henderson-White sailed a blinder and looked comfortable in the leading pack and coped well with the change of tidal direction mid-race, scarcely putting a foot wrong, but it was the familiar faces of Christian Birrell and Sam Breary and Caroline Croft and Livvy Bell who worked their way into the podium place.

Race 3

Sunday morning looked like one of those Salcombe race team nightmares, no wind on the start line and a forecast that suggested you might consider 1 or 7 as the first mark. With enough water in the ria, they set 7,3,7,3,5,3. The big question was who would get the puff to get them off the line. The boats who risked the foul tide in the middle and town side initially led but on the Portlemouth side, Tim and Fran found a breeze of their own, hoisted their spinnaker, and slipped through, staying low and into The Bag with a monstrous and on this occasion unassailable lead. John and Katy Meadowcroft showed their class and their cool and were the second boat to exit the harbour. A whole bunch of the early leaders went to sit under Snapes before escaping on a zephyr and resuming the race. With the wind clocking West there was some interesting decision-making and plenty of place changing on the 7, 3 loops with two sail reaching, a bit of beating, and spinnaker skills all being tested. Tom and Ollie ground their way through the fleet eventually working up to second when the race was shortened at mark 3.

Race 4

Two boats were in it for the win in the final grandstand shootout. The wind had swung to be blowing from the Southwest, straight up the harbour, and it was building! The ebb rushed the fleet to Mark 1 but the breeze was already beginning to falter as they rounded and parked in the tide, the pile-up was inevitable. Christian and Sam led with Tim and Fran well up, and Tom and Ollie scraped into the top 10 at the first mark. There were big decisions to be made on the run back, Portlemouth or the town side? The leaders stuck to the Portlemouth side to start with, but with the wind now coming in unpredictable gusts and lulls both looked good and bad at times and people found new and unexpected places to cross the estuary with some crossing multiple times. Tim and Fran kept their cool, approached the leeward mark from the Snape's side, and gained an advantage on those lured into the shorter Ditch End route with a puff.

On the second beat, Salcombe switched on the turbulence with puffs, lulls, and dummy shifts all over the place. The protagonists managed to stay in the leading pack, but anything could happen. The wind switched off. The leaders crept up the Portlemouth shore until they firmly parked at Ditch End. Meanwhile, Will and Arthur Henderson with two lifetimes of local knowledge were making their way up the town side leading a pack hopeful of a dramatic recovery. Finally, the breeze filled back in, Tim and Fran reacted fast, gybed, and crossed from the forlorn ditch-enders to join Will and Arthur but Tom and Ollie covered the move and led around the last mark to sail a relaxed down tide beat to the finish and take the event, while Tim and Fran battled to 3rd behind Alex Jackson and Pippa Kilsby.

Thank you, Salcombe Yacht Club, for hosting us, the fleet look forward to returning in June for Salcombe Gin Merlin Rocket 2024 where 120 boats will be on the water.

The next event on the SW Series 2024 is at Starcross Yacht Club on 1st and 2nd June which is also a Craftinsure Silver Tiller Open Category event.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1st3759Thomas GillardOllie MeadowcroftSheffield Viking‑41214
2nd3764Tim FellsFrances GiffordSalcombe YC1‑7135
3rd3812Tom StewartRob AllenSalcombe2‑66513
4th3820Caroline CroftLivvy BellHampton73‑10414
5th3795Alex JacksonPip KilsbyShoreham611‑12219
6th3788Christian BirrellSam BreareyParkstone‑1128919
7th3726Will HendersonArthur HendersonSalcombe YC‑883819
8th3803Chris GouldSophie MackleyShoreham164‑17626
9th3807Tim SaxtonHolly McArthurItchenor1010‑16727
10th3687Matthew GreenfieldHannah GreenfieldChew Valley SC59‑151428
11th3775Chris JenningsPete NicholsonBurghfield3‑13131329
12th3802Simon PottsRichard ParslowBurghfield14‑1651231
13th3746James WellsAnna AylwardRYA‑1312111134
14th3683Tom BallantineMaddy AndersonBrighlingsea18174‑2239
15th3714Rob HendersonAlice MarkhamHayling Island‑201571840
16th3666John MeadowcroftKaty MeadowcroftSalcombe YC‑221891542
17th3782Ed ChapmanMatt CurrellLymington920‑231645
18th3796William WarrenMegan PascoeShoreham‑1714141745
19th3751Mary Henderson‑WhiteRupert Henderson‑WhiteBrighlingsea21522‑2648
20th3799Paul RaysonChris HillSalcombe YC‑2721191050
21st3709Jack NortonDave RoyseRanelagh121921(DNC)52
22nd3779David LeeAngela BridgesStarcross152320(DNC)58
23rd3769Graham Cranford‑SmithHelen HilditchSalcombe YC192218‑2359
24th3578Godfrey ClarkBill NokesFishers Green‑3025241968
25th3747Clive EplettNigel HuftonFrencham Pond2326‑272069
26th3641Mark WaterhouseIsobel StewartSalcombe‑2524252170
27th3781David HallEmilie HoodBlackwater242726(DNF)77
28th3692Steve ConroyAnna RaysonFishers Green28‑29282480
29th3725Andrew SquireTristram SquireSalcombe YC‑2928292885
30th3770JONATHAN STEWARDBlakeFishers Green31(RET)312587
31st3482Richard BurtonPeter BurtonMedley‑3533322792
32nd3813Stephen HarlingEleanor ThomasStarcross‑323030WAY92
33rd3740Patrick BlakeJilly BlakeShoreham2632(DNC)DNC95
34th3663Nick YannakoyorgosMatteo ManciniFishers Green‑343133DNF96
35th3621Simon EvansLaura EvansSalcombe33(DNC)34DNC104
36th3797Mark ElkingtonSarah RobertsStarcross(DNC)DNCDNCDNC111

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