Shoreham SC Merlin Open Meeting
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
As the class prepares for the Championships www.merlinrocket.co.uk/champs/ a fleet of 30 Merlins made the annual trip to Shoreham for ‘real sea sailing’. That’s what it said on the promotional flyer and that’s what it delivered,…again! PRO Alan Chaplin ran back-to-back Championship courses in a 15-18knots South easterly with 5 foot swell and blazing sunshine, perfect.
First out of the blocks and continuing their dominant open water form were Jon Gorringe and Toby Lewis, leading from the off the chasing pair of Jon Turner, Simon Blake could not quite match them for boat speed and handling. This order held to the finish while further down the fleet Geoff Carveth made a strong fight back from a poor first lap to finish fourth.
The breeze freshened marginally and veered to the East as boats came in from the port lay line to round the windward mark. David Hayes and Jonny Radcliffe had worked the percentages up the middle and were unduly nobbled on the approach, however, a well-executed spinny hoist and gybe saw them in the lead by the leeward mark, after which their boat handling delivered an equivalent ‘extra gear’ and they disappeared off to a convincing victory. Geoff Carveth and Graham Williamson were finding their feet and sailed the remainder of the race in a three way battle with Gorringe and Blake for second place. On the last lap Blake fouled at the windward mark and dropped back to fourth, Carveth showed Gorringe a clear pair of heels on the final set of screaming reaches and won first runner up.
Bar chat was not just of achy bones and stiff legs but how well Stu Bithell (Merlin 2010 Champ and long-term Hollingworth Merlin super-crew), was performing at the Olympics. It was also refreshing to see the two new designs (Jon Turners ‘Genii’ and Jo Richards ‘Dead Line’) mixing it up at the front of the fleet. Jon and Richard ‘yappy’ Parslow have worked relentlessly on their new design for the past two years, this effort is really starting to bear fruit and the pair is showing some seriously impressive form.
Sunday came and almost went. The wind started from the SE and looked at one point to drop off, however, the faithful sea breeze was to kick in from the SW but not before the first race had finished.
David Hayes was again the front runner and played the shifts and tide to sneak an early lead. However, as the pressure abated it was William Warren and Pat Blake who capitalized on the shifts. Many boats hit the right corner on the final beat as the wind went South, the majority underestimated the extent of the shift and eventually came reaching in on starboard. Pat and Jilly Blake judged it correctly to lead down the final run, holding position to the line. David Hayes held on to second by the skin of his teeth while newcomers to the fleet Ben & Roz McGrane having improved consistently throughout the weekend, recorded third with Willie Warren recovering well to finish fourth.
The deciding race saw a head to head between Gorringe and Hayes. However, with such a depth of talent in the fleet it was Richard Whitworths time to shine. A full on horizon job left the fleet in his wake, Jon and Toby battled up to second and thus won the weekend while Hayes, Blake Jnr, McGrane and Carveth all finished a few boat lengths of each other as they fought for the lower ranks.
A perfect training event before our Championchipss and an encouraging one for all the contenders. Although Jon and Toby sailed to a deserved victory it appeared nobody had it entirely their way, therefore predictions are for a high scoring Nationals with pundits struggling to predict a favourite.
Report by Alex Jackson
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 August 2012 )