Craftinsure Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller Report- Wembley Sailing Club 23/09/12
Sunday 23rd September saw 21 Merlin Rockets assemble at Wembley Sailing Club for the 2012 Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller Open Meeting sponsored by Craftinsure. It has been fifty years since Wembley Sailing Club (situated on the Welsh Harp Reservoir) hosted its first Silver Tiller Open and this particular event proved to be quite a memorable anniversary!
Race 1 began in a gusty F2 as the skies opened and the rain poured, which built up to F3 gusts that caught some out and caused a few capsizes! Dave Winder & Pippa Taylor made the early running opening up a lead from John Turner & Richard Parslow in second and this is how it remained to the finish with Matt Biggs & John Hackett finishing third.
Race 2 was away at the second attempt but now under black flag and Dave Winder and Pippa Taylor immediately led. The wind had died by now to a F1 and with the accompanying heavy showers it seemed unlikely that the forecast F3 with F6 gusts was going to materialise. The race for second was much closer with any one of Matt Biggs & John Hackett, Paul Hollis & Ben Hendon, Duncan & Harriet Salmon and John Turner & Richard Parslow being in contention the whole way round the course. Towards the end of the race and with the wind starting to build, Winder & Taylor consolidated their lead to take the win with Hollis & Hendon second, Biggs & Hackett third, Turner & Parslow fourth, and Duncan & Harriet Salmon finishing fifth.
During the gap to the start of the third race, the wind continued to increase and the fleet were now presented with a F3 gusting up to F6 and yet more rain. These conditions were going to cause even the very best to go for a swim and so it proved! Andy Davis & Tom Pygall revelling in the extreme conditions led all the way from just after the start. Matt Biggs & Ben Hendon were an early capsize casualty on lap 1, but then managed to recover and sail through the fleet to take a fine second place whilst avoiding the many capsized boats caught out by the sledgehammer like gusts. Jon Gorringe & Nicki Bass also enjoyed the trickier conditions to finish third. Jon Turner & Richard Parslow meanwhile had succumbed to a huge gust and wind shift at the gybe mark and wiped out at very high speed! Duncan & Harriet Salmon arriving shortly afterwards and finding Turner & Parslow capsized right in their path had nowhere to go and heroically pressed the capsize button in an effort to save both boats from destruction. Now with yet another boat joining the mix, a three way raft ensured some unfortunate rigging damage and three inevitable retirements. Elsewhere in the fleet a broken mast and a full on pitch pole were the casualties as the gusts became ever stronger right up until the final lap when a passing squall made it supremely difficult for those stalwart crews still sailing.
The fleet tired but in true Merlin rocket tradition – unbeaten – then retired to the clubhouse for a very welcome meal of hot chilli & potatoes followed by prize giving, with prizes generously donated by Rooster Sailing. Dave Winder & Pippa Taylor won overall honours from Matt Biggs and John Hackett second, Paul Hollis and Ben Hendon were third, Jon Turner & Richard Parslow finished fourth and retained the Century Cup trophy for the first helm and crew with a combined age of over 100 years old! Elsewhere, Alan & Alice Markham won the prize for the first boat over 10 years old.
Report & Results by Paul Dean
Photographs by kind permission of John McKelvie