Merlin Rocket Craftinsure Silver Tiller Event – Cookham Reach Sailing Club – 21st/ 22nd April 2012
With Salcombe Yacht club’s excellent Silver tiller now some weeks ago and Banbury Sailing Club’s Restricted meeting being cancelled (due to low water levels in the reservoir), helms and crews were eagerly looking forward to another event and the different challenge of a purely river competition !
Hosted this year by Cookham Reach S.C. in its picturesque location on a wide sweep of the Thames between Maidenhead and Bourne End, Cookham’s neatly cut lawns and delightful views complement the great hospitality extended to all competitors and visitors alike.
Sundays Craftinsure series of three Silver Tiller races for the Cookham Shield – two to count – was preceded on the Saturday afternoon by a warm up for some of the keener competitors, with a trial race in the Guy Pearce memorial trophy. Helms and crews had a foretaste of Sunday’s event with the freshening westerly breeze blowing across the wide expanse of the Berkshire banks making for some exciting racing. The beautifully restored vintage boats dominated in the generally light conditions throughout the day and it was a particular privilege to see Jack Holts original Merlin – sail number 1 of 1944 vintage being vigorously campaigned by Mervyn Allen and young Jack Tosh who, in the early stages of Race 1 gave some of the newer designs a good run for their money!
With Sundays forecast promising a north westerly increasing from force 3 to force 4 by end of racing, the race team elected to set a fairly long course between upstream and downstream marks to give the fleet plenty of sea room. Viewing for the keen bankside spectators was further enhanced by the careful positioning of a windward mark which, having to be passed to port by all boats before they proceeded further downstream caused more than one experienced competitor a few anxious moments during the day!
Race one finally got underway after two general recalls and only after the imposition of the black flag rule (boats are disqualified if over the line at the start when this flag is flying). Both “ Passing Cloud” designs 1079 and 1097 made impressive starts with “ Hot Totty” crewed by Pat & Jilly Blake in hot pursuit finally taking the lead on lap 3 and holding this to the finish on a shortened course of 4 ½ laps.
A short break for lunch preceded the start for race two, where in the increasing breeze, undaunted helms again tested the race officers resolve with another general recall, before a repeat of the black flag rule had the necessary calming effect!
3676, 3347 & 3707 in succession made an early break from the pack finally resulting in both Simon and Anna Blake and parents Pat & Jilly making it once again a true “Family Affair” by finishing one/ two behind 3347 the beautifully sailed Laurie Smart built NSM 2 of David Vines crewed by Fran Gifford.
With some competitors now heading for an early bath after a particularly nasty cloudburst during race 2 – a reduced field of just 11 boats contested race 3 in frequently rainy and squally conditions gusting, at times, to 15 knots.
3347 unusually had problems getting up to race pace ensuring the Blake magic could continue with the early lead being taken by 3676. In almost a repeat of race two, Simon and Anna stormed through to dominate for a second home win although not without a very strong challenge from David Vines who, having finally found the fast forward button for race 3, harried 3676 “Monkey Business “ all the way to the finish line!
Report by Steve Storey
Photographs by kind permission of Demelza Mitchell