The 55th running of the ever popular Salcombe Merlin Week is nearly upon us. The entry is full and 100 teams will be making the annual pilgrimage to this most beautiful and complex of sailing venues. As always, the racing fleet numbers will be boosted by many friends, family and retired Merlin sailors who come down for the socials and to follow the racing. The armada of spectator boats that follow the racing around the estuary is a unique and fun part of the Salcombe experience.
Long range forecasts suggest the current breezy conditions will continue so the spectators should be in for a lot of fun, particularly at the notorious gybe point off the Ferry Inn where spectacular dismounts are guaranteed.
The fleet will be racing in flights so that everyone gets three morning and three afternoon races in the round robin format. With every place effectively counting double, competition will be high throughout the fleet. Getting off the start line with 50 boats at low water can be a challenge for even the most experienced, with OCS’s a constant danger. The race track then provides one of the most complex tests of tidal variances, shifty winds full of gusts and holes, more tacking and gybing than you get in the rest of the season and a constant challenge to your emotional stability and mental health. It is no wonder that alcohol consumption is at peak levels as sailors try to make sense of what they have been through.
As for the runners and riders, 2010 and 2011 winners, Simon Blake and Alex Jackson, will be back for their hat-trick but will be using their brand new Jo Richards design for the first time so no-one knows quite what to expect. Past winners Willie Warren, Andy Davis, Dave Winder, Mike Calvert and John Turner will all be in contention while Tom Stewart and Jon Gorringe will both be amongst the bookies favourites. Add in a large cast of champion sailors from other fleets who have been developing their Merlin skills in recent years and it will be certain to be a highly competitive week which will go down to the wire.
What is certain is that the sun will shine, there will be lots of laughs and the sponsors Doom Bar will be consumed in high volume.
Preview provided byTim Fells, MROA