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Craftinsure Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller events

21-June-2012. 27 boats lined up on the shore for what turned out to be a very “breezy” sail around the Olympic style triangle/sausage course set for Saturday just outside the confines of Poole Harbour into Poole Bay. With an eventual 16 only finishers this was definitely not a day for the frail or faint hearted!
With over 25 knots of wind being recorded inside the harbour the fleet proceeded to sail out towards the entrance whereupon emerging into the lumpy seas of Poole Bay the wind increased further to a good force 6.  Challenging conditions indeed - even for highly experienced Merlin rocket crews!

Race 1 and with the boats cleanly away the fleet proceeded to split into two groups, some going inshore and others taking the offshore route. It seemed that the inshore Merlin’s had a slight advantage with  David Hayes reaching the windward mark first followed by “Taxi” Davies and Jon Gorringe.  A screamingly fast two sail reach down to the gybe mark followed (too lumpy and too windy to hoist kites) – and as the brakes went on many boats capsized trying to clear the mark. Quite a few elected to wear round in order to avoid the gybe but still capsized as the combination of the wind and sea state got the better of them.  Those that took a deep breath and successfully managed the inevitable instantly took 100 metres out of crews that struggled or wore round. Taxi and Jon with extremely skillful sailing both sailed through to be the leading pair and held these positions until the leeward mark when Taxi capsized allowing Jon to take a well-deserved win. Richard Whitworth sniggled his way through to grab third and David Hayes slid down to 7th.

Overall a lot of retirements from race 1 some with damaged boats, one with a broken mast and a few crews who, ‘just didn’t fancy it’!

Race 2 and with the retirements from the first race leaving only 16 boats to contest the start, the race officer again had the fleet away on the first gun. Taxi led at the windward mark and held off Jon Gorringe’s persistent challenges until the last gybe mark where he again capsized allowing Jon through for his second win of the day!  Andy & Phil Dalby were charging and took an impressive third place.

Race 3 – A general recall! It had to come.  With the competitors now down to 12 starters and with plenty of room on the line they were however cleanly away the second time. Jon Gorringe out of the trap quicker than anyone expected led the fleet although closely pursued all the way by Taxi. An excellent demonstration of boat speed and handling allowed Taxi very ably crewed by Ellie Bremner to catch right up with Jon who was equally well crewed by “Tobytastic” Lewis.  From the final gybe mark to the finish a fantastic tacking duel took place but Taxi couldn’t quite get past the Goringe Lewis combo who won by a margin of less than a Merlins length!.  Only 11 boats finished race 3.

In extreme and difficult conditions a sincere ‘well done’ has to go to all the rescue boats who were kept very busy throughout the days activities and who did a sterling job in high winds and rough seas!

Nevertheless there were some weary sailors in the bar that evening recovering their strength with a few pints and a very good curry knocked up by the excellent Parkstone kitchen.  Not that anyone needed more wind!

Parkstone Silver Tiller : F3-4 easterly winds meant races held inside the harbour

The forecast was for an easterly F3-4 with rain and it was right!  The event was held inside the harbour and the race team  decided to abandon the traditional  triangle, sausage  course and use the harbour race marks .Have a tour of the harbour while you’re racing and why not? .  With a lead boat showing the leaders the way there were no excuses to get it wrong!

Race one and the Merlin’s were away without any dramas.  The fleet split with about 70% going left into the main channel and the remainder going right towards Brownsea Island.  The right side of the course paid because the tide was flooding and saw Richard Whitworth round first by a good margin. With Taxi followed by David Hayes leading the charge behind it was a close, but fast, two sail reach down to the next mark.  Jon Gorringe seemed to create his own wind (maybe it was the curry) and sped from about 8th to 3rd on this leg to be right on Taxi’s transom at the mark.  Richard Whitworth continued to pull away only to round the leeward buoy the wrong way. Upon realizing the error he returned to round again  but couldn’t quite make it in time before Jon, followed by Taxi,  had gone through ahead leaving Richard to take a frustrating third!

Race 2 a bit of a change  with the windward leeward course having a 3 mile run towards Wareham and about a 2.5 mile beat back to the finish.

Again the fleet split left and right but this time all converged pretty much at the same time for the windward mark.

Lots of place changing downwind as the boats pretty much sailed in one group apart from Taxi  who had eked out a bit of a lead followed by David Hayes and then Ben & Roz Mcgrane in their new boat, “Dory”. This was how they finished with Jon Gorringe managing to get back to fifth behind Richard Whitworth after being caught in the pack.

Race 3 had a general recall. Well you can’t have a silver tiller without at least one or two general recalls!  Away second time but, unfortunately, Taxi was black flagged and went back for an early shower. With a similar but slightly shorter course to race 1, the wind shifted left giving those that had gone to the main shipping channel side of the course the advantage. Jon Gorringe covered the fleet from this position, but it was Ben and Roz McGrane showing some good speed who led most of the way around until the final few hundred metres where a puff of wind aided those that had gone close to Brownsea Island. Whilst Ben & Roz stood off the island to avoid the wind shadow the Brownsea Islanders snuck through ahead of them relegating their tremendous effort to 5th.  Unsurprisingly given his success so far It was Jon Gorringe who came out on top again with Steve & Gill Leney coming through to take second and David Hayes picking up third.

So overall winner of the weekend was Jon Gorringe who having won both Silver Tiller events made the organization of the prize giving nice and easy!

A special ‘endeavor’ prize was introduced for the boat that completed all 6 races but had the lowest overall finishing position.  This deservedly went to Chris Jennings and Liese Scott who finished 10th overall.

A big thank you to HD sails and Creation Covers who both donated prizes for the event and also to our series sponsor Craftinsure...

Thanks to Parkstone Yacht club and thanks too to Barry Rolfe, the PRO, who made it all happen on the water with some great courses around the harbour.