Despite the Foot and Mouth crisis and the forecast of strong winds and heavy rain for the weekend of 30 March/ 1 April, 51 Merlin Rockets made the annual spring trip to Salcombe for the Silver Tiller open meeting.
Despite the arrival of Foot and Mouth in south Devon and the forecast of strong winds and heavy rain for the weekend of 30 March/ 1 April, 51 Merlin Rockets made the annual spring trip to Salcombe for the Silver Tiller open meeting weekend hosted by Salcombe Yacht Club and sponsored by Coast and Country Cottages.
The venue has been popular in the fleet for the annual Merlin Rocket Week in the summer for decades, but the Spring open meeting has only been a feature of the calendar for three years. Entries in the first year were 35, last year 42, and this year topped 50 – a quite remarkable observation on the high morale in the fleet.
The strength in depth in the fleet means that in a fleet of this size, there are at least 15 boats perfectly capable of winning, and poor starts are punished very hard!
Saturday fulfiled the forecast with rain and mist and strong winds, which at Salcombe inevitably means very difficult sailing conditions as the gusts back and veer around the steep sides of the estuary seemingly at random. There were many capsizes and retirements as competitors sensibly recognised the limitations of themselves and their gear. The stars of the day’s race were the new pairing of Simon Blake and Dave Dobrijevic (Bosnia for short) who broke clear early on and sailed very smoothly to hold a comfortable lead for most of the long race. However, when Blake and Bosnia capsized during a difficult gybe, the pursuing group were quick to take advantage with Mike Calvert and new crew Alex Jackson taking the bell at the finish just ahead of Will Rainey and Liese Ward and Richard Whitworth and Sally Townend (back in the boat after becoming Mum to Zoe).
The fleet all gathered at the club for the now legendary evening meal provided by Mark Sculley, the club chef, who broke all his records to feed 135 with a superb carvery, and a treacle tart to die for!
Sunday dawned damp but a lot less windy and it was practically a full fleet that met on the start line. Newcomer Phil Plumtree sailing with Jilly Blake for this year, timed the first beat perfectly and emerged clear leader at the first mark, sailing into a clear lead on the long run up the estuary to Yalton. Stars of this race though were Duncan Salmon and Ian Garwood who after being immersed in the pack at the first mark picked a very favourable line on the long downwind leg to climb from a position in the teens at the first mark, to third at the second mark. Relentlessly reeling in Plumtree and Blake, Salmon and Garwood won the race ahead of Calvert and Jackson. This was enough for Calvert and Jackson to win the Pettit Trophy for the meeting, presented this year for the first time in memory of Audrey Pettit who was pivotal in establishing the Merlin Rocket Class’s long association with Salcombe.
Second place went to Whitworth and Townend, ahead of Stevie Morrison sailing in the fleet, at Salcombe, and with Liam Dempsey, all for the first time, a case of overcoming all obstacles to record an excellent result at an excellent regatta!
1st Mike Calvert and Alex Jackson 3549
2nd Richard Whitworth and Sally Townend 3593
3rd Steve Morrison and Liam Dempsey 3582
4th Julian Parry and Chris Taylor 3554