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Merlin Rocket Week Day 4
By Rooster Sailing
Our last 1030 start saw the forecast followed almost to the letter, with a light @5-9knot) NE breeze. The first start had us beating up to Gerston against the last of the ebb. The first start was a shambles with most of the fleet over, leaving the PRO to produce his black flag. The second start was interesting to note the start by Dave Hays/ Jonny Ratcliffe. They effectively anchored the boat 2 lengths to leeward of the line, with Jonny holding the boat, and with I guess @15 seconds to go, Jonny steps in the boat bear off and cross the line at full belt right at pin end of the line. A nice piece of seamanship and gave them enough of a lead to win the race.
The rest of us battled through the bag with John Cooper and Hilary Bradshaw and Daniel Willett/Pete Nicholson in battling for second to and from Gerston. Sadly for John and Hilary, they went to leeward of couple of moored 35 footers in the bag, and that was enough to drop them out of the 3. Merlins just seem so susceptible to any disturbed wind that it takes nerves of steel and an iron will to stay low when everyone goes high. Then the long run down to Black Rock, somehow Dan & Pete (of B14 fame) and Toby & I had a bit of a buffer, plus the last of the ebb to trickle away without too much incident. The beat was kind to us, in so much as Dan and Pete ran hard aground in Mill Bay (honest we didn’t smile, even when we heard that crunchy squeaky noise winders make when you run them hard ashore). To add insult to injury we then covered them hard all the way up the beat (Dave & Jonny were out of sight and no bag to kill them off, well so our thinking went). In fairness Dan & Pete pulled themselves together pretty quickly and it wasn’t long before we were finding ourselves tacking into moored boats or the odd running Merlin.
The last run down to Black Rock was a nail biter, the wind was dying (as predicted) and the flood was kicking in, and all those other merlins started to make their presence felt by sort of hugging the town shore but I think more importantly staying in the breeze. We just got over there in time to join the party and then crossed the tide (again) once we were lifted on starboard. Dan and Pete did one more gybe for the wind just as it headed, and promptly lost four places, letting Richard Whitworth/Sally Townend into third. We gratefully snook round the mark and went for the tide and finally drifted up to the finish with the dying embers of the NE.
Today was the day discards kicked in so it was always the day when the series starts to pan out. The second flight had a general recall, and the black flag caught two boats out, notable Willy Warren. In the 10-12knot southerly that kicked in Dan Alsop and Jenny King came out from the melee of the second start ahead, chased by Brice Magor /Rosie Richards and Si Blake/Alex Jackson in third, which was not we Toby and I wanted to see. On the upside, the sun came out and we had a beautiful Salcombe afternoon with all those amazing blues, greens and sandy yellows you always seem to get down here.
We went for a walk onto Snapes point but sadly missed all the action in the bag but did watch the boats tacking back up to Black Rock, to our relief we could just make out the wooden deck of Dan & Jenny still out in the lead. They hung onto first with Si and Alex second and Tom Jeffcote and Pippa Taylor taking third.
There is still a contest for the series, but only just.