Day 6 of the Shepherd Neame Merlin Rocket Nationals in Whitstable Bay, had a corker of a breeze, 18 – 20 knots form the west, ebb tide running east and short chop. The racing was to go down to the wire and as they say, its not over till its over.
With one point separating 3626 (Glenn Truswell/Olly Turner) and 3703 (Richard Whitworth/Sally Townend), it was going to a case of what tactics would be used at the start and up the first beat. This one was to go to the wire and would not be over till its over. With the wind coming for the west, the seas were the classic Whitstable short chop with easterly ebb tide.
So with a steady force 4 gusting 5, the fleet launched to see who would be crowned king. With rigs raked, the fleet showed that it was game on and charged up the first beat with 3703 leading both the race and championship, led from 3684 (Andy Davis/Ellie Bremner) and 3662 (David Winder/Pippa Taylor) with 3626 in a close 5th.
Downwind 3703 dominated till close to the leeward mark they stuffed the bow in and capsized. Recovering to 23rd at the next windward mark, they had their work cut out to retrieve the situation especially as 3626 was now in 4th.
3684 now led from 3626, 3701 (Tom Stewart/Liam Dempsey) and 3662 who broke their boom during the next round.
Over the next rounds the Pirates 3685 (Willie Warren/Chris Robinson) moved into second passing 3626 with 3703 fast closing, but would it be enough to see them catch and pass 3626? As the race was closing out, the Fat Lady was getting ready to sing but could 3626 hold on or would 3703 pass them and put one boat between themselves and 3626. Alas it was not to be. 3703 gave a master class on how to retrieve the situation by recovering to 6th on the water, but it was not enough. With 3684 coming home first and bringing the racing to an end, 3685 followed in second with 3626, 3712 (John Gorringe/Peter Horn) and 3704 (Chris Lewns/Tom Pygall) close astern.
3626 was crowned the national champions, having sailed in a varied set of breezes and putting an exemplary series together, but being pushed all the way by 3703. The race management was faultless and all competitors went away with a prize thanks to the generosity of the sponsors.
Holt Plate in Association with North One Design
Chipstow Race Day
By no means a side show, though 3666 (Dan Parsons/Hamish Kilburn) had won the Holt Plate with a day to spare and so take home the coveted first prize token from Chipstow Boats, the dynamics of the minor podium places was to close to call.
So gong into the last race, who would rise to occasion and who would capitulate? With two local boats in the hunt there was to be an interesting side show.
From the start, 3700 (Phil Emery/Sophie Mackey) were to get the bit between their teeth and make a last charge to secure 2nd from 3650 (Laurence Tosh/Crew) who slipped to third overall.
So to the prize giving and every competitor was to leave with a prize, a first for the Merlin Nationals and made possible due to the generosity of the race day and main sponsors.
Next year’s Nationals are in August in Penzance with big seas and hopefully similar conditions to this year.
The big question is, will Glenn/Olly, though buying an International 14 for next year, be back to defend the title they have spent so long trying to win. Many will be hoping the answer is a yes.