Seventy years of National Championships and still going strong! The enduring strength of the Merlin Rocket as one of the country’s leading two handed racing classes will be evidenced again next week in Whitstable.
Out on the water, the lineup of talent is formidable.
2014 Champions Stu Bithell and Tom Pygall are back to defend their title in a brand new Winder. Unfortunately, Stu’s 49er commitments in Rio mean he will not land at Heathrow until Monday morning so they will be starting their defence with a DNS on the scoreboard.
2013 Champions Nick Craig and Alan Roberts would therefore be the bookies favourites, the only question being what will be their weapon of choice. Nick has recently taken delivery of a shiny new Jon Turner ‘Genii’ and will be under a lot of pressure (not least to justify the not inconsiderable outlay) to take it for a spin.
A key decision will be made on Saturday morning. Light forecast = Genii, heavy forecast = Winder.
2011 Champion Andy Davis has teamed up this year with Alex Warren and look a formidable partnership. Taxi needs no introduction as a multiple winner and would be our second favourite for the title.
Behind these proven winners, a huge pack of talented teams will be looking to exploit any slip up. Leading contenders include:
Dave Hayes and Jonny Radcliffe who have had the beating of Nick and Alan out on the circuit this year
Roger Gilbert and James Stewart who look like returning to championship winning form after time off on nappy duty
Ben and Roz McGrane one of the smartest and hardest working teams out there, will fight to the end
Jasper Barnham and Graham Sexton who, if they can stop arguing who is the better Laser 2000 helm in the boat, have the ability to beat the best
Simon Potts (recently seen starring in the front end of Ally Martin’s RS200 (does that read OK?) who with Luke Shaw has been doing horizon jobs when the wind kicks in
Jon Gorringe and Nikki Bass recently returned from a strong second place at the RS400s and demonstrating that love conquers everything
Sam Pascoe, world beating I14 crew, who is rumoured to have a new boat and will have downloaded all of Glen Truswell’s knowledge from when he won the last time the Merlins were at Whitstable
Ian Sharps and Ally Martin, have served their Merlin apprenticeship and are looking ready for prime time
Tim Fells and Oli Wells who will be seeking some karma after a troublesome time for Oli at the Scorpion champs
Young guns Ben Saxton and George Yeoman who have been given the keys to the championship winning Speed Machine
Old guns Jon Turner and Richard Parslow looking to light up their Genii and show that they have out-thought the rest of the fleet
Naked guns Olly Turner and Hamish Kilburn who if not winning will be prone to ‘busting the tower’ with another flyby. “Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full!”
Looking beyond the title contenders, there will also be a championship within a championship. Whitstable club members, emboldened by a challenge to ‘buy a Merlin for under £1k’, have built their own fleet of ‘Classic’ boats. There will be at least 11 beautiful wooden boats doing battle and bringing some welcome class history to the event.
by Tim Fells