Fran and Pete do Salcombe Merlin Rocket Week, July 2009

In 2008, Frances Gifford and Pete Walker (Met) won the PSUK National Dinghy Sailing Championships held at Northampton S.C. This entitled them to be considered to represent the British Police the following year in a National Dinghy regatta..

They selected the Merlin Rocket Week held annually at Salcombe,

Winners of the Police Dinghy Nationals, 2008

Having borrowed a highly competitive Merlin, booked accommodation, borrowed a rubber boat for transportation around the harbour, Pete and I turned up to the very lovely Salcombe Harbour to compete against 97 other Merlin Rockets for the prestigious Merlin Rocket Salcombe Week trophy.

Saturday is a day for getting the boats to the beach, finding the rounders bat and generally orientating oneselves. It was pretty windy and mainly raining but the holiday atmosphere snuck through.

The size of the estuary in Salcombe means there isn’t space for 98 Merlins to be racing at the same time so the fleet is split into four flights and two race each other in the morning and two in the afternoon. By the end of the week you have raced each other flight twice and raced three morning and three afternoons. An important factor of the week is learning which days you are morning and which you are afternoon.

So, day one of racing and we were afternoon, so had the opportunity to watch the morning race carnage. It was windy. Having not really helmed a Merlin much and only at this years PSUK nationals sailed one with Pete, there was a certain nervousness about us launching into a Force 5. But is went well and we scored a pretty respectable 14th, with many more experienced capsizing around us.

Monday - windy in places but lots of large holes to find and sit in while the fleet sailed around us. I managed to park us in each of these holes and we sailed our fortunately subsequently to be discarded 25th. Very windy that afternoon for watching the carnage in the knowledge that our racing for the day was done.

Tuesday - hooning again. Capsizing throughout the fleet, but possibly more through luck than judgement we kept the rig above the hull and sailed round the course in a solid 11th. And then watched the afternoon’s carnage from the safety of the pub once again.

Big Wednesday - Very windy. Again Pete and I were pretty happy in the lovely Moist (this is really the name of the boat we borrowed, and incidentally now owned by another PSUK regular), and scored our best result of the week, 10th.

Wednesday was also the interflight rounders tournament evening which I had organised. In the region of 60 people turned up to play, the tournament was a great success, the sun shone for the first time all week and Pete hit more rounders than anyone. Unfortunately our flight won one, lost one and red flight won two and were crowned rounders champions.

Back to the racing and Thursday was the only truly light day of the week. And it was bad. I found some more holes for us to sit in and fortunately can’t remember much else of that race but the score of 24th tells its own story.

Friday - afternoon again for the first time since Monday and with the wind blowing in a completely different direction there was no wind in the main estuary and what did arrive was actually blowing vertically downwards and then spreading across the water. However up the main tributary to “Gerston” there was a decent 30 knots blowing, also very shifty. This was quite difficult and masts were breaking around us. Discussion took place on board the mighty Moist as to whether we should protect our borrowed boat and head for home. We didn’t fancy that so we sailed pretty conservatively and scored a 17th which we were pretty happy with considering the conditions.

So overall, we had a great week, we finished 28th out of 98, top third, beating some good guys and did some fairly substantial blasting around Salcombe Harbour.


Pos. Boat Sail No Helm Crew Club Race
28th 'Moist' 3643 Frances Gifford Peter Walker Police Sailing UK 51.0 DNC 14.0 25.0 51.0 DNC 11.0 51.0 DNC 10.0 51.0 DNC 51.0 DNC 24.0 51.0 DNC 17.0 76.0