After 13 years of trying, the £1,000 cheque to the first team to win all
races at the John Merricks Tiger Trophy has gone to Andy Smith and Tim
Needham, who conquered some fierce conditions in their 505 this weekend.
Some competitors were surprised when race officer David Wilkins, an
Olympic silver medallist, decided to send sailors out for the three
handicap races on Saturday. "David reckons it's only 20 knots," muttered
competitors grimly in the changing rooms, looking as though they were
about to sent out to almost certain doom.
"It was averaging 18 knots, with some occasional gusts over 25,"
said Wilkins afterwards, "although most competitors had it at about five
knots stronger than that. It could have been the dense cold breeze that
you tend to get in the winter, which can make the breeze feel
While sailors were tipping in left, right and centre across the
reservoir, keeping the tireless rescue teams working full bore all
afternoon, Smith and Needham sailed majestically around the trapezoid
course with seemingly little bother. That said, even Smith admitted to
three capsizes during the course of the day. "There was one at the end
of the second race near the leeward mark, ended up teabagging Tim and he
fell off, another when the spinnaker sheets went under the bow, and
another down the run. But I think everyone fell in at some point during
Some ended up beached on the lee shore by the concrete dam, having
to leave their boats there until there was time to rescue the equipment
later. All in all, a big day.
In the evening there was the customary
dinner to celebrate the life of John Merricks, the Olympic silver
medallist who learned his trade on Rutland Water and who would have
loved the big breeze of this weekend.
The following day dawned even windier, and there was nervous chatter
at the prospect of the pursuit race taking place in high wind, with the
exception of a few gung-ho competitors such as former OK World Champion
Nick Craig. In the end, the race officer decided to call off the
racing, although Craig went out anyway and put on a masterclass of
survival sailing in his OK while everyone else packed up to go home.
Meanwhile, Smith and Needham were celebrating winning the Tiger
Trophy and picking up the £1,000 cheque at a prizegiving in the brand
new John Merricks Training Centre. This is a high performance facility
funded by Sport England, Rutland SC, the John Merricks Sailing Trust and
Tony Everard at Everards Brewery. John's father, Dennis Merricks, and
Tony Everard were there to open the new building and to present the
prizewinners with their hard-won trophies.
Smith said he'd find something to spend the money on. "There's
always something to spend money on with the Five-Oh. Twin poles, I
reckon, to make the gybes a bit easier." Not that it looked like they
need any help gybing the boat in the strong winds of Saturday. Smith and
Needham have also won the opportunity to sail with Team GAC Pindar at
the Cowes Week Extreme 40 event as VIP guests.
Runner-up to the 505 was the 420 of Chris Taylor and Caroline Croft
who also won the Junior Tiger Trophy, with last year's overall winners,
Merlin duo Matt Biggs and Ben Hollis in third. Biggs and Hollis also win
the SailJuice Global Warm-Up 2011, the winter travellers series that
encompassed four of the major multi-class handicap events and which
concluded this weekend at Rutland.
Thanks to Rule 26 for event logistics and site branding, and
Everards Brewery for all the prize glasswear and Tiger beer for every
John Merricks Tiger Trophy 2011 winners:
Tiger Trophy: Andy Smith & Tim Needham (NCSC) 505
Junior Tiger Trophy:- (Highest placed Junior team.) Chris Taylor and Caroline Croft (HISC) 420
Shere Khan Trophy - (Highest placed team with combined age of 75+) Roger Dean & Dave Turner (Rock SC) 505