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Merlin Open Meeting - 2024

There has been a trend as of late, for Merlin Rocket reports to be written using Chat GPT. First we had Chris Gould's Shakespearean piece from day 3 of the 2023 Nationals at Brading Haven (here), which on pressing for more info I found was a quote 'collaboration' between Chris and Chat. Then, more recently, we had Arran Holman's account of the 2023 Inlands at Bartley (here), which was more obviously Chat GPT than a sixth former's homework.Both reports landed well but instead of pieing off all work to a bot, I thought I would do a little myself. Rest assured I have certainly cheated a bit.The day was set for the HD Sails Midland Circuit shared Classic Circuit event. Sunday 19th May. Blithfield Sailing Club. 8 knots gusting 16 (allegedly) and wonderful sunshine. Among the 12 boats and 24 sailors, there was an almost palpable hum of anticipation, a collective, unspoken acknowledgement of the day's potential. Each crew member moved with the purposeful grace of those who have long since internalised the rhythms of their craft, their motions economical and precise, as if to waste even a single erg of energy would be to commit some unspeakable sin against the very nature of sailing. There was an elegance in their preparations, an unhurried competence that bespoke countless hours spent in communion with the capricious elements. Except for Tim Harms and Millie little, because they were a bit late.During the briefing, the sailors were told explicitly not to shout at any of the juniors that were out for the club racing - they should be encouraged. With regards to shouting at one another, however, nothing was said. Three races. One before lunch, two after.I was sailing with Julian Harms. A man with legs so long the journey across the back of the Merlin resembles that of someone swivelling to the opposite facing seat on a West Midlands train. (Though of course, Julian is always on time.) A man with torso so disproportionately small that while driving he has the appearance of a twelve year old barely able to peer out of the window. A man so laid back he finds genuine humour in the luffing ability of Paul 'Windward' Hollis.As is often the case with inland sailing, the wind appeared to posses a sentience which bordered on the whimsical. It toyed with the sailors in a manner both capricious and slightly sadistic, like a toddler delighting in the elaborate toppling of his meticulously constructed block tower. Picture the wind here not as mere air in motion but as an invisible architect of chaos and order.A north-easterly breeze meant the windward marks were those on the clubhouse side shore. Up the second beat, for some strange reason, the boats that went left to disappear into the lee of the bank where there appeared to be only the faintest breath of wind, came storming back on port and often gained several places. The overtake was described somewhat crudely, but efficiently, by me, as the crew with a single expletive which may or may not rhyme with 'duck'. The most remarkable overtake has to be given to Paul Hollis and Paula Mason for their third race manoeuvre. Banging the right hand corner on their way up to mark 8, moved them from fourth place all the way into the lead. They were passed only by Steve and Gil Leney who the author has heard described as 'maniacs downwind', especially in the fickle breeze we were contending with in that race. For Paul and Paula, this led them to pip the ever consistent Paul and Michelle Keeling to fourth place overall.Ed Bradburn and Jonny Coate kicked off with two bullets, securing victory while locals Steve and Gil Leney consistently kept them on their toes, asking some tricky questions and taking pole in the final race.As the breeze dropped slightly, Rob Kennaugh's intention to sail directly towards a beer was voiced to his crew. Andrew Prosser managed to convince him (Rob) otherwise with the persuasive argument that it should be his (Andrew's) decision because he (Andrew) owns the boat, and if he (Andrew) really wanted to be technical about this, he could involve some contractual leasing of the vessel, but that would not be necessary here.

They (Rob and Andrew) started the final race but Rob's patience ran dry and they set their compass for the bar. The results show RTD here which presumably means 'Really Tired of Drifting'/'Right, Time for a Drink'? Andrew will commence work on the leasing contract this week, including the clause that Rob will always try his hardest and at no time will prioritise beer over sailing.


The next HD Sails Midland Circuit event is at Shustoke Sailing Club on 1st September and the next Classic Series is at Banbury Sailing Club on 15th June.


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