Ian Walker didn’t go to the John Merricks Tiger Trophy with any serious thought of winning the event. But win it he did, aided by top RS400 sailor Keith Bedborough in the front of the boat.
This was the sixth event in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series, and some of the country’s best sailors come from near and far to compete against each other in hotly contested handicap races. Not many get a day’s practice in before the event, but that was something Walker and Bedborough did manage. “Keith and I had never met before,” says Walker, who is best known not for his dinghy skills but as winning skipper of the last Volvo Ocean Race. “I put out a call on the RS400 Association forum a few months back, asking if anyone had a boat and wanted to crew for me at the Tiger. Keith got in touch and so we teamed up for the weekend.” They drove from opposite ends of the country to meet in the middle, Walker driving up from Warsash on the south coast of England and Bedborough from Dalgety Bay in Scotland.
The RS400 doesn’t often win events in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series although it does have its moments. However the light winds that greeted the 137 entries was also hitting the sweet spot for the 400s, especially with the square course. “It was tight reaches where we could hold the gennaker and go pretty fast, and the run was only short so that didn’t hurt us too much,” said Walker.
Getting off the start line was critical, and fortunately for the RS400s, in the light winds they could pretty much hold their own against the Fireballs and other trapeze boats that can usually stretch their legs on the hiking boats. “We started second along from the pin in race one,” said Walker who finished second in that heat behind the Osprey raced by Phil Meakins and Andrew Eggett. Walker then came out of the middle of the line for race two, which he won. Then it all went badly wrong for the start of race three after getting distracted by some pre-race banter with Ian Pinnell in his 505. “We lost track of the time and got a bad start and had to tack out to the right to get some clear air,” said Walker. The bail-out worked, as he fought back to second in that race to hold the overnight lead.
With fog and no breeze on Sunday morning, there was no Pursuit Race decider, so by default Walker and Bedborough were the slightly unexpected but popular winners. “We were lucky with the breeze,” admitted Walker, “although I think we sailed pretty well too. My ankle is strapped up from a running injury so I was lucky there wasn’t any hiking involved.”
As guest of honour at the Tiger dinner, Walker shared his memories of sailing with the late, great Johnny Merricks in the 470, and winning that Olympic silver medal together in 1996. “It’s great to come back to Rutland and to see Johnny’s family again, his dad Dennis, the sisters Denise and Julie and the kids. Nice to raise some money for the John Merricks Sailing Trust too, but the main thing is to celebrate Johnny’s memory.”
Walker also made special mention of Fireball veteran duo Dave Hall and Paul Constable. “These guys have raced every Tiger Trophy for the past 20 years, which is an incredible achievement, and it was great to be racing against them again this year.”
The seventh and final event of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series is the Oxford Blue at Farmoor Reservoir on 18 February. With more than a hundred entries already in with still more than a week before the event, it’s looking like the 150-entry limit will be reached in the next few days, so enter now if you’re thinking of taking part:
Overall GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series Rankings
After the penultimate round and the second discard, things are getting very close at the top of the overall rankings. Ben Schooling (Musto Skiff) jumps to top spot, looking to improve on his 2nd in the 2013/14 Series. Winner of Round 1, Craig Williamson (Laser), slips to 2nd, but still looking to improve on his fourth places in the last two Series.
SailRacer overall rankings predictor
The GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series is set to go down to the wire at the final event, Oxford Blue (18 February). With four boats potentially able to win the 2016/17 Series and 31 who could still make it into top ten, things are looking very close, who will win?
The Allen rankings calculate the improvements in relative corrected times of each sailor to the front of the fleet in each race. At Rutland, although the light conditions didn't really suit the foiling Moths, they managed to show the best relative improvements across the day to top the Allen Rankings, with Thomas Lambert, Matthew Lea and Neil Barker taking 1st, 2nd, and 4th spots respectively. Rob Lennox (D-Zero) in 3rd managed to split the Moth sandwich. After the penultimate Round, Craig Williamson (Laser) holds onto top spot in the Allen rankings with Nigel Austin (D-Zero) climbing to 2nd and Nick Craven (RS Aero 7) to third.
Dinghy Rope Top Class Rankings
Heading into GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series final round, defending champions, the Laser Class, have knocked the RS200s off top spot and down to 2nd. The Merlins climb four places to 5th. Based on the best three results from each class across every race, the Dinghy Rope Top Class Rankings are looking very close, with any of the top 10 classes potentially able to win with a good set of results at the Oxford Blue.
Trident Top Club Rankings
Making steady progress up the Trident Top Club Rankings, fielding a strong team at each of the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, Datchet have seized top spot as we head into the final round. Carsingston who led the Trident Top Club Rankings after Round 3, slip down to second, with Grafham and Northampton making gains to climb to third and fourth places respectively.
GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series Prizegiving at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show
Series organisers Andy Rice and Simon Lovesey will present a review of the 2016/17 Series, which has seen record numbers and some very close racing featuring many of the country's top sailors from 89 classes. The prizegiving will be held on Saturday 4th March (10.30am) in the Coaching Area.
Harken Youth and Junior Rankings
There was a strong youth turnout at the Tiger Trophy for GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, #6. RS200 sailors Chay Taylor and Niamh Davies topped the Harken rankings with an excellent 11th overall for the Tiger Trophy. Haydn Griffiths (Laser) was 2nd and Jack Lewis and Charlie Bacon (420) completing the podium in 3rd. For the overall Harken Youth and Junior Rankings, George Coles (Laser) holds onto top spot and is looking unstoppable, with Eleanor Craig (Radial) still in 2nd. Young Tim Hire (RS Aero 7), jumps three places to third overall and top junior.
GUL Lady Rankings
Ann Jackson made it three bullets in a row at the Tiger Trophy, to jump three places to top the GUL Top Lady rankings after the penultimate round of the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series. Eleanor Craig (Radial), Alice Woodings (Radial) and Jackie Craven (RS Aero 7), all slip one place to 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.
Again with lights winds at Datchet, speeds recorded from the SailRacer GPS trackers were on the low side, so it was impressive to see the F18 and F16 cats getting into double figures and sailing quite a bit faster than the actual wind speed. On Saturdaythe F18 of William Sunnucks and Freddie White were the fastest boat on the water by some margin both on an actual and adjusted basis. On Sunday, it was the turn of the new Nacra 15 of Grant Piggott and Molly Desourgher to see the fastest actual speed recorded on the SailRacer GPS trackers. Jonathan Carter (Vortex) was fastest on adjusted speeds. Combining all the speeds across all races, it was Ben Schooling (MUSTO) who came out on top. All winning some great SpeedSix gear. Looking at the overall SpeedSix rankings (adjusted speeds) after two rounds of GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, Mark Barnes (B14) sits at the top from Ralph and Sophie Singleton (RS800) and the Comet Trio of Alex Horlock.
GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series photos
Tim Olin has taken 1,200+ fantastic pictures from the Winter Series, now you can buy prints and canvas of your favourite moments. Search by sailor, sail number, class and event.
Relive all the action from the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series with the SailRacer round-up videos.
Shore photos by Ian Walker
Sailing photos by Tim Olin
The following regattas constitute the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series 2016/2017:
Draycote Dash, Draycote Water Sailing Club
Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 November 2016
Datchet Flyer, Datchet Water Sailing Club
Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 December 2016
Brass Monkey, Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club
Tuesday 27 December 2016
Grafham Grand Prix, Grafham Water Sailing Club
Monday 2 January 2017
Bloody Mary, Queen Mary Sailing Club
Saturday 7 January 2017
John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Rutland Sailing Club
Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 February 2017
Oxford Blue, Oxford Sailing Club
Saturday 18 February 2017
Article Author Andy Rice 10/2/2017 13:33
Photo © Tim Olin