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JOHN MERRICKS TIGER TROPHY WAS CONCLUDED WITH A TIGHT, HANDICAP COMPETITION OF OVER 100 ENTRIES

04 Feb 2019

Round six of the Selden SailJuice Winter Series, the John Merricks Tiger Trophy, attracted 118 boats to the start line despite the horrendous wind chill factor. Old boys Neil Marsden and Jonny McGovern showed the nippers how to race a 420 at warp speed...

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2019 John Merricks Tiger Trophy
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Neil Marsden and Jonny McGovern turned in a barnstorming performance to plane their 420 to victory at the John Merricks Tiger Trophy last weekend at Rutland Water. The sixth event in the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series was the toughest yet, with a severe wind chill for three strong-wind back-to-back handicap races on Saturday, followed by a gentler breeze for the pursuit race on Sunday.

There were 137 entries at the Tiger this year. Because of the severe weather down South there were 19 that could not make it North to Rutland, so it was a fleet of 118 that made it to the start line, with 48 classes representing 78 different sailing clubs around the country.

Saturday brought an icy wind of 15-20 knots from the north. Air temperature was only just above zero, and a lot colder with wind chill factored into the mix. The 420 of Neil Marsden and Jonny McGovern fought it out for the top places with the Fireball of Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff in all three of Saturday's races. Arran Holman and Pablo Garcia in their 420 split them in race 2 where they took the win. A very strong performance from the 2000 of Simon Horsfield and Katie Burridge in all three races with 2, 5, 6 kept them in the hunt prior to the pursuit race.

Sunday dawned still very cold and not much wind. However the breeze perked up to about 10 knots and the sun was out for the start of the pursuit race. The temperature was still only just above zero and sailors were seen trying to thaw out their sheets and control lines. The race started on time at 11.00, using the specially designed digital count up clock which helped to avoid any confusion among the competitors about when their start should be.

The leading boats off were the Feva and 2.4mR followed by Laser 4.7s. The two largest fleets, 420s and Fireballs, both had tight starts. The wind was fairly steady around 8-10 knots around the course throughout the race, which made it hard for the flying machines, Moths and A-Class cats, to make any inroads having to first unlap themselves from the leading boats as they started.

The real progress was being made by the 2000 of Simon Horsfield/Katie Burridge and Steve & Ben Tylecote. Despite the light winds, the 420s were making good progress led by Neil Marsden/Jonny McGovern, Aaran Holman/Pablo Garcia and Eleanor Keers/Faye Chatterton. The 2000s maintained their position to finish first and second. The three 420s finished third, fourth and fifth. The "fast boats" just ran out of time but made valiant efforts to catch the leading boats in the light winds. The RS400 of Sam & John Knight, the RS800 of James Plenty/Eddie Grayson and 505 of Tom Gillard/Geoff Edwards N18 of Peter Gray and crew, and RS400 of Mike Simms/Jack Holden were catching up fast and made up sixth to tenth in the race.

The Fireballs really suffered in the winds with Ian Dobson being highest Fireball finisher in 28th place.

Neil Marsden and Jonny McGovern in their 420 were deserved winners, finishing in the top three in all four races. Simon Horsfield & Katie Burridge were a strong finisher in all races too, finishing 2nd overall. Aaron Holman/Pablo Garcia in their 420 were also very consistent in all races finishing 3rd overall. Special mention must go to ten-year-old Harry George in his 420 crewed by his dad who finished 27th overall, and eighth 420 out of a fleet of 23.

Jess Lavery was crewed by Ian Walker in the very same 470 that Ian crewed to an Olympic silver medal in 1996 with his old sailing partner and good friend John Merricks, in whose honour the Tiger Trophy is held. They finished a creditable 16th in the 470 with Ian still screwing on fittings just before the first race start.

Ian commented: "It was great fun to sail with Jess but I was shocked how hard I found something that was second nature 20 years ago. The boom seemed a lot lower than I remember! The racing was superb and we always had lots of private battles going on around the race course particularly with a Merlin Rocket in the pursuit race. Saturday was very cold with gusty Northerly winds and I take my hat off to everyone who stuck at it and sailed all three races. I am delighted that Jonny and my old 1996 Olympic 470 and its original sails, foils and spars all held together despite a few ropes snapping (like Jess's toe straps!). It is 20 years since it last sailed. I will admit to more than a few aches and pains on Monday morning. A brilliantly organised event that will have raised a large sum of money the John Merricks Sailing Trust to help support youth sailing. It's also great to see that the winning crew, Jonny McGovern was a JMST award recipient in 2002 when the JMST helped him and [Olympic silver medallist in the 470] Stu Bithell to buy a 420."

Principal race officer David Wilkins was also delighted with the evening meal held in John Merricks' honour. "The Tiger dinner was a great social occasion with over 120 diners enjoying the 'John Merricks favourite meal' and a great talk from Ian Walker. He talked about the history of the Tiger Trophy, told a few stories about their successful partnership, including the last race of the 1996 Olympic Games. Ian explained the work of the JMST and his new RYA role and GBR's Olympic prospects for Tokyo 2020." This was followed by the auction of many goodies provided by Ian, Ben Ainslie, JMST Trust and Selden masts (and others). This raised close to £2000 for the JMST.

It was great that John's dad and family were able to make the prizegiving and Denis made a thank you speech on behalf of John and the JMST.

Thanks were given to:

Ian Walker and Suzy Hamel from JMST who organised the auction prizes, and Ian for sailing and a great talk at the dinner.
It was supposedly Dick and Vicky Sanders last Tiger Trophy having been involved in organising all 25 previous Tiger Trophies.
to all the competitors who travelled in the cold conditions.
to all the volunteers who gave up their weekend to help run the event (race teams, safety team, shore teams.
And to all the staff at RSC for their support and Catering staff for keeping everyone fed and watered and providing the Tiger dinner.
With SailRacer providing GPS tracking for the first time at the Tiger Trophy, this event also served as a qualifier for the Great British Sailing Challenge which culminates with a Grand Final at Rutland Water in late September.

Simon Horsfield and Burridge (2000 - ASA) jump to the top of the Selden SailJuice Winter Series Rankings, with eight sailors still able to make it to the podium as we go into the final round, the Oxford Blue which takes place on 16 February and usually fills out to its 150-boat capacity. Enter here while you can: www.sailjuiceseries.com

List of prize winners at the Tiger Trophy:
Overall and winner of the "John Merricks Tiger Trophy" - 420 Neil Marsden/onny McGovern Blackpool SC
Tony Everard Trophy (Lowest score for fleet races, no discard) - 420 Neil Marsden/Jonny McGovern Blackpool SC
John Merricks Pursuit Trophy (Winner of Pursuit Race) - 2000 Simon Horsfield/Katie Burridge ASA
Shere Khan Trophy (Best placed helm over 60) - RS400 Mike Simms/Jack Holden Carsington SC
Lady Tiger Trophy (First all Female crew) - 420 Eleanor Keers/Faye Chatterton ISC
John Merricks Junior Trophy (U16) - 420 Jamie Cook/Will Martin CBYC
John Merricks Youth Trophy (U19) - 420 Jack Lewis/Fraser Hemmings Draycote Water SC
Tiger Club Trophy (Club with most entries excluding Rutland) - Draycote Water SC

Class Winners (excluding winners of above trophies) with six or more entries:
420 - Aaron Holman/Pablo Garcia (second after Neil Marsden)
Fireball - Ian Dobson/Richard Wagstaff
Blaze - Eden Hyland
Osprey - Terry Curtis/Peter Greig
Laser - Eleanor Craig
RS Aero 7 - Richard Pye

Full results

Source: Dave Wilkins and Andy Rice