Monday, April 16, 2012

Merlin Rockets on the Thames

I was walking along Putney Embankment on Sunday in an iPod induced daze when a hull shape caught my attention. It was quite distinctive, wide cup like, and one I recognised - the Merlin Rocket - and there were about 15 of them, getting rigged up.

Its a design I'd like to sail: it hull shape is better designed for those of us with long legs than a Laser (sorry Tillerman) and looks like it would sail fast without requiring 49er levels of athleticism.

What's really interesting about them is the Merlin Rocket was designed by Jack Holt right here in Putney commissioned by a syndicate at the Ranelagh Sailing Club, based to this day on the Putney Embankment.

So it should have no trouble with the, ah, challenging nature of sailing on the Thames. It seemed to be an interesting race, starting just after 3 pm and heading way down river out of sight.

Just under an hour afterwards the first boat was seen returning (above).

The rest of the fleet took a lot longer, with this colourful group about an hour later:
Sailing on the Thames has a number of gotchas: the wind angle to the river varies as it wiggles, then the buildings and trees create wind holes and funnels, there are bridges, busy traffic, current that varies according to river depth and in places there are shallows of gravel banks.

Alas this boat lost a lot of places by heading to shallows on the calm side of the river:
Looked a lot of fun; something to add to the long list of things to do if only there was time.

Updated: more photos just posted here!


Tillerman said...

Each to their own. I can see why different people choose different boats but I was a little puzzled by your comments about long legged people and Lasers. Most people who sail Lasers, I think, would say that long legs are a distinct advantage for a Laser sailor. I'm 6'2" (with a 34" inside leg measurement) and some very good Laser sailors are taller than me.

Perhaps you could elaborate on the advantages of the Merlin Rocket hull shape for those of us with long legs?

JP said...

I'm probably mistaken as haven't sailed one for a long time, and was probably doing it all wrong

O Docker said...

JP may have meant that a two-person boat like this would be more comfortable for a person with legs of any length.

Compared to sailors in boats with larger cockpits, Laser sailors have to think about leg placement more - to balance the boat, best handle tacks, and to keep from fouling the sheet.

And if you're fussing with where your legs must go, how can you concentrate on what's most important - where to put your beer?

JP said...

Thanks O'Docker, think you've made a good point. Some of the ideas that came to mind when thinking about it overnight is:
- difference of feeling in a boat rather than on-top of it
- increased ability to move around without worrying about legs being in just the right place
- more room to duck under the boom

Having said that the Laser is surely one of the all time great dinghies and the basic problem is lack of time for me to try both properly.

Its not just work actually for lack of time as have been doing some planning for the summer's sail.

Racing Sailing said...

Very interesting blog

Tillerman said...

Point taken.

A quick bit of Gooogle research on the Merlin Rocket revealed that it has a number of different hull designs so that owners can choose one that suits their size, weight and age, although 22 stone (308 lbs in Amerispeak) was mentioned on several web sites as an ideal (2 person) crew weight.

Thomas Stolper (Commodore RSC) said...

JP, thanks for the race report and pictures from our recent Merlin Open. Much appreciated.

For those interested in sailing a Merlin on the Thames (indeed in the very stretch of water for which the boat has been designed) feel free to pop down to Ranelagh for any of the club races. Schedule is on our website. We have currently three club Merlins, all available for hire.

JP said...

Thanks Thomas, I might well take you up on that given you're so close and I've passed the club on countless occasions.

Alas lack of time my main problem at the moment.