Ian and Richard toast Tiger Trophy triumph

John Merricks Tiger Trophy at Rutland Sailing Club.
John Merricks Tiger Trophy at Rutland Sailing Club.

Ian Dobson and Richard 
Wagstaff rumbled their way to victory in their Fireball at the Tiger Trophy, the sixth event in this season’s GJW 
Direct SailJuice Winter Series, at Rutland Sailing Club last weekend.

The forecast for Rutland Water was changing by the day during the build-up to the weekend, with Saturday looking unsailable due to too much breeze. Come the day, however, and a lack of breeze halted any prospect of racing.

Instead principal race officer David Wilkins, having canvassed the views of the sailors on Saturday, canned Sunday’s usual pursuit race in favour of the three back-to-back handicap races around a trapezoid course which had originally been scheduled for the Saturday.

Sunday dawned to sunshine and a good breeze, although there was an icy bite in the air, the shifting northerly winds creating a wind chill effect of minus five degrees. This would be the chilliest Tiger in a few years.

However, cold weather never dampened the spirits of John Merricks, the Olympic silver medallist in whose memory this event is organised. Of the 127 original entrants, 114 headed out on to the water to brave the challenging weather.

After a couple of general recalls for the over-eager Slow Handicap fleet, race one took place in eight-12 knots of wind, light enough for the fast asymmetrics to get up and motoring and carry their gennakers for a good chunk of the three offwind legs.

Two RS800s took the first two places, the teenaged team of Nick Robins and Billy Vennis-Ozanne crossing in front of father/daughter combo, Ralph and Sophie Singleton. In third place was Ben Schooling dancing nimbly around his Musto Skiff.

While there hadn’t been quite enough oomph in the breeze for the conventional spinnaker boats in race one, race two kicked in with winds of seven gusting up to 20 knots.

This time former Fireball world champion Tom Gillard powered his 505, crewed by Harry Briddon, to victory ahead of the Fireball of Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff. Schooling again managed a third place with the Singletons taking fourth.

The breeze dropped off to a more steady 10 to 15 knots for the final heat, and this proved to be the deciding battle for overall honours.

Indeed the top three in this race took the top three places overall. Dobson and Wagstaff won the race and won the Tiger Trophy by a single point ahead of the next two who were tied for second overall.

It’s exactly five years ago that Dobson last won the Tiger, when he raced a Fireball in 2013, crewed on that occasion by Sam Brearey.

The Singletons came second in the last race of the day although Gillard and Briddon’s victory in race two was sufficient for the 505 to break the tie and clinch the runner-up spot ahead of the RS800.

However it was the Singletons who were awarded the Tony Everard Trophy for the lowest aggregate score from all races, the only boat to score in single figures with results of 2,(4),2.

Schooling’s two third places were enough for the Musto Skiff to earn fourth overall.

Special mention should go to Dave Hall, having just turned 60, who with Paul Constable has competed at every Tiger Trophy since it began a quarter century ago.

Together this duo have raced Fireballs for more than 30 years and this year finished seventh overall, showing very few signs of slowing down despite their advancing years.

This year’s Tiger Trophy was predominantly a fast-boat affair, with the best of the slow handicappers being Andy Couch who hiked his Phantom to 11th overall, four points head of Alistair Goodwin’s Laser in 12th.

Dennis Merricks, father of the late, great John Merricks, performed his customary role of handing out the prizes, albeit after a delay to settle the results.

Founder of the event, Dick Sanders, commented: “Like London buses, no protests for 24 years then three come along at once!”

This led to delay in the results and prizegiving, but with protests decided, it was on with the prizes, of which there were many.

Trophy Winners: John Merricks Tiger Trophy – Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff (Fireball, Burwain SMVC); Tony Everard Trophy (lowest score over three races without discard) – Ralph and Sophie Singleton (RS 800, Datchet SC); Shere Khan Trophy (oldest helm over 60) – Dave Hall (Fireball, Blackwater SC); Lady Tiger Trophy (first finishing all girl crew) – Megan Ferguson and Bettine Harris (420, Frensham Pond Sailing Club); John Merricks Junior Trophy (Under 16 on first day of event) – Dylan McPherson and Andrew Stuart (420, Burnham SC); John Merricks Youth Trophy (Under 19 on Dec 31 2017) – Nick Robins and Bill Vennis-Ozanne (29er, Hayling Island SC); Tiger Club Trophy (Sailing Club with the most entries other than host) – Grafham SC.

Class Prizes (highest finishing from classes with six or more entries): Laser – Alistair Goodwin (12th, Haversham SC); Solo – Charlie Cumbley (23rd, Warsash SC); 420 - Alex Colquitt and Rebecca Coles (15th, West Kirby SC).