It may have taken a bit longer than anticipated to happen but the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme eventually got to give its new TP52 her first competitive workout over Easter and ended up celebrating a hard-earned third place.
With strong north westerly winds blowing over 40 knots on Good Friday and arguably even heavier breeze on Saturday causing the first two days of the Red Funnel Easter Regatta to be canned, it was Easter Sunday that the TP52 took her bow under the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme banner.
The John Merricks Sailing Trust-loaned vessel, previously known as Red, has now been renamed John Merricks and was crewed for her first Programme outing by 16 members of the 47-strong Programme squad.
With the sailors’ pre-event aim of proving they could make John Merricks a competitive force in the IRC Super Zero class, the squad showed they will be among the ones to watch this season posting third in race one before another impressive showing in race two clinched them third place in the class.
Bowman Henry Foster admitted there was a definitive sense of achievement at the end of the Regatta.
He said: “As it was our first regatta, and we all knew it was going to be pretty windy, everyone was more than a little apprehensive. But we have learned we can be competitive as a team within the TP fleet this year and whilst it might take some time to get the very best out of John Merricks, we proved we have enough talent on board to take the boat out in 25 knots and race safely and fast. We have a solid platform to build on.”
From 2005, the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme enjoyed the use of a Farr45 for training and competition purposes but the acquisition of the TP52 offers squad members a whole new series of training and racing challenges, taking the Programme to the next level.
Getting to grips with the TP52’s advanced technical systems, navigator David Newey added: “Boats I have navigated on before haven’t been running anywhere near as advance computer hard and software so having been involved in a lot of boat preparation work on John Merricks over the winter, I learned huge amounts about the onboard computers in a race situation.
“The wind was between 12 – 26 knots during racing and the glamour downwind conditions, where we were reaching speeds of around 20 knots, more than made up for being so cold!”
As the RYA does not directly fund the upkeep of John Merricks, the onus is on the sailors to generate enough income from organising and crewing charters to maintain and sail the boat year-on-year. The intensive and high-level training they have undergone, and will continually undertake, means they are fully-equipped to crew John Merricks for all charters whether event, race, corporate or personal.
Among the other high profile regattas on John Merricks’ competition schedule for the summer include the Warsash Big Boat Series, RORC Cervantes Trophy, RORC IRC Nationals, Round the Island Race, Cork Week and Cowes Week.
2008 Red Funnel Easter Regatta Volvo RYA Keelboat
Nick Cherry, Colette Blair, Dave Newey, Tom Smedley, H Poole, Ben Pym, Scott Millar, Sally Olsen, Andy Rodden, Matt Pinner, Luke McCarthy, Tim Jestico, Hester Robertson, Jack Hunter, Henry Boyle, Henry Foster.
PHOTOGRAPH: Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme TP52 ‘John Merricks’ at Red Funnel Easter Regatta, 21-23 March 2008. Please credit Paul Wyeth.