Merlin Rocket sailors dominate Endeavour opening day

»«Saturday 10th October 2015

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis representing the Merlin Rocket class are the overnight leaders of Endeavour Championship following a clean sweep of wins in today’s first four races.

Ben Saxton, racing with 2014 Endeavour Championship crew Toby Lewis, revelled in the fresh easterly breeze and, after recovering from three poor starts, they sailed their borrowed RS200 to victory by extremely impressive margins in all four races. They now lead the championship by 14 points from Ben Saxton’s twin brother – Tim Saxton crewed by Fiona Hampshire (RS800).

Commenting as he sailed in this afternoon, Ben Saxton, who last won the Endeavour Championship in 2012 said: “We had some really great racing today, despite out less than impressive starts. Thankfully we are really fast downwind so we were able to make up a lot of ground there. Also, Toby my crew is like a machine, and never stops hiking, which is key to doing well at this event.

“We may have won four races but it is not over yet by any means. It is awesome that my brother and crew is snapping at our heels but I must say they are like a bullet upwind, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them, and Nick [Craig] of course."

Tim Saxton, Ben’s brother added: “We’ve just been given a complete hammering by my twin brother; we just can't keep up with him and his crew downwind. They have 16 kilos less weight in the boat so, when it is marginal planing conditions as it was today, they just disappear.

“We had a great, fun day though, although it was a bit frustrating in the third race when we should have led to the first mark but dropped back to eighth. I pushed it really tight on a port/starboard cross, which Fiona told me not too and it didn't work out and we had to do some turns. Looking ahead to tomorrow, if we can stay second and get a Saxton 1,2 that would be amazing.”

The conditions for this annual champion of champions’ event ran fairly true to form with a pleasant, autumnal light to moderate east-north-easterly that increased steadily throughout the day and reached a good 15kts at times in the gusts. Once the tide turned and began to ebb, the conditions became even more exciting and led to more than few thrills and spills particularly for some of the ultra light teams.

Six-time Endeavour champion Nick Craig crewed by Tom Pygall, who finished the day in third place overall, began to improve as the wind built and scored two seconds in the last two races of the day. With four races to go, and a forecast of more wind tomorrow, there is still plenty of opportunity for the former champ to put up a good fight.

One the most impressive performances today came from the young RS Aero 5 team, Will Taylor and Fiona Mulcahy. They led race two from Saxton and Lewis for the first half of the race and put up an extremely good fight. Although they lost the lead on the third downwind leg they continued to sail well and maintain superb speed to the finish.

Fiona Mulcahy commented: “Once we were in the groove after our good start we just pulled ahead. I think it was generally down to good teamwork because we are used to sailing together. It was really hard work but a lot of fun and we are now looking forward to some more good racing tomorrow.”

Racing continues tomorrow morning with the first warning signal at 10:25. This evening competitors and guests are at the annual, grand Endeavour dinner at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club where the solid silver Endeavour Trophy will be on display.

Results (after four of eight races)
1st Merlin Rocket – Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (4pts)
2nd RS800 – Tim Saxton and Fiona Hampshire (18pts)
3rd B14     – Nick Craig and Tom Pygall (19pts)
4th Firefly – Stuart Hudson and Hamish Walker (27pts)
5th RS400 – Michael Sims and Richard Brown (34pts)
6th RS Aero 5 – Will Taylor and Fiona Mulcahy (36pts)

Click here for full results.