This weekend saw Bolton boats heading up and down the motorway and Merlin Rockets decending on Bolton.

Merlins from across the North-West descended on Bolton for the Annual Open Meeting, this year a Silver Tiller event. The wind wasn’t kind to the sailors fanning out across the lake from Turton (Number Eight) towards the club. This made for some interesting racing with not much chance for spinnaker work.

The GP14s headed down to Budworth for a blustery GP14 Open Meeting. Due to the weather conditions only two Bolton boats made it on to the water with Gary Deighan and Becca Paul finishing 8th with Julie and Chris Waddington finishing right behind them in 9th out of 24 entries.

Finally, Stuart Catterall and I made our way up to Windermere for the Annual Waterhead race. Starting at the bottom end of the lake, near the Lakeside Hotel at Newby Bridge, the race was up to the Waterhead 6mph speed limit marker and back – 20 miles as the crow flies. The first part of the upwind leg to Bell Isle involved an awful lot of taking and battling the wind as it swung across the lake in all directions. By the time we got to Bowness the local boats were a long way ahead – obviously used to the fluky conditions. Stuart had followed the pack and was now quite a way ahead of me.

After what felt like an age, I made it round Bell Isle to be greeted with a change of wind direction and thoroughly enjoyed the close reach to the top of the lake where I pulled away from the boats that I’d been stuck with up the beat and also caught up to some of the boats that were at one point way ahead. On the way I passed Stuart as he desperately tried to repair a broken halyard by capsizing his boat. Stuart sorted his boat out and was catching again when he was informed by the rescue that as he’d received outside assistance one of the other competitors had threatened to protest (BOO!) so Stu swung round and headed back to the club.

I made it round the 6mph limit mark at the top and with another good reach down the lake soon made up some time. It was a dead run down from Bell Isle to the finish which was made worse by the gusts coming from different directions. I crossed the line 3 hours after the start and finished 13th out of the 29 boats with Stuart lying 29th due to his retirement. It was good to finish the full length as I head the last few years have suffered light winds and the races have been shortened.

The event raised over £500 for McMillan Cancer and was well supported by local companies who donated some excellent prizes. Thanks to South Windermere Sailing Club for their hospitality and Stu and I have said we’ll be back next year, hopefully with a few more boats…and cleats for our mainsheets!