Stormy weather in store for the finale of the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series at the Tiger Trophy this weekend
The GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series reaches its climax this weekend with the eighth and final event, the John Merricks Tiger Trophy at Rutland Water. Saturday is looking stormy for the three scheduled handicap races, with a moderate to breezy outlook for Sunday's finale, the Pursuit Race.
Of the 761 boats that have competed across the seven handicap events thus far in the Series, virtually tied at the top are Michael Sims' Solo from Carsington on 43.4 points, with Ben Schooling's Musto Skiff from Datchet Water on 45 points. Not far behind are the SailJuice Winter Series winners from two years ago, Peter Gray and Rachael Rhodes in a Scorpion, and Craig Williamson's Laser.
Online entry for the Tiger Trophy closes at midnight on Thursday 30 January, and with more than 120 entries already registered, Michael Sims is weighing up the possible scenarios for this weekend. "If I thought there was a chance to get tactical, to reduce someone else's score, then I might go for that option," said Sims. But the idea of match racing a Musto Skiff in a slower Solo seems optimistic, and Sims is resigned to accepting whatever comes his way. "Normally I think the Pursuit Race would suit the Solo but if it's anything over 10 knots of wind I think we'll struggle. The Saturday will be all about finding clear air because there will be lots of dirt from a big fleet of 420s to think about."
Sims predicts that both he and Schooling might struggle to improve on their current Series scores, which takes the best four results from the eight events. "I think both of us will have to see how we do against the other boats at Rutland, the ones that will enjoy the strong wind like the Fireballs, 420s and 29ers."
Although Schooling won the Asymmetric Fleet at last weekend's Steve Nicholson Trophy at Northampton, he is hoping to avoid another 40-knot battering. Having reflected on the bruising experience of last Saturday's biblical weather, Schooling shares his thoughts in this '40-knot Survival Guide' on SailJuice.com,www.sailjuice.com/articles/survival-sailing-Ben-Schooling. Although Schooling has been the class act of the Musto Skiffs this winter, Tom Wright poses a serious threat, Rutland born and bred and with podium finishes at recent World and National Championships.
Former 49er partnership, World Champions and Olympic medallists Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks, will be doing battle against each other in their foiling Moths. If that hasn't worn him out enough on Saturday, Chris is the guest speaker at the evening fundraising dinner where he will share his experiences of steering Luna Rossa's foiling AC72 catamaran in San Francisco last summer.
There is quality throughout the fleet with Nick Craig making yet another appearance, this time crewed by Toby Lewis in the Merlin Rocket fleet. But with the strong wind forecast there is plenty of opportunity for the youth teams in the 29er and 420 classes to steal the limelight. It was the 420 that John Merricks sailed to victory in the very first Tiger Trophy more than 20 years ago. This weekend's regatta continues to raise funds for the John Merricks Sailing Trust, which provides financial and other forms of support to aspiring young sailors.
If you can't make it to the event, you can still watch the action live online on Sunday at the Series website, with coverage and GPS tracking for the series front runners being provided by SailRacer. To secure your entry for the Tiger Trophy, enter by midnight Thursday 30 January, by going to the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series website, www.SailJuiceSeries.com