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John Merricks II poised for first offshore challenge

Friday, 02 May 2008

The TP52 John Merricks II will get to stretch her legs offshore for the first time since coming under the flag of the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme when the Programme sailors contest the RORC Cervantes Trophy Race this weekend (3-4 May).


Buoyed by their recent success inshore, securing a top three finish in the Raymarine Warsash Big Boat Spring Championship last month, the young crew of John Merricks II will race from Cowes to Le Havre in France, in what is the first event of the RORC offshore season.


Programme mentor Ed Hill, who competed in the 2005 Fastnet Race and 2006 Round Britain and Ireland Race onboard the Farr 45 John Merricks, has managed the sailors’ Cervantes Trophy campaign and will act as skipper for the race.


Meanwhile fellow mentor Scott Gray, John Merricks co-skipper for the 2005 Fastnet Race and who now works for Alex Thomson Racing, has been on hand to help with rigging the offshore sails. National squad members Nick Cherry and Nicky Macgregor have also been using their offshore experience from 2005 and 2006 in preparing the TP52 for this weekend’s race.


Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme Southern Squad manager Luke McCarthy said: “The Programme sailors have been getting the boat ready for the past few weeks and as she has not competed offshore before, this has required a thorough check of all aspects of the boat, including safety equipment, reefing system and storm sails, specialist offshore sails and fitting life rafts.


“The most satisfying thing from my point of view has been that senior members of the Keelboat Programme have taken the lead in all of this, bringing the lessons learned from their previous involvement with the Programme and passing them on to the current members.”


The Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme was launched in 2003 to provide the opportunity for talented young sailors aged between 16 -24 to break into the world of keelboat sailing. The current Programme comprises 47 sailors across three squads.


The Cervantes Trophy Race starts from Cowes on Saturday morning, with the first warning signal at 8.20am.

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