FROM THE LOFT FLOOR TO THE RACECOURSE
North Sailmaker Tom Gillard’s Winning One Design Streak
Salcombe Gin Merlin Rocket Week is the highlight regatta for Merlin Rocket sailors in England, so much so that the 120 available spaces in the entry list get snapped up in a matter of minutes. As well as a fantastic sailing venue, Salcombe is also a popular holiday destination, making it a family-orientated yet competitive event.
Winning the regatta with impressively consistent results despite having never sailed together was North Sails One Design expert and sailmaker Tom Gillard with his crew, 470 Olympic Development squad sailor Aaron Holman.
Conditions varied from a mid-week windy day with big squalls to the final two days of lighter airs. “The North sails responded well to these huge changes in conditions,’’ Tom remarks. “The Mainsail is so versatile and performs perfectly to meet the conditions, as well as being easy to set up. I recently changed the sail plan to have the bigger MJR-4 Jib and smaller M-9 Mainsail, alongside the K-7 Spinnaker.’’
Tides are an essential factor when racing in Salcombe, and wind shifts are influenced by the hills on either side of the estuary. Moored boats also take up room in the harbor, making for lots of variables that can affect the results of this tightly packed fleet. “We made sure to play it safe on the start, especially as it was a black flag start meaning it would be an immediate disqualification if we were over the line.’’ comments, Tom.
The results don’t stop here as Tom seems to be winning every boat he steps into at the moment. Very similar boat design to the Merlin, Tom recently won the Scorpion Inland Championship and the Solo Midland Championship. He is looking forward to competing in the Nationals for both classes later this year.
What has driven this winning streak? we asked Tom: “A lot of boat preparation in lockdown!’’ he replies. “The sails have come a long way in development as well. David Lenz has put a lot of work into the Merlin sail designs, which makes them fast from the get-go. North Scorpion sails have always been leaders in the fleet.’’
“It is great to See Tom winning with the latest Merlin Rocket sail designs, which we optimized based on the winning sails from Salcombe Week in 2019. We had some great input from Simon Potts, George Yeoman, Team Rockatross, and Chris Gould, who all now use the same sail plan for the bow tack jib. It is a very user-friendly, all-round package, and these designs have now won four UK events so far in 2021. As Tom says, lockdown has been a great time to get faster.’’ comments North Sails sail designer David Lenz.
“The sails have come a long way in development as well. David Lenz has put a lot of work into the Merlin sail designs, which makes them fast from the get-go.”
Tom splits his time at North Sails in Gosport between production and sales, particularly enjoying sticking, joining, and second-laying One Design sails. Second-laying involves cutting the sail to physical size and ensuring it is compliant with the class rules.
The team has recently had the exciting opportunity to work on building the Finn sails for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The material is manufactured in Sri Lanka, and the rest of the sail is completed at Gosport. “On average, we made six sails for each sailor, and from those, they chose two to compete with. Each sail had intricate modifications as requested by the team, which made it tricky but amazing to be involved in.’’