Tom Stewart aiming at Nat 12 hat-trick

And the Merlin Rocket offers a new challenge for the '12' aficionado

Friday January 19th 2001, Author: Andy Rice, Location: United Kingdom
Tom Stewart and Liz Ross are bidding for a hat-trick of Burton Weeks, the national championship for the National 12 class. Stewart, who works for Pinnell & Bax, is going to use the same gear as last year, P&B sails on a Winder-built Feeling Foolish hull shape, except for the mast.

"Last year we used the SuperSpar carbon mast, and this year we're going to give the Proctor carbon rig a try," Stewart told madforsailing. "I think the bend characteristics are pretty similar, except maybe a little stiffer sideways."

Stewart says the priority in 12s is to get as much weight out of the rig as possible: "That's why we use the carbon rigs and Kevlar sails, to reduce weight." Porthpean in Cornwall is the venue for the national championships, and Stewart expects the usual suspects to be the main threat, such as Jon and Charlotte Ibbotson, but rates former International Canoe world champion Robin Wood to be a growing force. "He's sailing with his son Ben, and I can only see him getting better this year."

Another 12 star who is rumoured to be taking up sailing with his offspring is Will Henderson, who normally sails with wife Mandy. "It might take him a few years, but I think we could see Will being a threat in a few years once he's got his son trained up," commented Stewart.

Stewart has also set himself a new challenge of getting to grips with the Merlin Rocket. "It's an exciting experiment to get involved in, and it's always nice to try something new, although I've got a lot of learning to do."

He will be sailing with another P&B employee, Kieran Collacut, in a Winder hull. "It's a Canterbury Tales design, which I think is vintage 1979. It's strange coming from the 12s where the hulls change almost every year, to one where things have stayed virtually the same for 20 years. We'll basically be using the same set-up as last year's national champions, John Bell and Graham Williamson, except they use Batts and we'll obviously be using P&B."

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