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Blaze National Championship at Hayling Island Sailing Club

by Jonathon Saunders 16 Jul 2015 19:12 BST 10-12 July 2015

The Blazes have spent the last five years or so bouncing around a small collection of venues for the Nationals, Warsash, Brightlingsea, Paignton, Felpham, Warsash again, but Hayling Island, despite casting a long shadow on the south coast, has never been on the list. Perhaps it just seemed a little "class above." As competitors arrived for the 2015 Nationals they were greeted warmly with "this way please, sir." Did anyone else feel under dressed?

Despite the formality the club would prove, as expected, exceptional hosts with excellent facilities and a warm welcome throughout. One notable plus was the on-site accommodation, allowing the most committed sailors to retire mere yards from their boats (and the bar) after an extended post-race... debrief

Racing took place in Hayling Bay a not-so-short hop around a sand bar that we were instructed, repeatedly, NOT to try to cross (I did, at one point, but like a gentleman I let a Finn go first). As for the course, the first beat would be shared with the Finns (separate starts of course), then we would reach across to a wing mark to do battle, windward-leeward style, while they were left to do the same on the original beat.

Day one, race one saw Blazing sunshine (sorry) and an easterly 10-12 knots in light chop. According to the handy tide-flow charts in the back of the SIs (which everybody read, of course) we'd be getting lee-bowed up the beat. With the shore to the left and the bay to the right, Ian Sanderson led off the pin end...only to break a wing fitting twenty feet off of the line. One down, thirty four to go. Three time champion Rob Jones and former champion Jon Saunders started pulling away together and then split, with Jones leading a group to the shore and Saunders out to sea. As they crossed again at the windward mark Saunders lay a few boat lengths clear. The gap narrowed on the run when, for the first time in memory, the Blazes were presented with a choice. Two leeward marks. At first the second mark looked like a mirage. While, from afar, it looked like 50/50, as Andy McIvor (incidentally pursuing Jones in 3rd) later put it, "there usually is no choice, one mark is always biased and everybody just picks that one. I've never seen a race where it was dead even" Cynical but prescient. Saunders went for the port side, as did Jones and nearly everybody else. The order at the top changed little in the final beat back to the wing mark, but on the run back down Jones reeled in Saunders and rounded inches behind him. A short luffing battle later, and Jones came over the top and cruised down the reach to claim the first race.

On the second line, with a lightening breeze and tidal forces gently urging boats forward all held back and sag worthy of an Essex hen night could be observed in the middle. Enter Ian Foxwell, whose chosen mission was not only to show disregard for the fleet's paranoia, but also complete disregard for the actual location of the start line, some three boat lengths behind him. As the fleet went forward, he (and Andy McIvor) went dutifully back. From the pin end Jones led a group to shore and Saunders again tacked for the open sea. Debate continues over whether the tide was on the turn but the sea seemed to provide more breeze and Saunders crossed ahead on starboard for the windward mark and got away clean. Hugh Kingdon followed, and behind him Jones and a recovering McIvor. Kingdon held on until the final run before both chasers sailed over him. Jones, exhibiting remarkable downwind speed, clinched the final mark rounding and took second.

With two races down and a bullet each, Jones and Saunders went in to day two neck and neck.

On a related note it as a long accepted fact that one should never, ever, use untested kit at a major championship. We all know this but it doesn't seem to stop us breaking out the catalogues in the days approaching major competitions. The polish comes out (never polish your foils) and all suspect shackles and blocks come off, to be replaced with shining new. These labours assure us that we have taken all measures to prevent mechanical failure and that there's no reason that everything won't be fine, even if we can't quite find the time to actually sail with all that new gear and properly test it. It was thus that Saunders returned to shore, twice in ten minutes, with a severe case of the Exploding Kicker Blocks. He wasn't alone, Nick Thorne suffered a broken wing and retired.

For the rest of the fleet a freshening breeze urged them past the bar, this time blowing from the west. With the course orientation completely reversed and the tide in theory pushing against the upwind leg, it made sense to tack for the shore and shallower water. Again, though, logic was defied and while Jones led a group off to the shore, he was beaten to the mark by the banana-yellow hull of Ian Sanderson (and his new wing) who had hedged his bets and tacked up the middle. Nick Ripley followed Sanderson while Jones was left doing penalty turns after an incident on the windward mark. Behind them, Simon Beddows and Andy McIvor. He had a storming run and took both Beddows and Ripley. Sanderson was clear away though and, after another windward-leeward, cruised across the reach to claim first.

With the breeze freshening still to an even force four, a returning Saunders split the fleet with Jones once more and, yep, you guessed it, Jones sailed for the shore and Saunders for the sea. While the tide probably did favour the shore-side, in a straight one-tack drag race to the mark Saunders prevailed and settled in to the lead. Jones and McIvor rounded neck and neck. By the second windward rounding Jones had gotten clear and, once again, reeled Saunders in downwind. He rounded inches behind and a repeat performance of the luffing battle from race two played out. This time it wasn't enough and both of them abandoned the climb to windward before McIvor could sail through below them. Saunders got away and Jones was left with a nail-biting fight for second, pipping McIvor "by the length of a shackle," on the finish line.

The last start of the day looked set to be a slightly windier repeat of the previous one, Jones ready to lead a group right and Saunders left but in the final seconds a sudden twenty degree shift to port caused chaos. The pin end boats, led by Douglas Powell, suddenly found themselves unable to make the line and tacked en masse in a desperate bid to get clear. Inevitably there were casualties; Dave Angwin, having let others go to try and get speed, got caught tacking and was left ducking the fleet. Jones and Saunders again started to pull out a lead but this time neither seemed willing to let the other go. Eventually they broke, this time reversing roles, Jones for the sea and Saunders for the shore. Saunders rounded first with a moderate lead and, in spite of Jones's downwind gains, got clear away. Behind them, Nick Ripley and Hugh Kingdon, both happy in the rougher conditions, battled for third, with Ripley winning out. The shift to port had held and skewed the beat to port. With a processional beat the fleet bunched downwind and some desperate manoeuvres led to even more desperate capsizes in the mid fleet.

As the summer sun shone on and the breeze topped force five the fleet enjoyed a satisfying burn down the waves back in to Chichester Harbour. With discards in Saunders led on five points, Jones on 7, McIvor third, on 11.

After a (mostly) civilised night of wining and dining at the club, day dawned on a very different Hayling Island; spitting rain, rushing clouds overhead, higher breeze and and a sea swell agitated by a windy night. The Race Officer went to scout the Bay and then took the decision, in the interests of safety (and insurance premiums, I imagine), to postpone and then finally abandon racing for the day. He did invite those who wanted to cruise to do so, and a few went out for a burn in the harbour.

With no more racing to be had, Jonathon Saunders won the 2015 Blaze National Championship, followed by Rob Jones in second and Andy McIvor in third. The title of best youth went to Callum Aldous, best Master to Hugh Kingdon, and best Grand Master to David Angwin. Saunders thanked the club, the CA, the fleet, and especially those who had helped mend his repeatedly failing boat. Nothing like a bit of solidarity when things go wrong.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1st789Jonathon SaundersFelpham SC21(DNC)115
2nd678Rob JonesWarsash SC12‑9227
3rd806Andrew McivorBlackwater3323‑611
4th803Hugh KingdonNDYC644‑13418
5th815David AngwinBurghfield SC757‑12726
6th819Douglas PowellBurghfield SC8857‑1528
7th810Terry CrookBlackwater512‑185830
8th800Simon BeddowsBurghfield SC107311‑1431
9th772Bob CowanWarsash SC411610(DNC)31
10th807Ian FoxwellWilsonains9‑17861033
11th710Nick RipleyPaignton SC11‑151015339
12th769Richard HillWarsash SC149124(DNF)39
13th811Pete BarlowBurghfield SC12615‑191649
14th764Ben FullaloveBlackwater1613119(DNF)49
15th804Tim HeatonBala SC‑191414141355
16th763Ian SandersonRoyal Lym YC(DNC)DNC181257
17th729Nick CreakRiver Hamble SC1518‑26161160
18th538Nick ShuttleworthNetley SC22‑311325565
19th745Peter KnowldenWarsash SC17161617(DNC)66
20th682Martin HatterselyChase Water‑25252120975
21st719Stuart BaileyWilsonian SC‑272019182077
22nd625Richard SullivanWaveney & Oulton Broad YC21‑2322231884
23rd774Mark BlackhamChase Water20221726(DNC)85
24th668Ian LittleThorpe YC‑312420241987
25th797Mike HolmesPaignton SC‑292723221789
26th808Callym AldousFelpham SC24‑2824212190
27th796Bob YatesBurghfield SC2321‑28272394
28th720Nick ThorneWarsash SC1810(DNC)DNCDNS100
29th761Paul HemsleyFelpham SC1319(DNC)DNCDNS104
30th809Andy MawBurghfield SC‑3229252922105
31st768Brian BuggyPYSC26332730(DNC)116
32nd751Paul TaylorBurghfield SC30262931(DNS)116
33rd676James CrookBlackwater3330(DNC)28DNC127
34th766John AbbottOxford SC2832(DNC)DNCDNS132
35th795Laurence MarshallOxford SC3434(DNC)DNCDNS140

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