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Blaze Inland Championship at Draycote Water Sailing Club

by Pip Warner 13 Oct 2016 19:44 BST 8-9 October 2016

This year's Blaze Inland Championship was held at Draycote Water Sailing club alongside the Finn Class. 24 Blaze helms travelled to the venue with their trusted crafts polished and tuned ready for the weekend's action. Each competitor had clearly spent the previous months in the gym pumping iron in preparation for the eagerly awaited battle of skill and wits aiming to be at the top of the medal chart come closure. Blaze's came from far and wide, North, South, Midlands, Wales, Scotland and even Essex to represent their club and country on journeys ranging from an hour or so to a good half day. Suffice to say most were not travelling home between days. One keen event supporter braved the chilly evenings in a camper van while the rest chose to keep those toned muscles warm overnight in B&Bs or Hotels.

Day one saw a reasonable breeze spread across the lake, although cloud cover kept the warm autumn sun at bay. The morning was spent with those who travelled the day before and new arrivals meeting up with like minded Blaze enthusiasts between registering for the event, the raising of masts, last minute repairs and improvements to prepare for the commencement of racing. Water bottles were lashed to the boats and chocolate bars, or square bars in someone's case Ben, were loaded to keep energy levels boosted between races. At eleven o'clock a crowd accumulated around the Draycote Club house to receive instruction from the race officer for the weekend ahead. The race course was to be a made up of four red marks providing a windward leg, reach, run and tight reach to return to the beat again. Start sequence were to be 5, 4, 1 and go. Now armed with sustenance and knowledge all helms rushed to their craft in anticipation of their gold medal chances and onto the water.

Race one saw all helms opting for a starboard start along and generous line to take up the challenge on the first beat. It's fair to say there were some losers and winners to the first mark where a string of Blazes approached mostly on starboard with only a handful laying the mark on port. I was one of those on port and had the good luck to find a gap to tack into keeping clear of infringement. The first few boats cleared the mark in order, followed by those who bunched and battled for their place on the coming reach. Being closer to the North end trees, the wind dropped a touch on the approach to the second mark. The lead boats stretched their legs to try to gain a gap from the following pack with the third leg being a run. Thereon in and to the end, the battle at the front pushed each player to the limit and resulted in Mike Lyons taking line honours with David Angwin from Burghfield in second and Eden Hyland from Chasewater taking third place across a shortened finish line.

With a short break on the water and after chocolate and drinks, again the fleet lined up for a starboard start with the exception of one, a port flyer from Martin Hattersley surprised the fleet crossing ahead of all. The race preceded much the same as the first with a few changes at the front barring one. Again, Mike Lyons took first, Eden improved on his opening race to finish second, Mark Blackman, also from Chasewater, completed in third and Hugh Kingdom of North Devon Yacht Club crossed in fourth.

The third race commenced and yours truly learnt from race two that the port end was the more favourable end to start. However, rather than starting on port, Pip Warner (me) started up the first beat at port end on starboard. Risky and brave, thanks for the comment Mike, and with a huge lift to the first mark, I rounded in first place and with a good lead. Unfortunately, with the wind dropping and a few kilo's advantage, the lead again passed back to Mike in the closing stages of the final race of the day. So, for a third time, Mike took the line in first place, Pip Warner from Hornsea Sailing Club took second, Bob Cowan from Warsash made third and Hugh completed the first four boats over the finish.

Day two started with a distinct chill in the air following the traditional Saturday night Indian meal and drinks. A slight course change with the Finns utilising different marks to save each of classes clashing at both the windward and leeward rounds.

Race 4 started in a little more breeze with a few more opting for the heavily biased port end. The majority of the fleet still went starboard with those going port soon tacking off to the right hand side of the course. Positions were a little mixed compared with day one and on this occasion Mike failed to take first place completing his race in third. First across the line was John Deacon of Aberdeen and Stonehaven Yacht Club claiming a good wind shift was to be found up the middle of the lake, second was Hugh and fourth place going to Nick Ripley from Paignton.

The breeze held for the penultimate race and the fleet split both sides of the water up toward the first mark. The wind direction had shifted slightly resulting in the run not being quite there. On the last lap and with Mike and Eden well ahead of the fleet, the second to last jibe mark saw six Blazes bunched together and carnage followed. John Deacon and Alex Williams clashed horns, booms to be more accurate, making various claims as is usual in these inevitable events. Hugh was clear of the troubles and Pip eased 812 through the battling, bumping six to claim fourth place throughout the last reach and up the beat to the finish line.

The final race of the series and Mike could not be beaten. Second, third and fourth were up for grabs though. Helms and boats split once more toward the first mark. The wind was still up and had moved further round to the west and the run was more a very broad reach with the racing just as competitive as those before, although probably less eventful. Places exchanged throughout but it was Mike and Pip who stretched their legs to finish first and second, David Angwin third and fourth place going to Eden.

Final positions were Mike Lyons 1st(congratulations), Eden Hyland 2nd, Pip Warner 3rd and Hugh Kingdom round out the top four

As usual, a great weekend and the good natured class only saw one protest throughout the series.

Draycote had proved to be a great venue and thanks must go to the race officer and his helpers and all those behind the scenes organising the event and keeping us all well fed and watered. A big thanks too for the organiser of this event, Richard Botting in Blaze 799 from Draycote. And lastly, a special thanks to all the competitors who travelled to the event. You're all a great bunch and it's a pleasure to sail in such a friendly class.

See you next year.

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