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Blaze Inland Championship at Bala Sailing Club

by Andy McIvor 13 Oct 2017 08:02 BST 7-8 October 2017

The Blaze Inland Championship 2017 were held on the 7th and 8th October at Bala Sailing Club in North Wales along with the International Foiling Moths and Wazps. Blazes from as far North as Scotland, as far South as Southampton joined Blazes from Essex to Devon, so a truly national representation (especially with the more local Welsh racers) making the trip to this beautiful lake in the Snowdonia National Park.

Many had told the bosses they would bring home chocolate and booze and were given the day off both by work and wife and made the trip on the Friday arriving all day to a warm welcome - At least from the club members, the lake however looked black uninviting and cold, but still fantastic scenery! With much chat, boat rigging and tea drinking most of the fleet were later found in the local hotel/bar with beers, food and more chat.

Saturday morning arrived with a modest 12 to 15 knots blowing just off centre of the lake where, apart from the 20 degree wind shifts, it stayed all day. There was still a lot of scuttling about and lots of "I've changed this and done that" to show each other and those brave enough to change were rooting through old tool boxes for parts, while the Moth sailors polished their extensive tool kits and after Friday out practicing some resin mixing!

At 11am we all went into the club for the briefing and the hardy moth sailors were put back outside before they dried out for their briefing. We were told by a fantastic race officer that he intended to do 4 races due to the forecast on Sunday being around 3 knts! Those who had trained hard were thinking "yes hiking legs ready and abs ripped" Those who had been training in the bar were legs shaking, however as I said this fantastic race officer also decided we would come in after the second race for a tea break so this was meet with some gleefull sighs and everyone emptying out their picnics they were intending to take out on the water.

Race 1 got underway with no problems, the sequence being 3,2,1 with a line comfortable for all to fit along. It would turn out that the pin end would pay out going up the left hand side of the course and tacking on the wind shift as soon as it was headed. David Angwin and Andy McIvor taking advantage of this lead off the start line with millimetres between them. Angwin slowly pulling out a lead up wind to the windward mark closely followed by McIvor then Hugh Kingdon in 3rd. The fleet behind were well packed and the course led us to a broad reach, run, another broad reach and back upwind through the gate for another lap. McIvor overtook downwind and lead to the leeward mark. Angwin showing exceptional upwind speed overtaking McIvor and McIvor having to cover Kingdon held these positions till the end of the race.

Race 2 and the race officer got a very swift turnaround, Again the line bias meant stay as close to the pin end as possible and McIvor got it right leading the fleet away and up the first beat followed by Mike Lyons and Angwin and Kingdon. The course could only be described as blueprints taken from the travel to Wales through Birmingham M6 Spaghetti Junction ! This was to be a very big downfall as the 4 sailed across the lake to mark 4 with a substantial lead from the remainder of the fleet. Lyons closely following McIvor joked "I hope this is the correct mark", well to my reply as a blurry #4 came to light "err no its not" ! McIvor and Lyons came of worse having to beat back to the correct mark and letting in over ¾ of the fleet! Lyons retired at this point and McIvor ploughed on but now a new leader came to the front that of Mike Bell taking full advantage of the navigational error and lead the fleet round with Kingdon having only been slightly disadvantaged, made the correct mark in one tack and laying in 2nd. With the fleet packed tight and the wind gusty this put Kingdon in trouble on the gybe and he found himself swimming around the boat to find the centreboard while Pete Barlow cruised by and closely followed by Tim Heaton in 3rd.The race remained in this order with a recovering Kingdon in 9th. We all headed back to shore to talk if, buts and maybes and drink tea and eat cake before race 3 was to be put into full swing.

Race 3 saw Lyons leading from the start and tacking on the shifts to pull out a lead on Josh Hyland and Barlow. The wind in this race was getting a bit shiftier and light at times and the fleet were really finding it hard to make gains anywhere. The race finished in that order with the remainder of the fleet having close racing and snakes and ladders.

Race 4 of the day and the wind had come back to a more consistent breeze of again 12 knots. McIvor led the fleet away from the pin followed closely by Lyons and Kingdon. The fleet downwind again criss-crossed the lake with navigation again nearly leading the front runner McIvor into trouble! He recovered from running downwind instead of reaching to the next mark across the lake to lead from start to finish but a closer finish to Lyons in 2nd than it had to be and a consistent Kingdon in 3rd. This left the over night leader of Pete Barlow, Andy McIvor 2nd and Josh Hyland in 3rd.

The fleet returned to the club for the 2017 class association AGM, beers and curry. The club laid on a spread of curry, breads, salads and for those that decided to miss out the salad they had apple pie and or cake with ice cream, more chat, more ifs, buts and maybe's and general banter and the night was done except a walk back to our bungalow, and as all Essex boys do, the trip to the local kebab shop!

Sunday dawned dry and warmer, and this was all due to the lack of wind as the lake looked like a mirror! The odd patch of very fickle wind across it, the race officer decided to postpone the racing for an hour to see if the wind would fill in and he was again correct to do this. At 11.45am a briefing, or actually a vote, was held to determine if we were sailing or not. With a show of hands 16 votes to yay and 14 votes to no way (Barlow leading had no vote) the racing was on and we had 45minutes to get ready.

Race 5: the wind had increased to a similar breeze as day 1 but it had swung to directly down the lake. The pin end of the line again showing favour and sailing straight up the shore until it got too shallow with several people pushing the rule for water trying to force boats to tack! Rule books at the ready. Lyons took advantage of those that chose to move for him and led to the windward mark followed by Kingdon and then McIvor. McIvor overtook them both downwind and led around the leeward mark. Lyons tacking off, McIvor left him to cover his championship rival Kingdon but Kingdon sailed a great upwind leg in 2nd and left McIvor in 3rd.

Race 6: The race officer turned the course and start round so fast that at the 3 minute gun we were all trying to remember and write down the course! Barlow led the fleet to the windward mark with Angwin, Lyons, and Hyland in close pursuit. Downwind all three overtook Barlow with Angwin taking the final race win, Lyons in 2nd and Hyland in 3rd., Barlow came in 4th Kingdon 5th and McIvor in 6th It was leaving it all in the balance as to who the Inland Champion would be. Everyone went back to shore having done 2 races and with travel and prizes in mind time was catching up.

Prize Winners:

1st Great Grand master: Bob Cowan
1st Grand Master: Pete Barlow
1st Master: Hugh Kingdon
1st John Abbott Mid fleet prize: Julian Owens
1st mk1 boat: David Cole
2nd overall and traveller series winner: Hugh Kingdon
3rd overall: Josh Hyland
1st Inland Champion 2017: Andy McIvor

Our thanks go to Bala Sailing Club and all its helpers, the excellent race officer and his crew, the bar staff and kitchen workers whom all helped to make the event and club a friendly and very enjoyable racing weekend. Our thanks also go to the class committee and its sailors who to ask to travel to Wales was a great turn out in fresh conditions. We all look forward to the various opens and supported events in 2018.

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