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Blaze Northern Championship at Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club

by Tim Heaton 16 Jul 2018 16:40 BST 14-15 July 2018
Ian Smith, Blaze Northern Champion, receiving congratulations from Race Officer Terry Pressdee © Paul Hargreaves

The inaugural Blaze Northern Championship was won by Ian Smith over two days of perfect weather at Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club. Pip Warner took second place, after count-back on equal points with Tim Heaton.

Entrants to the inaugural Blaze Northern Championship at Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club were greeted on Saturday morning with sparkling sunshine, a rising Westerly breeze and a hot tub on the deck of the club.

Day One

Race Officer Terry Pressdee set a "P" course to fit with the Vortex Nationals being held at the same time.

Race 1

Phil Hartley, who just had time to step his mast after replacing his shrouds, led the way round the windward mark, only to be overtaken by Ian Smith in his newly acquired Hartley Blaze.

The Westerly offered many wind shifts and also added, from time to time, vicious squalls to spice up the hot competition between boats. Ian Smith was the first to suffer from such a header on the second beat, capsizing and losing his sunglasses at the same time. He recovered quickly but lost the lead to Pip Warner.

At the wing mark, Pip Warner gybed and went for a swim, letting through Ian Smith and Tim Heaton.

Pip Warner recovered in time to follow Ian Smith and Tim Heaton over the finish line, followed by Paul Hargreaves in fourth position.

It was great to see Paul Hargreaves, our photographic maestro, sailing rather than taking the marvellous photographs that do so much to illuminate and encourage our sport and Blazes in particular. It was Paul who produced our poster advertising the event.

Meanwhile Phil Hartley was "stuffed" by two Vortex's on port at the leeward mark claiming water without a valid overlap and ignoring Phil's "starboard".

Race 2

At the start line, with yet another wind shift, Pip Warner and Tim Heaton correctly chose the port end but a further wind shift three seconds before the gun pushed Pip Warner below start line and he had to tack briefly onto port.

Ian Smith had a bad start but caught up, and overtook Pip Warner who was having problems with his outhaul slipping, thereby losing power.

Tim Heaton led to the finish, challenged all the way by Ian Smith. The large gap between the two leaders and the rest of the fleet led the Race Officer shortening the race, leaving Tim Heaton and Ian Smith to battle on for another lap.

Race 3

For the third back-to-back race, the wind was falling off, but still delivering shifts and the occasional snarling squall.

Ian Smith and Tim Heaton were in the one:two positions for the whole race, correctly reading the wind shifts.

Rob Froud was catching up but capsized to windward on a very big shift whilst Dave Hodgson was troubled with a loose top batten.

The finish line was Ian Smith, Tim Heaton and Pip Warner.

In the evening a tired but happy fleet relaxed on the deck of the clubhouse, musing over the day's racing, who did what and pontificating about tomorrow's wind. We missed having Charlie Chandler, the Blaze 2018 National Champion with us for the event. His boat's racks collapsed at the Warsash Open the previous weekend and could not be fixed in time for our event.

As the sun slowly set on a superb day of racing, the beers came out and the curry arrived.

It was Rob's birthday, so we treated him to the sight of the Vortex Fleet cavorting in the hot tub. Rob says he enjoyed his birthday but said we didn't need to repeat the hot tub scene next year!

Day Two

The Race Officer once again set a "P" course for the Blazes, having checked that the fleet were happy with this. The Westerly was still playing the Race Officer with "watch me change direction at a whim". Nearly every race, Terry adroitly moved the windward and wing marks and the start line to ensure we had some good reaches, sensible windward marks and a reasonable start line.

Race 4

Dave Hodson, with his top batten sorted overnight, was first at the windward mark, hotly contested by Ian Smith and followed by Tim Heaton and Pip Warner.

Ian Smith took over the lead, followed by Tim Heaton. Pip Warner moved into third place. That was the order for the rest of the race, until on the very last tack to the finish, Pip Warner "pipped" Tim Heaton. Dave Hodgson closely followed Tim Heaton to take fourth position.

Race 5

Tim Heaton and Ian Smith chose the port end on the start and on port as the line was heavily biased, following yet another wind change.

Tim Heaton led the way towards the first leeward mark, but Ian Smith was first round to start the next beat in the lead. Pip Warner had a bad start - wrong end - but caught up the leaders, as did Rob Froud and Dave Hodgson.

Tim Heaton caught a gust on the way down to the wing mark and capsized, but managed to overtake Rob Froud and Dave Hodgson on the next reach, but failed to catch up with the front runners. Pip Warner once again "pipped" at the last tack over the finish line to take first position from Ian Smith in second place.

Race 6

Ian Smith and Dave Hodgson timed their starts just right, whilst Pip Warner and Tim Heaton were way behind, being the last to start.

On the run down to the leeward mark, Rob Froud gybed onto starboard, forcing Tim Heaton also onto starboard, who then called starboard on Dave Hodgson, forcing him to gybe. Dave Hodgson promptly capsized.

Meanwhile Pip Warner had nipped into second position.

Rob Froud was caught twice by veering gusts which led to him capsizing twice.

Ian Smith sailed a blinder, increasing his lead to nearly two legs by the finish, ahead of Pip Warner in second place, who was well ahead of Tim Heaton in third place.

The Blaze Fleet had a fantastic two days. And thanks to Terry - our Race Officer- for the great courses. Despite the veering wind, he deftly arranged the moving of buoys and the start line to keep the turn rounds quick and ensure we had some good reaches and plenty of action.

After a tasty late lunch put on by Pam and her team in the YDSC Galley, the fleet joined the Vortex's for the prize giving on the deck. Everyone enjoyed the welcome we received from the club, its superb facilities and the ease of free camping on-site.

The final result was an emphatic win for Ian Smith (YDSC), our new Northern Blaze Champion, with four wins and two seconds, and a net 6 points. Followed by Pip Warner (Hornsea SC) on 11 points who took second place on count-back against Tim Heaton (YDSC) also on 11 points.

The Northern Blaze Fleet is now looking forward to the next Blaze events – Hornsea Blaze Sprintz and Regatta 8th & 9Th September – and next year's Blaze Northern Championship. All Blazes welcome! And of course there is also the Blaze Inlands to enter – King George Sailing Club, London E4 on 6th & 7th October 2018.

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