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Fire Inland Championship at Burghfield Sailing Club

by Andy Wilson 25 Mar 11:04 GMT 23 March 2024

Like the four previous years, the forecast for the historical Blaze Class season opener looked like one for the adventurous - 16, gusting 28 kts.

Travelling boats were greeted with a water vista displaying all the signs of the forecast conditions. Patches of surface disturbance wafted along the reservoir from the west and it was chilly. With only 9 entries on the cards, it was going to be an intimate affair, but there was a hefty percentage of locally-based top Class sailors, so the competition looked strong. Alongside the home-club stalwarts were three travellers. The whole ensemble, all event regulars in recent years, made for a field of competitors seemingly up for the familiar Burghfield blow.

However, Mike Lyons, assessing the conditions, chose not to race due to a recurring injury.

So, 8 entrants hit the water under a bright-ish sky, escorted to the start by the Aero Class who were sharing the water for the day.

Race 1 - The first start was a shambles from the Fire fleet. A slightly unusual 3-2-1-go sequence had flummoxed those of us who'd nonchalantly been adjusting our clothing instead of concentrating on the briefing. However, the race got off cleanly - if somewhat thinly spread. While in large part the wind was manageable, there were some cruel shifty gusts which caught most sailors out at some point. Four boats took an early lead, but Richard Botting took a dive on the first gybe on Mark 4 to allow last year's Burghfield winner, Pete Barlow, to pull through, closely followed by traveller Doug Clow and local Dave Shafto. The three all stayed ahead of the rest of the fleet until Pete himself came a cropper and in some difficulty on the leeward gybe mark opened the door for Richard to reassert his position. A chance puff took Dave ahead of Doug on the fast final reach to secure the first bullet ahead of Doug, with Richard holding for 3rd. Further behind, while rounding Mark 4, Simon Beddows (the only name appearing on the Inlands trophy since 2011) and visitor, Andy Wilson, both tipped-in together. Simon's mast lodged in the mud requiring safety boat recovery which marked the end of the event for him. Pete, while still struggling, also lost positions to local Steve Sharp and Andy respectively, but did eventually finish. Dave Entwistle had retired from the race, but was fit for the second.

Race 2 - A much cleaner, but still not necessarily competitive start saw the fleet set off into a slightly slacker wind, under darkening skies. However, Dave S, once again caught out by the odd start sequence, recovered just in time to take the line on the port tack and found himself crossing the fleet on the beat in touch. Wind holes were frustratingly noticeable, but the shifty gusts still came through. A smattering of capsizes from most boats saw positions yoyo through the race while a rash of stinging hail reminded us that we were still very much in winter racing. By the end of the race, Doug had got the better of Dave S to reverse the front pairing results while Pete took 3rd spot. Steve crossed in 4th for the second time.

Race 3 - A chilly start after lunch was warmed by a much-brightened sky and slack wind as we took to the water on a gentle run down to the start. During the start sequence, on a comment to RO, Mark Cooper, that he had our Fire Class pennant upside down he quipped that that's how he'd seen our fleet! Touche!

All Fires, having now finally reconciled the sequence, saw a competitive but clean start. The racing was close throughout the fleet during a mixture of light patches, midrange winds and some heavier gusts. Burghfield's islands had offered choices of routes to the windward mark which kept positions pretty fluid. Capsizes still occurred, entangling a few boats on gybe marks. Still battling at the front, Dave S took top honours again from Doug, with Pete coming in for a brace of 3rds on the scorecard. A cleaner race for Andy had kept him ahead of the remaining fleet, rewarding him with a 4th a few lengths behind.

Race 4 - The final race enjoyed a slightly more elevated, but manageable breeze, still accented with the gusts to keep us on our toes. Pete had found his groove at the front and Dave S, having done his maths on the event rankings so far, knew he just needed to prevent Doug from winning. Doug had chosen the port path off the start, and Dave S keenly shaddowed. Steve had taken to the tail of Pete, leaving both potential event winners battling behind. In a cruel twist for Steve, a traveller problem pushed him out of action for long enough to allow Doug through. Fractionally behind Pete on the last reach Doug and Steve continued to bite at each other until Doug aggressively forced Steve off the last mark, and squeezed through to clinch 2nd through the finish, both crossing ahead of Dave.

Half a leg behind, Andy's lead on the remaining bunch was being eaten by Dave E and Richard, both finding better speed on an excitingly fast reach with a final flurry of wind. 5th, 6th and 7th were decided within 2 boat lengths, Andy just doing enough to hold on against Richard and Dave E respectively.

Dave S emerged a worthy winner, just gaining the upper hand on Doug who'd made him work for it the entire day.

The generous selection of tastefully etched glassware provided by Burghfield SC was well-received by all recipients. The ranking prize-giving was accompanied by 2024s first award of the Blaze Class d**k-of-the-day honours, going to Dave Entwistle for 'causing capsizing chaos at the gybe mark'. He wins the un-coveted Pink Flamingo pyjamas and Race bib, to be worn at race meets until passed on to the next unsuspecting faux-pas perpetrator. Bravo Dave!

Our thanks go to the well-organised Burghfield SC team for hosting another challenging but entertaining and competitive event. We'll see you in 2025 - what weather oddities can you possibly throw at us next?!

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4Pts
1st864Dave Shafto121‑44
2nd781Douglas Clow‑21225
3rd875Peter Barlow‑63317
4th800Steve Sharp44‑6311
5th862Richard Botting355‑613
6th763Andy Wilson5‑64514
7th693David Entwistle(RET)77721
8th856Michael Lyons(DNC)DNCDNCDNC30
8th829Simon Beddows(RET)DNCDNCDNC30

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