Bala Inlands 15-16th October 2011

The Blaze class is the beaten spouse of Lake Bala.   No matter how roar the beatings or how icy the silences we -in spite of the warnings of wise friends- keep coming back in the unshakeable hope that this time things will be back to how they used to be.   That maybe if we try really hard we can make it work.   It never does.

Lake Bala is a beautiful place.   A four mile stretch of beautiful clear water flanked by beautifully arching peaks and hills and all beautifully carpeted in forests of a green hue that you just don’t get in the much less beautiful –inserttownhere-.   All of this beauty topped off perfectly by the first tints of yellow in the green of the trees and none of it in any way sullied by any bloody wind at all!   Not. A. Breath.

Having learnt my lesson from last year I arrived in good time to rig, listen to the sobs of the natives as Welsh hopes for sporting victory were once again dashed, thank my lucky stars that England had nothing to do with it and take stock.

The turnout was exceptional, 41 Blazes, another record for the class, and four Halos, the new Big-rig Blaze derivative, sailed by the Big Men of our fine company.   It certainly looked like they’d have the best of it, the Blaze is a well canvassed boat but as I watched my sail hang limply off its mast I quietly wished for a bigger one.

Racing was postponed until 1 o clock and everybody feared the worst.   As soon as the flag hit the top of the pole though, the first ripples of breeze appeared further up the lake and began their slow march towards us.

The courses were to be a rather ambitious figure eight, with gated laps and “zere vill be no zailing through ze gate downvind ja?”   With the breeze at a steady 5 knots and enough port bias on the line to spread the fleet, Race one got underway with a clean start.   Being a very long and relatively thin bit of water, Bala’s mountainous shores promised enough wind-bend to send half the fleet chasing the south and half the north.   Very few sat on the proverbial fence and those that did lost out quite quite badly.   Christian Smart (568) had a flying start at the port end and comfortably led a contingent left.   Martin Savekar followed and tacked close enough to the headland to catch a big lift and almost lay the mark, rounding 2nd behind Smart.   At this point Smart, his face the same rouge of his boat admitted “I don’t know the course.”   “Neither do I,” said Saveker.   Lead boats, gentlemen, were not invented to keep the price of petrol up.   Following the hapless leaders were Myles Mences (7571) and Nick Miller (757 and the group, along with Stefan Smart (670), Mike Lyons (781) and John Deacon (775) formed the leading pack.   All reliably good sailors, despite the occasional wobble; Mences at one point exclaiming “I’m sorry I just have absolutely no control!” veering and lolling downwind as if he’d just had a round of Blaze Blasters, but more of that later.

In the meantime Smart’s lead solidified, Saveker broke from the chasers to pursue and the fleet behind swarmed around the marks in the light but steady breeze, doing their best to ruin the tranquil atmosphere by shouting at each other with hilariously insistent “no water!”  Despite those protestations, each rounding played out with a sleepy grace that would characterize much of the days sailing.

Race one concluded with Smart in a commanding lead, followed by Saveker, Miller, Lyons and Mences.

Let us not forget the Big men though.   After the Blaze start the four intrepid Halos gathered and launched the first Halo Open with local Big Dave Wall (771) leading up the left to the windward mark.   The Halos enjoyed a very close race. Big Dave hung on to his lead, just, as a trailing Blaze put an end to Big Matt Burnett (10)’s attempt at an offwind overtake.   All four boats finished within a remarkably tight distance, experiencing none of the huge stretch of the Blazes.

With a slightly freshening breeze coming straight down the lake and under the glare of a perplexingly hot October sun, Race Two was led off the line by Jon Saunders (611) and Smart.   He tacked early and found a lift to the mark, while Saveker, coming from a fine mid-line start, held on all the way to the headland with Simon Beddows (767) and the two rounded 2nd and 3rd respectively.   Saunders followed, ahead of a thick pack of chasers.   With no wing mark, the windward rounding led straight in to a run to the first gybe, presenting an interesting problem.   Go wide after the rounding to keep clean air and risk being left stuck on the outside come the mark rounding.   On the other hand, gybe for the inside track and risk being so badly covered by the boats coming round the mark that you lose far more than the tactical advantage you gained.   The ensuing gybing battle ended with Saveker beating off an attack from Beddows, while Smart, with a few boat lengths lead, sailed away scot free.   In the fuller breeze the fleet spread quickly and the chasing pack dissolved in to a procession, with relatively little in the way of overtaking.   Smart led to finish, followed by Saveker, a stalwart Lyons and an even more stalwart Miller.

In the Halos Big Mike discovered the joys of the port-hand flyer and turned an excellent start in to a commanding lead come the windward mark.   It wasn’t to be though, and the chasers closed him down on the ensuing offwind legs, with Big Matt (aided by a little traffic) striking on the 2nd beat, to lead to the finish.   Half a boat-length separated Bigs Dave and Nick (and yes the plural of Big is Bigs).

After two clean starts, the Blazes had it all figured out.   Line position was quite clearly everything and getting stuck in the second row would be almost irrecoverable in the light stuff.   With the need for a clean break stuck clearly in their minds, everybody got a bit overexcited.   The Smarts set a fine example, sidling up either side of an unsuspecting Saunders. All three, so close they couldn’t steer out of it without contact, sailed happily over the line a good five seconds before the start.   Feeling left out, enough of the fleet followed for Gwill James, the long suffering race officer, to call the whole thing off.

The Bigs, like the big kids at school, looked on as the children sorted themselves out.

It is at times like these when people make big discoveries regarding starting technique.   For many, the crowded line finally spells out the importance of reading bias and getting there early.   For others, a kneejerk “**** off Stef, that’s my water,” brought not protest, deep deep shame and revelation, but acquiescence.   It was thus that Saveker found himself in a fine position to make his accustomed dash to the south headland and then the windward mark.

We are a nice bunch really, I promise we are.

Beddows, spotted flat hiking by the rest of us lolling fatties, enjoyed an easy ride to round 2nd, followed by Lyons, Miller and Smart.   Lyons got the best of Beddows off wind, but the rest of the order was preserved all the way to the finish.   It’s unsurprising really, the breeze remained uncharacteristically steady and while there were shifts to be found, nothing in the way of useful gusts came forth.   Despite the combined efforts of the fleet nobody could figure out the current.

The Halos enjoyed more close racing.   Big Mike attempted another port flyer, copied by Big Dave.   Mike got away but was slowed by the required ‘point duty’ of navigating the tailblazers.   It’s worth noting that in all three races all four Halos finished within about a minute.   There were no ridiculous leads or struggling stragglers, just good close racing.   The sails are very pretty, too.

Back on shore nobody seemed to quite know what to make of it all.   On the upside racing had been very successful, but where were the histrionics, the bumper-car crashes, ridiculous breakages and questionable protests.   Since nobody had anything to moan about (except Rob Jones, national champion, on 49 points after 3 races), we had our annual AGM, sure that would provide the answer.

Everything proceeded smoothly until, realising that nobody had anything to argue about, a member suggested something as controversial as putting one of those bendy black plastic masts on a Blaze.   What’s the world coming to!?

It has been a great year for the Blaze, but a sad one too, as news of the sudden death of a former fleet member DJ James Dyson, reached the fleet weeks before the Inlands were to be raced.   James, famed for giving his boat names that would make Rage Against the Machine blush, was a huge presence in the fleet, on and off the water.   In honour of his memory, the class association has commissioned the James Dyson Memorial Trophy, to be awarded to the highest placed youth.

With the AGM concluded everyone settled down to a well earned curry and pint.   Attentive readers may remember a reference to “Blaze Blasters” earlier.   The Bala Sailing Club Bar are well used to the almost annual descent of our friendly little fleet upon their picturesque club.   This time, in addition to the usual fare, a brightly coloured sign denoted a special offer; Blaze Blasters, for a very reasonable £1.50 a shot.   I’ll be honest, I don’t know what a Blaze Blaster is.   What it is not, is for the feint hearted.   The welsh contingent joined forces with a close collection of roaming gentry and proceeded to knock them back at five minute intervals.   We timed them.   In a completely unrelated incident, a young gentlemen felt rather unwell and informed the front door of the club of this fact in the most…oral…manner.   You understand.  At that stage, with the band packing up, the decision was taken, for everyone’s good, to proceed in to the town.   “I’m Ming Monged” was the reason.   Well, quite.

I was awoken on Sunday morning not by my alarm but by the unmistakable rhythmic clank of rigging in the wind.   Wind, real wind.   Overnight a miracle had occurred, unforecast and unexpected and very very welcome. A modest force three blew down the lake, complete with visible gusts and shifts and those weird lines of foam that I’ve never understood.   All my aches and pains were instantly forgotten.

Breakfasted and boated, the fleet happily launched for an early start and the promise of a good days racing.   Then someone turned off the fan.   The sun came out and everybody, to a man, stopped dead.   So sudden was the lull that the lake still rippled with the semblance of wind while 45 boats lolled about, utterly becalmed.   Over on the committee boat Gwil James could be seen, in his own words “having kittens.”

It didn’t last, mercifully, and a band of breeze soon touched down a few yards above the line.   Like all difficult lovers it took its sweet time to commit to the relationship, but by 11 or so everybody’s sails were filled.   There was plenty to play for.   Saveker led on five points, with Smart on seven due to a duff final race the previous day.   Lyons followed with steadily improving results on 9 points and Miller trailed on 12, counting a 5th.   With one discard available Saveker and Lyons could afford a duff race, Miller definitely couldn’t and neither could Smart.   Judging by the dark circles under his eyes there was a very real possibility.

More aggressive starting (and an impressive port-flyering capsize by Kieron Holt (699)) led Saunders over at the port end.   Mences led comfortably from further up the line and abandoned the southern headland in favour of the stronger breeze of the center.   Attentive viewers of the previous night’s festivities noted the absence of Rob Jones from the town-bound party.   With the benefit of a good night’s sleep and another couple of knots of breeze he finally pulled out the proverbial stops and rounded 2nd.   It wasn’t enough though and after an offwind duel with Saveker Jones lost out.   Mences was steadily chased down and on the penultimate run faced challenges from Miller and Lyons.   The ensuing gybing battle included a surreal moment in which Lyons called “starboard” to Miller, who replied simply “we’re both on port, Mike.”   After giving credence to the old saying “why gybe once when ten will do,” Lyons got the best of things, followed by a Miller and a disbelieving Mences.

The Halos saw another clean getaway from Big Dave and a setback for Big Mike, as a determined effort to sail one handed ended in wrapping his mainsheet around his tiller.   A procession followed until, like the Blazes, the gaps closed up on the penultimate leg.   Big Mike gybed for the inside line, and crept past Bigs Matt and Nick.   He looked set to carry 2nd, but failed to cover Big Matt up the final beat and lost out.

A freshening breeze finally gave the big boys something to hike about, and Saunders at last converted a flying start in to enough lead to tack across the fleet and lead up the middle to the windward mark.   It wasn’t to be though, and Mences sailed over him after the wingmark.   Joined by Miller, the three broke away for a protracted battle for the lead.   Mences and Saunders luffed each other so badly on the second reach that Miller, never one for such hysterics, came cruising through beneath them.   He couldn’t break away though and lost out in the tacking battle up the second beat as Saunders reclaimed the lead.   The second lap saw a replay of events off wind and Miller comfortably sailed through Saunders, who after a struggle won out over Mences for second.

Back in the midfleet Rob Jones was having an exceptionally bad day.   Normally a jovial chap whatever the weather, the usual smile became a bit strained after his fellow Warsash team mates spent much of the race giving him the “L is for love” sign.

For the first time the Halos spread quickly after the line.   Big Dave made a clean getaway, followed by Big Matt.   Even a short capsize by Big Nick on a gybe mark failed to change the standings.

As the fleet lined up for the final race, it was as close as close could be.   Saveker led on 9 points, followed by Lyons and Miller, both on 10.   None of them had discards to spare.    Further down the line the normally gentle-spirited youth Megham Olivier (680) suddenly launched in to tirade of abuse (we believe aimed at her unruly boat) worthy of the late James Dyson.   Everybody pretended that it hadn’t happened as she had clearly lost her mind.  On the gun Saunders managed a typical port end getaway, tacking early to sail up the center ahead of Jones and Saveker.   For reasons beyond anybody’s comprehension, he then tacked off and inadvertently gave the lead to Jones.   Miller calmly passed them both on the first reaches.   Lyons made short work of Saunders but got held up by Jones, only getting past on the penultimate leg, by that time Miller was clear away.   In the meantime Mences fought through Saunders and Saveker offwind, but could do nothing to catch Lyons and Miller.   Thus it was that Miller, after a difficult beginning, claimed victory with 11 points, followed by Lyons on 12 and Saveker on 13.

The Halos were reunited in their final race.   Bigs Dave and Mike both performed port end flyers, with Dave making the best of the beat.   He got clean away, leaving Bigs Mike and Matt to do battle for 2nd in both race and championship.   Mike won out.   For much of the championships the Halos , despite small numbers, enjoyed very close racing, almost invariably finishing as a gaggle rather then being strung out.

In the very light conditions of Saturday the top of the fleet had been dominated by a mixture of boats of all ages, but as things picked up for Sunday the older, heavier boats appeared to suffer more off-wind.   It is, as always, difficult to draw conclusions but the mk3 Blaze definitely seems to pickup quickly in marginal planing conditions.   I could just be jealous, though.

In a speech that could have been written in full on a napkin, Nick Miller thanked the organisers of the event, from the Race Team to the Galley and as ever the understanding Bar Staff.   He then sheepishly retreated in to the crowd, muttering that he hates giving speeches.   I have no sympathy, if you don’t like it, stop winning.   I love giving speeches, I’m trained to give speeches, but I digress.   Special thanks should also go to local Tim Heaton (749) who could not make the event but had a big hand in the preparations and the superb turnout.   Further thanks go to the newly re-elected Class Association committee, who continue to keep the calendar full and the trophies shiny.   Summer’s definitely over now, there’s a new chill in the air.   See you next year Bala!

Prizes:

Furthest travelled: John Deacon of Aberdeen

Endeavour trophy for completion of all races: Lawrence Marshall

1st Grandmaster: Myles Mences

1st Master: Nick Miller

The James Dyson Memorial Trophy for first youth: Ben Pickering

Halo results

Rank

HelmName

Club

SailNo

R1 15/10/11

R2 15/10/11

R3 15/10/11

R4 16/10/11

R5 16/10/11

R6 16/10/11

Total

Nett

1st

Dave WALL

Bala SC

771

1.0

(3.0)

2.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

9.0

6.0

2nd

Mike BELL

Burghfield SC

604

2.0

2.0

1.0

3.0

(4.0)

2.0

14.0

10.0

3rd

Matt BURNETT

Felpham SC

10

(3.0)

1.0

3.0

2.0

2.0

3.0

14.0

11.0

4th

Nick RIPLEY

Paignton SC

545

(4.0)

4.0

4.0

4.0

3.0

4.0

23.0

19.0

Blaze Results

Rank

HelmName

Club

SailNo

R1 15/10/11

R2 15/10/11

R3 15/10/11

R4 16/10/11

R5 16/10/11

R6 16/10/11

Total

Nett

1st

Nick MILLER

Morecambe & Heysham YC

757

3.0

(5.0)

4.0

2.0

1.0

1.0

16.0

11.0

2nd

Mike LYONS

Burghfield SC

781

4.0

3.0

2.0

1.0

(6.0)

2.0

18.0

12.0

3rd

Martin SAVEKER

Bartley Green SC

774

2.0

2.0

1.0

4.0

4.0

(5.0)

18.0

13.0

4th

Christian SMART

Pembrokeshire YC

568

1.0

1.0

5.0

(8.0)

5.0

7.0

27.0

19.0

5th

Myles MENCE

Lymington Town SC

7571

5.0

8.0

(19.0)

3.0

3.0

4.0

42.0

23.0

6th

Jonathon SAUNDERS

Felpham SC

611

(11.0)

7.0

8.0

6.0

2.0

6.0

40.0

29.0

7th

Simon BEDDOWS

 

767

8.0

4.0

3.0

(10.0)

7.0

10.0

42.0

32.0

8th

John DEACON

Aberdeen & Stonehaven YC

775

7.0

(15.0)

9.0

7.0

13.0

9.0

60.0

45.0

9th

Stefan SMART

Pembrokeshire YC

670

6.0

6.0

(26.0)

12.0

15.0

8.0

73.0

47.0

10th

Rob JONES

Warsash SC

678

20.0

(23.0)

6.0

5.0

14.0

3.0

71.0

48.0

11th

Ben FULLALOVE

 

764

19.0

9.0

7.0

(24.0)

18.0

14.0

91.0

67.0

12th

Ben PICKERING

Chase Water SC

595

12.0

11.0

10.0

16.0

23.0

(25.0)

97.0

72.0

13th

Kieron HOLT

Warsash SC

699

(23.0)

19.0

14.0

21.0

8.0

11.0

96.0

73.0

14th

Joshua HYLAND

Chase Water SC

546

17.0

16.0

(28.0)

14.0

9.0

18.0

102.0

74.0

15th

Ross PRYTHERCH

Pembrokeshire YC

745

13.0

10.0

13.0

19.0

(21.0)

19.0

95.0

74.0

16th

Jez PLESTED

Shotwick SC

685

18.0

(25.0)

25.0

9.0

10.0

13.0

100.0

75.0

17th

Gareth HYLAND

Chase Water SC

581

14.0

13.0

20.0

(27.0)

24.0

12.0

110.0

83.0

18th

Julian OWENS

Pembrokeshire YC

704

16.0

14.0

(23.0)

15.0

16.0

22.0

106.0

83.0

19th

Mark ASTBURY

Warsash SC

754

9.0

(30.0)

21.0

17.0

22.0

16.0

115.0

85.0

20th

Ian CLARK

Warsash SC

695

25.0

22.0

(27.0)

13.0

11.0

17.0

115.0

88.0

21st

Paul TAYLOR

Burghfield SC

751

10.0

18.0

16.0

(31.0)

28.0

20.0

123.0

92.0

22nd

Bob COWAN

Warsash SC

772

(31.0)

28.0

24.0

11.0

12.0

21.0

127.0

96.0

23rd

Pip WARNER

Hornsea SC

637

(34.0)

12.0

12.0

29.0

17.0

26.0

130.0

96.0

24th

David SYKES

Ullswater YC

787

15.0

17.0

17.0

25.0

25.0

(33.0)

132.0

99.0

25th

Steven POLLARD

Burghfield SC

649

26.0

20.0

11.0

23.0

(30.0)

27.0

137.0

107.0

26th

John ABBOTT

Felpham SC

766

(32.0)

27.0

22.0

20.0

19.0

23.0

143.0

111.0

27th

David HODGSON

Scaling DAM SC

777

24.0

24.0

18.0

22.0

(35.0)

28.0

151.0

116.0

28th

Peter BARLOW

Burghfield SC

758

30.0

(38.0)

35.0

18.0

20.0

15.0

156.0

118.0

29th

Richard HILL

Warsash SC

575

28.0

29.0

32.0

(42.0 DNF)

26.0

24.0

181.0

139.0

30th

Simon LEWIS

Bala SC

645

29.0

(33.0)

15.0

32.0

32.0

32.0

173.0

140.0

31st

Andy WHITCHER

Pembrokeshire YC

619

21.0

21.0

33.0

(38.0)

34.0

34.0

181.0

143.0

32nd

Megham Marcano OLIVIER

Chase Water SC

680

22.0

32.0

(36.0)

33.0

33.0

29.0

185.0

149.0

33rd

Andrew GRANT

Aberdeen & Stonehaven YC

642

35.0

31.0

(38.0)

30.0

29.0

30.0

193.0

155.0

34th

Bob YATES

Burghfield SC

717

33.0

34.0

(37.0)

26.0

27.0

37.0

194.0

157.0

35th

Rob APPLEBY

Blackwater SC

625

(42.0 DNC)

37.0

34.0

28.0

31.0

31.0

203.0

161.0

36th

Paul KENT

Bala SC

601

37.0

26.0

31.0

34.0

(38.0)

36.0

202.0

164.0

37th

Steve WINEGROVE

Porthpean SC, St Austell

654

27.0

35.0

29.0

37.0

39.0

(42.0 DNC)

209.0

167.0

38th

Richard BOTTING

Draycote Water SC

510

36.0

36.0

30.0

36.0

(37.0)

35.0

210.0

173.0

39th

Dave COLE

Bala SC

530

38.0

(40.0)

39.0

35.0

36.0

38.0

226.0

186.0

40th

Laurence MARSHALL

Oxford SC

622

39.0

(41.0)

41.0

39.0

40.0

39.0

239.0

198.0

41st

Rhys BROMHALL

Pembrokeshire YC

500

(42.0 DNF)

39.0

40.0

40.0

42.0 DNC

42.0 DNC

245.0

203.0