Heat 3 - Lord Birkett Weekend, Ullswater YC - July 3/4

A group of Blazes battle it out in the third heat of the 2010 traveller series. 

Blaze Open Meeting embedded in the Lord Birkett Trophy at Ulswater Yacht Club.

A massive and enthusiastic fleet of four Blazes were a microscopic part of the 210 entrants for this two day epic long distance event. A common convention is that the third boat writes the report, and so here I am. However, despite meeting my fellow Blazers ashore, I only saw one of them during the race, so a blow by blow account is out of the question.

So first the bald facts

1st Nick Miler Morcambe and Heysham 10th OA 2hr17m23

2nd Chris Spicer Morcambe and Heysham 34 2-24-55

3rd Peter Halliwell Littleton 97 2-41-59

4th David Hodgson Scaling Dam 137 3-02-40

Now some interesting facts

Nick was the first non trapeze/non spinnaker boat. The first hiking boat was an RS400 in 15th. The next nt/ns boat was a Phantom in 29th. You have to go to 19th for the next boat with a PY over 1000, a Flying 15. A surprise result was a 27th Vario.

Chris was 3rd nt/ns boat. RS100s were 60th and 103rd, and were easily out performed up wind by the Blazes. The Devotti D1 was 84th, the first Solo 90th.

The 2nd and 3rd Phantoms were 92nd and 96th. First Laser Radial 108th, first Laser 1 110th.

The event from my perspective.

Ullswater YC were very welcoming, and ran a demanding event from part of their heavily flood damaged club house and a Portacabin city. The course was from a long but heavily biased start line the width of the lake, south, upwind to a port rounding of the last island before you need boots, rope and ice axe, back down the lake past the club to a choice of marks to be rounded to port, (just before you run out of water again) and back to finish inside a distance mark close to the club. This was really a 7 mile windward leeward course, with big wind shifts and strong gusts up wind, and sutained planing run back again. This makes Nick’s performance all the more outstanding, as there was practically no reaching, normally considered to be the Blaze strong point.

With 200 plus boats on the line, some of whom seemed hazy as to their rights and obligations under the rules, even the pre start steaming about was hair raising. I started a little from the starboard, faraway, end, and made a half decent start only for there to be a general recall. The second, black flag start, was a more orderly affair, and it appears the Nick was able to tack onto port into clear air quite quickly. It soon became clear to me that I was already well behind those who started on the port end. The seemingly unending beat was marked with huge gusts, big shifts, and a fairly crowded bit of water. I seemed to be making steady progress through the boats around me, although Blue sails in the distance showed that i was far from where I ought to have been. Nick and Chris must have been ahead of that, but it’s difficult to recognise one singlehander from another, and there were a lot of M skiffs about and some RS300s, RS100s and Solos . Gradually these were left behind, and the first spinaker, Lester Noble in his 49er, could be seen way ahead. Very soon he was near me, and I lost concentration watching his impeccable gybe, fell over during the tack and let the boat capsize on top of me. This rather undid much of my good work, and it took me all the way to the island turn to recover. I nearly went in again bearing away in a huge gust there, and I don’t think I left the plane until the bottom mark. However, in the middle of the lake there is a narrow part that bends a little to the right and then back again. I thought I was on a good line, keeping in the wind to wards the eastern shore, but soon discovered that those in the know, sacrificed a little there, and moved to the right and into the wind from another valley. On this most of my immediate competition (two Phantoms included grrrrr) shot off, and I never recovered, although some huge gust did recover some of it when I had worked over into it. On past the club (Nick must have finished) and my first sighting of another Blaze as Chris made his way upwind to the line. And so to the finish. When ashore I saw David, who had only had the boat for a couple of weeks, and who had had a few capsizes on the way round, still with a miriad of boats astern of him.

So ended the first day.

The second opened with white horses on the lake, whole trees in motion (my favourite Beaufort scale description, just beating “smacks seek shelter) and dogs being blown off chains. Many were already on their way, at 10.30 I decided to go, and a few minutes later, in the face of worsening weather and forecast, they abandoned.

So was it worth it. Yes. Is it a good idea to have an open inside a big event, well maybe not, but it was a great sail.

Perhaps some of you will make it to another “great Event” the Anglesey Off Shore, with Welsh mountains, (Snowdon) big Islands not part of the course (Puffin and Meolfre) and racing on Sat and Mon if you make the trip. Under my PRO, August 22nd. The leading Phantom from this event will be there.