Heat 5 - Northern Championships, Morecambe & Heysham YC - September 11/12th

A troop of prospectors head for Morecambe Bay to test the local on their hoome turf. How did they fair? 

With great anticipation 7 Blazes, set off for pastures new for the first Blaze event at M&HYC which was taking place as part of their autumn Open weekend, with Blazes travelling from as far afield as South Wales, Ullswater, Oxford, Birmingham and Blackpool. Arriving on Friday evening and Saturday morning the Blaze fleet set out with its usual enthusiasm to investigate the cultural and marine offerings of the North West.

On the Saturday morning, those who had not been to Morecombe before looked out over the sea wall with its fearsome rock sea defences, across miles and mile of sand and mud and wondered where the sailing area was. By the time several bacon butties and mugs of tea were consumed, the sea had advanced several miles and waves could be seen in the distance.

With the local boys Nick Miller and Chris Spicer laying it on about “waves over the sand bars” and “ripping tides”, boats were rigged and sailing gear donned, ready for the briefing. Morecombe has a very nice OOD box on the promenade, and with 21 knots blowing it has a nice fresh open air ambiance about it.

Keith Byers, the OOD, went through the various rules and regs i.e the sailing instructions, especially about launching and landing and how not to end up on the aforementioned sea defences. By now the tide was in and the rescue boats were launched. Nick organised the launching and was at the bottom of the ramp to see us into our Blazes and with his usual beaming smile, physically propel us out into the wind and waves. Once he was happy that we all committed to the fray he joined us in blasting around the bay in a lovely force 4/5.

With the usual 5,4,1 off sequence, it was interesting to see most of the inland sailors were all well behind the line with 30 seconds to go having forgotten that they were sailing on a “ripping tide” and the line was not getting any closer. With a sudden flurry of activity and the usual regular sea salts (young and old) buzzing around, the gun went with most on or near the line.

With a port handed trapezoid course set, most of the fleet headed up the port side of the beat in the slower tide but choppier seas until forced to tack by a sea defence wall. Rather fortuitously this was very close to the lay line for the windward mark.

Christian (763) and Nick (757) showing their usual pace, soon left the rest behind with Nick first to the mark closely followed by Christian. They rounded in quick succession and disappeared in clouds of spray towards the wing mark.

Next to the mark, was a close bunch with Chris Spicer (748) just getting inside Tim Heaton (749) closely followed by Martin Saveker (774). Chris S then proceeded to give a text book impression of a crash diving submarine and like all good captains, was last seen going downwards with a resolute expression in the true tradition of British seafarers.

Martin passed Tim on the first reach into third place on a rapid broad reach. However, with the wind and sea conditions prevailing, everyone decided to reach down the run. At the leeward mark it was Nick first , who had extended his lead from Christian, with Martin 3rd with Tim in close pursuit.

Up the second beat, Christian suffered his first gear failure of the weekend with a “kicker shackle exploding” (his words not mine) and had to make running repairs. Up the rest of the 2nd beat Nick flew away, leaving the rest behind.

The final lap begun with Nick in front, Martin 2nd, Tim 3rd and a rapidly closing Christian. With the wind freshening due to a large black cloud, bringing some rain, the last lap was fairly exciting.

Nick stayed safe to win, Martin fell in at the gybe, letting Tim through to 2nd and he finished 3rd. Chris H was 4th, Christian 5th John From Oxford 6th, Andy Taylor 7th Chris S 8th, and Dave Sykes retired and did not finish.

Due to the worsening conditions the OOD decided on safety grounds to end sailing for the day. With their usual enjoyment of a good wind, Blazes were flying around enjoying themselves for a while before landing..

Afterwards all gathered in the club house to eat, drink and tell tall stories. With an excellent selection of hot food prepared by club members and the bar open, a very pleasant time was had by all.

With several of the more local members commuting for the event, that evening the rest met in Lancaster for a meal. Needless to say the certain members were late arriving having got comfortable in the local Wetherspoons for several glasses of that chemical mix known as “Lager”.

The next morning the mob reconvened at the club house for more tea and bacon butties and also to look at the excellent selection of photographs taken the day before by a local member. With the wind rising and falling from 8 to 15 knots all waited for what was to come.

Due to the tide being about an hour later than forecast, the days racing was shortened to 2 races, both to count, and we would do triangle sausage courses. The cries of “Sausage Nick, Sausage” were heard from several quarters..

With a more northerly wind settled in at about Force 5, 3 Blazers decided discretion was the better part of valour and did not sail. With a line set between the onshore OODs box and a buoy, the start sequence commenced in a steady Force 5 with an incoming tide.

At the first mark it was Nick followed by Christian and then Martin, Chris H, Chris S and Tim H. On the 2nd reach, Chris H passed Martin as he death rolled dropping down to 5th. Then Nick capsized allowing Christian and Chris H passed.

Up the next beat, Nick actually leant out and powered passed Chris H back to 2nd with the rest chasing hard. At the end of the 2nd lap it was Christian, Nick, Chris H, Martin, Tim and Chris S.

With the wind starting to freshen, there were no position changes during the 3rd lap except that Nick had closed down Christian by the end of the 2nd reach. Up the final beat Nick went passed Christian and rounded the windward mark in the lead and then he blew it. Yes, Nick sailed the wrong course ....again, going for the wing mark not the leeward mark, allowing Christian to overtake him and win the race. Nick was second, Chris H 3rd, Martin 4th, Tim 5th and Chris S 6th.

The final race started in a steady force 6 with an increasing sea as the tide started to turn. However, with 3 minutes to go, with a roar of Merlin engines, the BBMF Lancaster proceeded to give a low level display of turns and flypasts over Morecombe bay, proving a distraction to the start and the first beat for airplane lovers.

The fleet all went left, single tacking up to the windward mark with Nick again leading Christian away..Sadly, soon after rounding the windward mark, the other end of Christians kicker broke and his race was over. Chris H chased Nick but, Martin, Chris S and Tim all followed after, “sailing” rather than racing in the conditions. With Chris H showing excellent boat handling skills he passed Nick on the 2nd reach when Nick capsized after catching his gybe strop on his centreboard.

At the end of the first lap it was Chris H, Nick, Martin, Chris S and Tim in that order. Chris H went right up the beat, the tide having changed. With Nick in hot pursuit they battled away upwind with the rest following behind. The waves over the sand bar created by a significant wind over tide effect gave a wholly new meaning to the phrase “Slam-Dunk”


After putting boats away, followed

Tim retired due to a breakage and things stayed in this order for the remainder of the race, giving Chris H the win, Nick 2nd Martin 3rd and Chris S by a hot shower, tea and a meal, the presentation took place. With all races to count due to the lost races, the final places were as follows

Nick Miller 757 M&HYC 4 3/4

Chris Holman 670 Pembrokeshire Yacht Club 7 3/4

Martin Saveker 774 Shustoke Sailing Club 10

Christian Smart 763 Pembrokeshire Yacht Club 15 3/4

Tim Heaton 749 Bala SC 17

Chris Spicer 748 M&HYC 18

John Abbott 760 Oxford SC 26

David Sykes 780 Ullswater SC 27

Alan Taylor 625 Blackpool SC 30

Overall, an excellent weekend. Great venue, excellent hospitality from the club, very well organised and best of all, superb sailing. For all those who sail mainly on lakes, who want some sea sailing, I cannot recommend it more.

So thanks to Nick for organising it and to all at M&HYC, including Keith Byers the OOD for giving up his weekend’s sailing, the rescue crews, the landing helpers and especially the kitchen and bar staff. Plus all credit to Mr Rohan Slaughter the photographer who took all the pictures, and gave them out in exchange for a donation to the RNLI

Next year?, yes it is in the diary,

Martin Saveker 774

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