Heat 6 - Inland Championships, Bala SC - October 9/10th

A turbulent end to a record year for the Blazes. Bala is many things, but never dull.

I won’t lie, I don’t know what Lake Bala looked like as light dawned on Saturday 9th October, the first day of the 2010 Blaze Inlands. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, I was in London, asleep, the lesson being that when one’s phone claims to be in “silent” mode it really isn’t going to make a sound, no matter how many alarms one sets.

Anyway, I’m reliably informed that from the clubhouse the crisp waters of Lake Bala appeared deceptively placid. Ripples enough for sailing, certainly, but no white tops and certainly none of those both unnecessary and unpopular gusts and lulls and such. After all, we like wind, steady wind that has been gently ironed flat by mother nature’s caring…iron.

Now Bala has a pretty reliable record for the Blazes. One weekend-long-wind-hole-dominated-vomit-splattered-drunken-debacle-of-an-open aside, the breeze has been steady, strong and funneling down between the hills to deliver usually perfect Blazing conditions in which the unofficial speed record for the class was made three years ago.

Why all the history? Because this time we were utterly utterly deceived. The calm of the southern shore masked what can only be described as “wind bombs” (forgive the hyperbole). They sailed over the mountain tops and descended, invisible, on the 35 strong fleet as it ventured forth.

Four races were to be sailed on Saturday and two on Sunday. Courses were to be decided on the water but generally took the form of a long figure-eight, at the center of which was the start line gate. As the course was decided and start line laid…nobody paid much attention. The reason was that the usual technique of looking over the water to gauge the oncoming wind was completely useless. Doing so was useful, in the same way that checking the radio traffic reports before crossing a road blindfolded is useful. It’ll give you a rough idea of what to expect but relying on it will land you a spot in the Darwin awards.

So followed a fleet-wide case of extreme caution bordering-paranoia. Despite enough port-bias on the first start line to make it virtually impossible to cross on starboard, the fleet mobbed at the committee boat end as if taking shelter in the lee of each other’s sails.

Once the starting gun went though, racing heads were on and a group comprising of Bob Williamson (778), current national champion Rob Jones (678) and Andrew Taylor (780) led the fleet away. Taylor had the best of the gusts upwind and rounded the big, luminous orange “even THEY can’t get that wrong” inflatable windward mark first. Clearly feeling pleased with himself, he took the opportunity to breathe a little sigh of relief and relax for a moment. After his capsize Williamson and Jones did battle around the course for the lead, with Jones winning out, followed by a recovered Taylor. This is all the information I have because this is all anybody seems able to remember. If it appears that the racing was at any point in the day processional and straightforward then I’ve given completely the wrong impression. Dozens of boat lengths could be won and lost basically by lottery. Invisible bombs of air pressure dropped amid gaggles of racing boats, delivering not so much wind-shifts but complete changes of direction. Dozens of capsizes were dealt out, most unavoidable. The state of frantic vigilance this induced (not to mention constant sheeting) proved exhausting.

Come race two and conditions hadn’t improved. In an effort to keep all the pointy sharp metal bits away from his committee boat, the OD left a lot of port bias on the line and, obligingly, everyone agreed to actually start on it this time. A group immediately broke for the right side of the beat, tempted by dark water and the promise of lifting gusts. Jones led, followed by Nick Miller (757) and Miles Mence (668), but was overtaken by both as he searched desperately for a lift, only to see his pursuers, on the same tack as him and supposedly downwind, get lifted all the way in to the mark. Thus began the first recorded instance of “throwing the toys out of the pram,” it wouldn’t be the last, for Jones, or anyone else. Miller and Mences sailed the rest of the race relatively unchallenged, while the fleet behind them engaged in battle after battle after battle. Shifts came so thick and fast that tacking on them was obligatory, only to find the header you had just avoided turn in to another header. Rinse and repeat.

The fleet headed in for lunch, where I was rigging to join the racing. I asked around how the wind had been, the first person replied “lovely,” and the second “Shutting fike!.”

After lunch the fleet was greeted by a much steadied force three gusting four and sailed out toward the afternoon sun brimming with…optimism. Feeling that fortune might favour the brave, Jones attacked the start on a successful port flyer, followed by an unsuccessful Miller. History does not record what happened to Jones’ hard won advantage, but it vanished at any rate, such were the fortunes of the day! Christian Smart (763) led up the centre to the windward mark, followed by a small gaggle of leaders. Lots of place swapping ensued, as well as a touch that saw Jonathon Saunders (611) doing penalty turns and losing out on 2nd place. Miller broke away and pursued Smart unopposed, followed by Williamson, Chris Holman (75), and Chris Spicer (748) battling for 3rd, finishing in that order.

While less violent than earlier, the mountain-top wind had by no means settled, at one point allowing Smart and Miller to round a wing mark, bearing away from a beam reach to a ru-oh no its still a beam reach, an angle change of 90 degrees without the need to adjust sails.

Fresh breeze filled in the for the final start on the day, heavily port biased again. A lot of problems ensued, several stalled out, struggling to make the pin end on starboard, allowing Jones another port-end flyer, which he was finally able to exploit and convert in to a clean victory, only challenged by Mences “in a limp-wristed sort of way.” Miller had been buried on the start line but, with typical northern stoicism, carved a path through the fleet and waded his way up to 2nd place, taking Mences on the final beat to the finish.

Much of the fleet was clearly used to both more consistent and longer beats, in which they could formulate a strategy and execute it, then see if it worked. Any attempt to “play a long game” on Saturday proved fruitless, bearing off and going for speed upwind involved such a sacrifice in height that, despite relatively strong ambient breeze, the best simply didn’t bother. Instead the game was one of squeezing every possible inch out of each lift and desperately maneuvering to limit the damage of the inevitable crushing header.

For some the bar provided means of celebration, for others, comfort. Miller led on 5 points, followed by Mences on 11 and Smart on 12. Miller and Mences retired relatively early, whilst Smart and Holman, collectively known as the “Booze brothers,” stalked the dance floor in the manner of a hunting pair of hyenas. There were plenty of vulnerable grazers, chief amongst them Rob Jones, who, lamenting his misfortunes (13 points), was easily brought in to the pack. Little is known about what followed, only that Smart regained consciousness on the launching slipway, minus his undergarments. Holman, as far as we know awoke in bed and nobody knows what became of Jones.

Daylight broke over the mountain tops of Wales to much bleeting, yawning and groaning. Bodies were collected, butties consumed and boats uncovered. Miller had a clear lead, but with two races to go and only one available discard it could all be taken away by a single duff result. Not that the immediate competition had much to offer. Smart peeled himself off of his slipway and in to his gear, followed, eventually, by Jones, who being a southerner did not possess the Welshman’s genetic resistance to the amber nectar.

Still, if at first you don’t succeed, drink yourself silly and then blame the hangover.

At least the breeze was willing, a little lighter and now obligingly coming straight down the valley from the north east. Miller led Saunders and Smart up the center of the beat, only to be bested by local sailor Tim Heaton (749), sailing in from the right with the contemptuous ease of one who has knows this scenario very, very well. He held the lead for three legs, before losing out to his pursuers downwind. Miller led Saunders to the beginning of the second lap and headed left. Saunders opted to follow Heaton’s strategy and headed right, greeted by fresh breeze that lifted him up to the mark. Miller trundled after without challenging. He didn’t need to, a 2nd in this penultimate race left him almost guaranteed victory. Aslong as he finished in the top five in the final race, victory was assured. Williamson fought his way past Heaton and finished 4th.

The final race shaped up with a rather anti-climactic sense of order. Smart led off from the port end, tacking early for the center (ever the safe ground). Miller, Holman and Saunders pursued but never regained touch with Smart. Miller later described the experience of racing with the two youths as “like racing in between two hyperactive puppies, determined to throw in ten tacks when one will do. All I wanted was some peace and quiet.” In the event, all that activity cost Holman and Saunders as Mences snuck in on the downwind leg, as they worried about each other. Mences overtook cleanly, claiming 3rd, followed by Holman, Saunders and eventually Jones, who appeared to be employing a crouch position in order to maximize aero-dynamics (this can be easily mistaken for clutching your stomach in self-inflicted agony).

As is usual, consistency won the day and Miller, posting only one victory, beat off Smart, Jones and everybody else without ever doing that much fighting. He admitted “not having one very good start in the whole event,” whilst Jones could be found doing port-end flyers and Smart always in the front few off the line. When asked how he’d managed to consistently turn a mediocre start in to an excellent result Miller shrugged “I don’t know, the boat seems to work well so I don’t fiddle with anything.” On behalf of those of us who measure everything and leave no wire un-tuned and no crease unsmoothed, we deeply deeply resent you, Nick.

Miller thanked the race officer and his team for a very professional event and added “I hope we behaved, I can’t remember.” Smart claimed second and was re-united with his lost pants, Holman claimed 3rd as well as 1st youth and Rob Jones, now recovered, 4th. Miles Mences followed in 5th, claiming 1st grandmaster.

Prizes ranged from complimentary gloves to glassware, wine, silver tankards, mugs, caps, a shield and even an ashtray (for the highest finishing smoker).

Nine youths competed in the event, both local and coming from as far afield Chase. The Blaze youngsters, often regarded as a rather unusual breed, presented in healthier numbers than ever.

The event also saw the conclusion of the 2010 Blaze Traveller series. Over 70 boats had competed across the six events, a record turnout.

The results for the traveler series are as follows:

1st: Nick Miller

2nd: Christian Smart

3rd: Martin Saveker

4th: Chris Spicer

5th: John Abbott

6th: Tim Heaton

2010 has seen a lot of records broken for the Blaze fleet. Highest nationals turnout, highest inlands turnout, the most prizes (both in value and number) awarded to the highest number. Class Association membership stands at 77, another record. The addition of options such as swinging spreaders and aft sheeting in to class rules has allowed the fleet to move with the times whilst remaining an affordable one-design. The fleet has competed in events as far north as Aberdeen and as far south as Felpham, as far west as Bala and as far east as Stone. Class racing in the Blaze fleet has never been as competitive, popular and national as it is now.

Sailed: 6, Discards: 1, To count: 5, Entries: 35, Scoring system: Appendix A

Rank

HelmName

Age Group

Club

SailNo

R1

R2

R3

R4

R5

R6

Total

Nett

1st

NICK MILLER

Master

MORECAMBS ABD HAYSHAM YACHT CLUB

757

(36.0 DNC)

1.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

45.0

9.0

2nd

CHRISTIAN SMART

PEMBROKESHIRE YC

763

(9.0)

6.0

1.0

5.0

3.0

1.0

25.0

16.0

3rd

CHRIS HOLMAN

PEMBROKESHIRE YACHT CLUB

75

5.0

5.0

4.0

(7.0)

6.0

4.0

31.0

24.0

4th

ROB JONES

WARSASH SC

678

1.0

9.0

11.0

1.0

(15.0)

6.0

43.0

28.0

5th

MILES MENCE

Grand Master

ROYAL SOLENT YACHT CLUB

668

(30.0)

2.0

10.0

3.0

14.0

3.0

62.0

32.0

6th

BOB WILLIAMSON

ABERDEEN AND STONEHAVEN YC

778

2.0

11.0

3.0

(21.0)

4.0

13.0

54.0

33.0

7th

MARTIN SAVEKER

Master

SHUSTOKE

774

10.0

4.0

(19.0)

6.0

11.0

11.0

61.0

42.0

8th

ANDREW TAYLOR

Master

BLACKPOOL AND FLEETWOOD

780

3.0

20.0

8.0

4.0

(21.0)

8.0

64.0

43.0

9th

CHRIS SPICER

Master

MORECAMBE AND HEYSHAM YC

748

(16.0)

10.0

5.0

8.0

16.0

9.0

64.0

48.0

10th

WIL HITCHMAN

Youth

BALA

664

6.0

8.0

(36.0 DNC)

16.0

9.0

12.0

87.0

51.0

11th

KEITH WILLIS

Master

LYMINGTON TOWN SC

714

7.0

15.0

(18.0)

9.0

10.0

10.0

69.0

51.0

12th

SAM PICKERING

Youth

CHASE SC

595

11.0

7.0

13.0

13.0

12.0

(15.0)

71.0

56.0

13th

JOHNATHON SAUNDERS

Youth

KG SC

611

(36.0 DNC)

36.0 DNC

7.0

10.0

1.0

5.0

95.0

59.0

14th

JOSHUA HYLAND

Youth

CHASE WATER SC

546

13.0

12.0

9.0

18.0

7.0

(19.0)

78.0

59.0

15th

TIM HEATON

Grand Master

BALA

749

8.0

19.0

(21.0)

14.0

5.0

16.0

83.0

62.0

16th

EDEN HYLAND

Youth

CHASE SC

581

(21.0)

14.0

12.0

11.0

8.0

17.0

83.0

62.0

17th

ALEX WILLIAMS

Master

BLACKWATER SC

723

12.0

18.0

6.0

(19.0)

13.0

14.0

82.0

63.0

18th

KEN HULL

Grand Master

BALA

685

17.0

3.0

14.0

12.0

22.0

(23.0)

91.0

68.0

19th

PETER BARLOW

Master

BURGHFIELD

758

4.0

13.0

17.0

(22.0)

17.0

20.0

93.0

71.0

20th

JULIAN OWENS

PEMBROKESHIRE YC

704

15.0

17.0

16.0

17.0

(19.0)

7.0

91.0

72.0

21st

MATT BURNETT

FELPHAM

724

22.0

22.0

(25.0)

15.0

20.0

21.0

125.0

100.0

22nd

IAN CLARK

WARSASH SC

695

14.0

16.0

15.0

20.0

(36.0 DNC)

36.0 DNC

137.0

101.0

23rd

PIP WARNER

Master

HORNSEA SC

637

19.0

(24.0)

24.0

24.0

18.0

18.0

127.0

103.0

24th

DAVID SYKES

Master

ULLSWATER YC

658

18.0

21.0

28.0

(36.0 DNC)

25.0

24.0

152.0

116.0

25th

JOHN ABBOTT

Grand Master

OXFORD

766

24.0

25.0

22.0

23.0

(36.0 DNF)

36.0 DNC

166.0

130.0

26th

DANIEL BELL

Youth

SHOTWICK LAKE SC

606

(31.0)

28.0

26.0

27.0

26.0

28.0

166.0

135.0

27th

PAUL TAYLOR

Grand Master

BURGHFELD

751

20.0

(36.0 DNF)

36.0 DNF

36.0 DNC

24.0

25.0

177.0

141.0

28th

GARETH HYLAND

Master

CHASE SC

680

(36.0 DNC)

36.0 DNC

23.0

26.0

29.0

27.0

177.0

141.0

29th

MEG MARCANO-OLIVIER

Youth

CHASE SC

592

23.0

27.0

(36.0 DNF)

36.0 DNC

30.0

26.0

178.0

142.0

30th

BEN FULLALOVE

BLACKWATER SC

764

26.0

26.0

20.0

(36.0 DNC)

36.0 DNC

36.0 DNC

180.0

144.0

31st

ADAM COLE

Youth

BALA

530

28.0

(36.0 DNC)

36.0 DNC

36.0 DNC

23.0

22.0

181.0

145.0

32nd

SIMON LEWIS

Master

BALA

645

(36.0 DNF)

36.0 DNC

27.0

25.0

27.0

30.0

181.0

145.0

33rd

ANDY WHITCHER

PEMBROKESHIRE YC

1

27.0

30.0

29.0

28.0

(31.0)

31.0

176.0

145.0

34th

BRIAN BUGGY

Master

PY SC

768

29.0

29.0

(36.0 DNC)

36.0 DNC

28.0

29.0

187.0

151.0

35th

DAVE WALL

Grand Master

BALA

771

25.0

23.0

(36.0 DNF)

36.0 DNC

36.0 DNC

36.0 DNC

192.0

156.0