Crewsaver Blaze National Championships 2014
Blaze Fleet - the Over Fifty Club - again
Fifty Four Blazes assembled for their Nationals at Warsash SC 6th - 8th June and the talk in the dinghy park was current tune for the carbon masts the class adopted one year ago, inland fleets espousing one set of figures and the salty lot something rather different.
The sixteen strong Warsash fleet form a natural hot-house and Rob Jones three times National Champion has tended to set the pace in recent years particularly in a good breeze and race one promised just that with a twenty - twenty eight knot easterly, bright sunshine and moderate swell. A port bias line had the leaders starting at the pin end and heading inshore to avoid the flood tide. For reasons known only to him Jones gave up his early lead and tacking on to port, tangled with the following fleet. In the meantime Peter Barton, Myles Mence and Ian Sanderson all Lymington based sailors extended a convincing lead showing good up wind speed in the heavy conditions.
Ben Pickering recovered from the knock from Jones to fourth place and Jones having unwound himself from countless turns and showing great speed advanced to fifth. At the gun Barton led with Mence second and Sanderson third with split seconds between them, a one, two, three for Lymington. Was 2014 to be the end of Warsash fleet hegemony? Further back in the fleet a number of casualties meant that the rescue boats were fully extended and Race Officer Peter Knight had to sadly abandon the planned second race of the day.
Day two started with a biblical thunderstorm raining stair rods but no frogs and then settled down to a sunny southwesterly 12 - 15 kts and a four race day to make up for the lost race on day one.
At the start those that went right got a huge advantage from a veering wind and ebb tide, those that went left were on the conveyor belt to doom. Ben Pickering and Jones were amongst the former finishing first and second on the triangle/sausage course with Sanderson taking third place and Iain Horlock fourth.
Race three and Catherine Davies the only lady in the fleet nailed the start and was able to tack off right first. Getting to the right of the course was the established pattern for the day. Jones continued his supremacy by moving into first place pursued by Sanderson and Pickering.
Near the windward mark the leading gaggle were descended upon by the weekend navy in a medium sized sloop taking photos. After a bit of chat from the fleet they got the message and headed off; the gesticulations captured on the photos will render them unsuitable for polite use. The now trapezoid course gave fast close reaching for the fleet with welcome cooling spray as it was beginning to get hot. At the finish the positions were unchanged with Mike Lyons in fourth place Terry Crook in fifth.
Race four and Mence nailed the start by getting early on to port and over to the right side of the course. Jones, Horlock and Crook rounded the first mark closely pursued by Mence who surfed into the lead on the downwind legs but was overtaken by Jones on the upwind leg and was unable to get close enough to attack on the next downwind. At the gun Pickering was third, Lyons fourth, and Sanderson fifth.
By race five the consistent breeze had veered still further to the right and with the beginning of the flood the course was opened up a little more to interpretation, those that went up the middle found themselves well placed closing with the windward mark. Jones rounded first just ahead of Pickering with Barton, Sanderson and Mence following up close behind. This came to bits somewhat at the finish when Sanderson discovered he had been OCS taking him off the overnight podium. At the finish Jones led with Pickering second, Barton third Lyons fourth.
Warsash SC laid on an excellent social programme with dinner, band, barbeque, skittles and fast knot tying the champion being Tom Croft who tied a bowline around his waist in 3.2 seconds.
The overnight leader was Rob Jones and it looked as though championship history was to repeat itself. However the weather gods had other ideas as Sunday dawned sunny with a light southwesterly and flat water - just the job for the inland sailors.
Race six started in a seven to eight knot breeze and Lyons took an early lead followed by fellow Burghfield sailor and light wind expert Simon Beddows. A windward-leeward course which normally Blazes will do anything to avoid and the first run seemed to go on for ever. Then turning around at the bottom mark and doing it all over again. Barton was in contention and getting through Beddows took second place to Lyons.
Race seven in similar conditions reverted to a trapezoid course much to everyones relief and Lyons again established a lead from professed light wind expert Pickering and also Beddoes. It was noticeable the discombobulation of the heavy weather experts such as Jones who posted a stinker and Sanderson who achieved his second OCS and spoiled an otherwise consistent series.
The eighth and final race was sailed in a failing sea breeze at times down to five knots. Lyons proceeded to establish an enormous lead again with Beddows in second place and Pickering in third. In spite of Lyons winning the final three races on countback he had not managed to beat Jones but Pickering had the more consistent figures and was declared the new National Champion by one point and at the age of seventeen, a big achievement as there is much experience in the fleet. Mike Lyons took the Grand Master prize giving an age difference between first and third of forty two years.
Peter Knight the race officer himself a Blaze sailor read the conditions well and set excellent courses. Ben Pickering thanked the event sponsors: Crewsaver, Harken, Kayospruce and Cirrus Raceboats. As he said “the weather conditions over the three days gave something for everyone”.
Crewsaver Blaze National Championships 2014 Results
1st 769 Ben Pickering Chase SC 14 points
2nd 678 Rob Jones Warsash SC 15
3rd 812 Mike Lyons Burghfield SC 15
4th 689 Peter Barton Lymington Town SC 20
5th 763 Ian Sanderson Royal Lymington YC 25
6th 810 Terry Crook Blackwater SC 33
7th 7571 Myles Mence Lymington Town SC 38
8th 791 Iain Horlock Exe SC 40
9th 800 Simon Beddows Burghfield SC 51
10th 803 Hugh Kingdon South Devon YC 59
Report written by Myles Mence.