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TOPIC: Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog

Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 1 month ago #964

  • Stewart609
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From here on I'm going to keep a diary of the racing in the Blaze Fleet at WSC. Hopefully other members of this fleet will contribute. We have about 7 or 8 Blazes in the club and often get 4 out at a time in our Medium Handicap Fleet. We race on the lower reaches of the River Medway. We start across a fixed line across the river in the Medway Towns but our races take us down stream to wide open spaces where the river can be a couple of kilometres wide.

It's pretty rugged sailing, wide open spaces, strong tides, sometimes vicious chop, sand banks and commercial shipping. Due to our location its a sort of passage race using navigation marks to get to the racing area, a couple of loops and back to the club. Normally taking about 90 minutes. Our courses often have good lengths of reaching and dodging the tide means slipping along in shallow water. This makes the Blaze a great tool and why I have recently joined the class.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 1 month ago #969

Hi Stewart and fellow Blazers

I joined Wilsonian SC a few weeks ago having been “between clubs” for a couple of seasons. I looked at most of the clubs in the South East before deciding on the WSC. Initially, I was a bit dubious about river sailing having sailed on the sea for many years but Wilsonian’s long season and healthy Blaze fleet clinched it.

The racing is well organised with good turnouts and I love river sailing! If you’re in the South East and looking for somewhere to sail your Blaze I can thoroughly recommend the Wilsonians :P

Chris Saunders
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 1 month ago #970

  • Stewart609
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Medway Marathon 30th June 2013
This is organised by Medway Yacht Club just up the river from Wilsonian. Only 4 Blazes on the line with an assortment of other boats all with handicaps of 1000 to 1100. The tide was with us and the wind about 10-12 mph. I had a good start but 2 MXs (sort of Merlin Rocket OD) pulled out into the lead as it was a downwind start. For some reason I slipped back until I was last Blaze and there was also a Laser EPS in front. Its a long race 26 miles and no panic but I tried to get more energetic in the boat and also think out what would be a good strategy. By Gillingham Reach (about a mile down the river) I was back trying to pick off the last Blaze and the EPS.

It was all downwind and so important to stay in the favourable tide but also gybe on the shifts and go down in the gusts. Ten minutes later I was level with the leading Blaze but the MXs had got a few hundred metres ahead. Another 10 minutes and it was the MXs then me with a 100m over the next Blaze. By the time we had covered 5 miles I was firmly well away from the other Blazes and I capsised, it was a bad one because I went right over again when I righted it and then I found one of my pins had fallen out of the rack and had to get that back in place which meant I capsised again. By the time I was sorted the leading Blazes where almost out of sight but one came up from behind (a late starter).

We had a 1 mile fetch to the next mark and I was able to hold him off but the gybe round the next mark took us onto a long broad reach and he managed to work up to windward and pass me whilst I struggled to get past a 2000 who was carrying a kite.

By now the wind has risen to about 20 mph and after 10 minutes sitting out I bore away to gybe around the next mark in a gust and capsised again the other Blaze waited for the gust to pass and gybed successfully. It is easy for the joints to seize up on these long legs then you are not as agile as you need to be on a bear away and gybe. He was now 300m ahead and I couldn't catch him on this long (2 mile run).

So I was now well behind the leading Blazes and the EPS and the other Blaze had a good lead as we deep reached to the turning mark and headed for home. We had sailed about 11 miles downwind of the finish line and it was now more or less a 2 hour beat back. The tide was just beginning to turn and I worked out a strategy. I did gain a couple of hundred metres over the next 2 hours. I caught and passed the EPS, but was so tired that some of my tacks were clumsy and I faded until I saw another Blaze ahead. This got the adrenaline going and I gradually hauled him in but finished a few seconds behind.

The race took about 4 hours, the wining Blaze was 12 minutes ahead and to think I had been the leading Blaze! Wilsonian took the first 3 places out of 48 entries, with a V3000, an Alto and a Wayfarer, I came 25th, but enjoyed it and will sleep well tonight. Where else do you get a chance to beat for 2 hours solid, and that says it all - it wasn't a Blaze course - all dead downwind or beating upwind.

Back to the points series next week - I'm top Blaze in that, but first I have to get a 35 footer from the Solent to Falmouth - that will be a different sort of sailing.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 1 month ago #973

  • Stewart609
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Medway Dinghy Regatta is held over the same weekend as the MYC Keel Boat Regatta. The Medway has been a busy place but sadly few Blazes. The wind was light for this 2 day event and perhaps because of the forecast some Blaze regulars stayed away.

I was there (I'm always there) but on Saturday Chris Saunders in 679 left me behind at the start of the afternoon race. Finding the best wind, shift or current is a challenge on the estuary with its strong tides and winding channel. I found the correct combination when well into the race and caught and passed Chris. But after rounding the furthest mark from the club I found a bad combination and Chris got it right to pull into a good lead which I never challenged.

Sunday was probably going to be much the same with a Scorpion sailing away into a good lead in the light, dead down wind or beating courses. This is probably why Chris didn't turn up and likewise for the other 4 or 5 Blazes we have.

I was there and in fact the wind was a little better but my performance against the Scorpion was only slightly improved as I pulled well clear of the fleet in the 3rd race due to a reaching leg but the wind lightened and the Scorpion got ahead.

In the 4th race I chased the Scorpion and left the rest of the fleet but was prevented from crossing the river by a huge dredger which let the Scorpion get away and the rest of the fleet catch up.

At the moment I don't yet know my results in each individual race but know I came 5th out of 17 in that fleet overal.

A great event with 80 boats in all and many visitors. A great venue and great catering and with so many people camping it had a Nationals atmosphere. It was however not Blaze weather.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 3 weeks ago #978

  • Stewart609
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Last of the Early Summer Points

Well as you probably know if you keep turning up you'll do well in any series, and that's the case for me. But I was shocked at the speed of the other Blazes on a tight reach down the river in the last race. I couldn't keep up!

I use off-the-boom sheeting with a bridle at the back, all the others use a centre main. Its clear I just don't have the leach tension and I don't think I can generate that much with the kicker. Later whilst speaking to one of the others I said I envied their speed and the reply was they envied my pointing. So its a trade off, and I think I may have the balance of point over power a little wrong.

Not to worry too much though, that last race was my worst of the series but my other results mean it was a discard. I should be picking up the trophy at the end of the year which is a nice change for me since I used to sail a 4000 and I hardly ever got in the prizes due to its rather tough handicap.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 2 weeks ago #981

  • Stewart609
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With 5 Blazes competing in the Medium Handicap today you'd think I'd have a couple behind me but it was not my day.

I'm sure the boat was not to fault, I used masses of kicker like I never have before and that seemed to cure the slow close-reaching I complained about. But it is essential to get a good start especially when its a reach to the first mark. Instead I got drowned in Wayfarers and as you are probably aware their wind shadow is similar to a block of flats. By the time I escaped the other Blazes were well gone.

It was similar story in the afternoon although not so bad and I was able to confirm good reaching speed.

Stuart Bailey won both races followed by Matt Love or Andny Pickrell the order depending on whether it was the am or PM race then Richard Metcalfe in the morning. Leaving me 5th. In the afternoon I came 4th but then Richard was absent.

I missed last week and then it was my son's Stag Do last night so I put it down to too much curry and beer and not enough practice.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 5 years 1 week ago #983

  • Stewart609
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Sparkling Sailing on the Medway

Wilsonian SC has a special series of slightly longer races with Committee Boat starts scattered amongst it's programme. The morning race didn't count towards anything and was brief. Only 2 Blazes out and I was the first back and well ahead of the other classes racing at the same time.

"Nice work", were my thoughts as I'd spent most of Saturday tweaking my boat. Strangely it was dead downwind speed which was improved even though I now had a more powerful kicker and downhaul, and a revised system for the centre board. But the biggest contribution to winning was my competitor not knowing the course.

The afternoon race was the main event. It was designed to be longer than usual, have a committee boat start and there were 4 Blazes out to enjoy. The wind was brisk and the sun was shining.

Pandemonium at the start due to a strong starboard end bias and a lot of bargers. However I followed one boat length behind Stuart Bailey (719) who started at the sweet spot. Chris Saunders (679) had to bail out with no room. By the windward mark I had a Kestrel and a Wayfarer alongside and Stuart was a few boat lengths ahead. Those spinnaker boats really held me up as Stuart increased his lead but a gybe away at the next mark left them behind as I gained very slowly on Stuart and pulled further away from Chris. I think the 4th Blaze had retired as it was now quite windy.

I seemed to have just an edge dead downwind and could maintain contact on the reaches and beats. Although Chris says he was gaining on me upwind. I didn't see him but I'm sure he gained when I capsised at a gybe after being unsettled by a cruiser.

At the most leeward mark of the course I saw Stuart "wear round", I went for the gybe and dropped it and was surprised to see Chris come through whilst I was recovering. Chris certainly did have good upwind speed because he gained and caught Stuart by the finish. All 3 Blazes finished within a minute of each other after a 90 minute race. But unfortunately I was third - the 4th Blaze had retired.

The meatier kicker certainly helps with planning to windward and the extra purchase in the downhaul really can flatten the top of the sail. I've yet to get to grips with the boat, apparently it was over 20 mph but I'm so unused to the boat I couldn't tell. Had I realised I might not have gone for those gybes!
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 11 months ago #992

  • Stewart609
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I missed a week and came back to another of our "special" Commodores Events. Only one other Blaze out and so a disappointment, doubly so since he thrashed me. This was Chris Saunders (679) who I can keep up with in slightly less wind but it was windy on Sunday and he just pulled away.

It was a committee boat start but I noticed a port tacker did well in the previous start and so I aimed for that end of the line, but on starboard tack. This rather spoilt the start for a couple of 2000s who were coming in on port, and Chris was unaware or cautious and started in the middle. So I felt great for the first ½ mile with all boats behind or to leeward until Chris tacked and managed to cross just ahead.

Chris gradually pulled further ahead and I felt rather lonely with him well ahead and the 2000s and any other boats in our fleet well behind. However I misread the course and had to unwind from a mark and pass it correctly which let the 2000s catch me. I never got rid of them from then on with all legs either dead upwind or dead downwind and enough breeze for a 2000 to plane (yes it was windy). I also dropped it at one gybe.

I haven't seen the results but it won't be good reading. What will be good is that a couple of guys have noticed that the Blazes are getting good racing and so we have a Vortex rider and a 2000 helm beginning to look at buying a Blaze. Both are keen regulars and so I anticipate even better competition at Wilsonian Sailing Club for Blaze sailors.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 11 months ago #997

  • Stewart609
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The first day of September and the two guys I regard as the fastest in the club were out. I don't think they've met on the water before and I was itching to see who would do best. Stuart Bailey (719)and Chris Saunders (679).

Naturally I can beat them - no, I do think these guys are good all rounders and I can only beat them when the conditions suit me. Anyway it was Stuart who triumphed both times but Matt Love (531) had good speed in the afternoon but rammed one of the navigation buoys and damaged a rack terminally and had to retire.

As for me I was close and even led on occasions but came third in both races. I have a boat speed problem - I'm not fast on a reach. I am faster than the lot dead downwind - how I don't know. I'm also fast upwind, well certainly in medium and light winds and I also can point or drive off when I want to. Some of the others are fast upwind but generally only when driving off.

Perhaps its my age - I'm certainly the oldest and thus probably not as energetic as the others but I have a plan and I'll be implementing it ASAP - I'm just hoping it doesn't ruin my speed on the other points of sailing. Watch this space.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 11 months ago #1000

  • Stewart609
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Tough Sailing on the Medway

Second Sunday of September and the Wilsonian Grand Prix. The Grand Prix is a long distance race. The name makes no sense to me - it used to be called the Creeks Race and that describes it well. Held on a weekend when high tide is during the afternoon the race takes us up some of the creeks and around some of the islands of the lower reaches of the Medway. Many people don't realise the huge area of water in the lower Medway at high tide, there are parts where the river is 5 kilometres wide.

There were 3 Blazes out. Stuart Bailey (719), Chris Saunders (679) and myself (609). A downwind start and it was good for me, I have good speed dead downwind and I started well but Stuart did get ahead after a while and Chris was not far behind. Many miles later Stuart was a couple of hundred metres in front, Chris was just ahead of me and we had a short reach. I was just able to gain on Chris when the wind was light to medium (although he never noticed) but the wind came up and he pulled away again. At the next mark we started the long beat back to the club I held station but could make no gain and then a squall came through. The lashing hail and poor visibility made me switch to survival mode, in 10 minutes the waves were beginning to build and I was scared about going into irons on the tacks. I didn't since I tried so hard not to, it would have been curtains - just flooded salt marsh all around and the rescue boat had disappeared (probably to help boats in trouble). I struggled through and got back to the club just ahead of the Fast Handicap boats who had started 30 minutes later.

Chris and Stuart had got onto the reach before the storm and so didn't have the worry of going into irons and had finished well ahead of me with Chris just pipping Stuart on the line.

The race was actually quite short at only 2 hours and a great experience for me. Firstly I stayed upright and avoided problems in what at times must have been force 5 - that gives me confidence. Secondly I have tweaked the boat and found my reaching speed has improved. The tweak was quit simple - I tightened my lowers. They are still quite floppy but clearly they were too much so before.

Clearly I came 3rd in the Blazes but have no idea how we did against the rest of the fleet on handicap except to say boats were still arriving well after we had showered and packed the Blazes away.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 10 months ago #1003

  • Stewart609
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Last Races of the Late Summer Points Series
Windy Medway, but it wasn't the strength that was the problem is was the variation, great slamming gusts.

I came 3rd of 3 blazes and as I crossed the line there was an almighty bang. I let everything off and limped gently to the shore. I couldn't see anything wrong but later discovered the goose neck fitting inside the boom had failed.

Only Chris (679) went out in the afternoon and that gave him sufficient points to win the series - just from Stuart (719). I (609) couldn't do the afternoon race and so had to count a DNS of 29 points and hence came somewhere down at 6th and beaten by one of the other Blazes and hence 4th Blaze in the series.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 10 months ago #1004

  • Stewart609
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Leigh Trophy Race - Sept 22nd 2013

Another of the long distance races at Wilsonian SC, which I love so much. This race dates from the days when Wilsonian Sailing Club used to race over to Liegh-on-Sea near Southend, stay overnight and race back. These days its kept inside the confines of the lower Medway and scheduled on a day when we can race at the top of the tide and use the many creeks and islands for our course.

Today the wind was light and so the course was shortened. It was a battle with the tide as we went down river against the last of the flood and turned back to face the first of the ebb. Three Blazes, Chris (679), myself (609) and John Hewat who had borrowed a boat to see what Blaze sailing was all about.

Our start was with countless other boats in the Medium Handicap Fleet. I was swamped by Lasers at the off-wind start, Chris got away and went straight down the middle of the river followed by me when I'd shaken off the pesky slower boats. John (an experienced river sailor) decided to head inshore and take a longer route out of the tide. At first we gained but then the wind dropped and John got well ahead. I headed up and into less tide and took Chris.

However the next leg was a dead run against the tide. As you may have read before I seem to have good dead down-wind speed and sure enough I gained on John and thought I had left Chris a bit behind however the little hardening to a reach out into the strong tide to round a mark bought Chris back into play and we all rounded close along with a National 12.

Broad reaching to the next mark took me into the lead followed by a couple of legs in the diminishing tide to our turning point where the course was shortened and it was a straight race back to the club, with me in pole position. Actually there were a couple of Wayfarers and a National 12 ahead of me.

Concious that I might be tempted to point too high I drove the boat for speed, Chris inched his way up to windward along with the N12 and the Wayfarers ahead. They all expected the tide to be in ebb and against them, so did I, but that's not what my transits indicated and as a bonus I was in more wind and getting lifted along the river - I held on.

After a while I was quite separated from the fleet so I tacked back towards the shallows and the other boats. Chris was now a long way behind and the N12. I was not far behind the leading Wayfarer. "Perhaps it will work again", and so I went out again but the tide had now turned and it didn't pay so for safety I tacked back and had lost a bit but Chris was still behind. The other Blaze was now so far back he wasn't a threat but Chris was and so I kept between him and the next critical point which is a bit of fast flowing tide which cannot be avoided.

A minute in this tidal race is only 30 metres and so I dumped as much dirty on Chris as was possible - he had to put in and extra tack and I escaped around the corner. Now it was a long slow beat in shallow water to get to the club line. A delicate balance of staying inshore to avoid the tide but not so far as to lose the wind and then there were some shifts to try and sync with.

I never caught the leading Wayfarer or the National 12, but I comprehensibly beat the other two Blazes. I can only put it down to sheer unadulterated skill.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 10 months ago #1012

  • Stewart609
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Sheer unadulterated skill not enough today.

I guess it was the top of force 4 or the bottom of force 5 with a strong ebb straight into an easterly. So on the Medway that means chop.

The morning had the strongest tide and the strongest wind and I was close to the line at the start so went back when I heard a second gun. This put me in a port/starboard situation at the first mark which I lost. The subsequent 720 lost a lot of time but fortunately no capsise in the process. I made up for that later and so came 4th out of 4 Blazes and was even beaten on the water by a Laser. Chris (679) beat Matt (531), Andy Pickrell (587) was way ahead of me but well behind the other two.

Slightly less wind or maybe just less tide made the afternoon race more of a race for me but I just don't have the height or weight for those conditions. It couldn't possibly be lack of skill!

Chris sailed away and Matt got past me on the first reach. Chris and I both had capsises at buoy 25, but Chris managed to stay in the lead whereas I fell further behind and lost my hat.

No, strong winds are not my forte I haven't found a "sweet spot" going to windward. I can point and I can drive but neither seem quite right and the complication of a short chop just adds to the confusing messages. However I look forward to when we admit another to the Blaze fold. John Hewat has purchased a boat from within the club and will be out in the next week or two. We seriously could have 6 keen Blaze sailors out some weekends.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 10 months ago #1013

  • Stewart609
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Fluky conditions on the Medway.
How pleasant to be sailing in such warm weather - pity it was so light.

The morning "scratch race" belonged to no particular series and was just to keep us entertained whilst the "Crew's Race" and the "Women's Race" was held.

The afternoon was part of the "Commodores Series". Light winds meant many didn't bother. However in the Medium Fleet there were two Blazes a Laser and a Miracle. John Hewat (732) is new to the fleet and made a very good start but I sneaked up from below and ruined that for him and drew away. Gradually on the next couple of legs I got further and further ahead of the fleet into what I had assumed would be an unassailable lead - then I sailed into a flat spot. A battle between the sea breeze and the prevailing wind left a band of light, non-existent and unpredictable wind. I had almost caught the fast fleet which had started 10 minutes earlier but was becalmed.

Horrified I saw the Blaze then the Laser and then the Miracle go past and then I got a puff and latched onto their tail to see that the safety boat was sending us back to the club line. So the race was on again but I was starting last! However I did manage to point and get some speed so I was soon back into the lead but headed which put the other Blaze into an increasingly better position as we sought the shallows to avoid the ebb tide. By the time I reached the shallows I had been headed so much I was now on the tail of the other Blaze.

We rounded a tidal gate with him just ahead and a period of steady wind. It seemed so unfair to trail him when I had been doing so well. I worked the boat moving back and forth, in and out and trimming with care in a desperate attempt to get back in contact as we got close to the club. It didn't work so I split, I went high and more into the foal tide to just be somewhere else. He was going low but decided to tack to stay between me and the finish line and this brought us together. We tacked up the trots - sometimes not making progress,due to the tide. But my boat can point and with the "off-the-boom" sheeting I don't lose as much on each tack and harnessing one little gust I got ahead and to windward and dumped on him as much as possible. Have you noticed that if you oversheet and almost stall the sail your turbulent air is particularly turbulent?

Suffice to say this was sufficient for me to cross the line in the lead. The Miracle was still a threat. I heard later that they got within 1 boat length of the line and then dropped back in a lull and it took another 4 minutes for them to cross. This gave me a victory and 3rd place in the series. Chris Saunders, Blaze 679 (who wasn't out today) in 2nd and a Wayfarer, again not out today wins the series.

I used to be good in strong winds and rather impatient in the light stiff, I seem to have turned this around.
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Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog 4 years 10 months ago #1016

  • Stewart609
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Grey, wet and windy on the Medway, not to mention cold and with poor visibility. I'm glad I was Race Officer today, well that's what I thought at first. But the afternoon was lighter and brighter and it was a shame I wasn't out because we had 1 lone Blaze sail over the course to get the points - I could have given him something to think about in those conditions. Next week I'll be there and hopefully a few of the others.
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