The Hartley Boats Blaze Nationals took place over the 11th – 13th June, hosted by Paignton SC on the waters of Tor Bay with an astonishing 70 boats making the final score card.
The Blaze fleet, seeming keener than ever, started to arrive to the English Riviera in dribs and drabs from the Wednesday, some of whom joined the club racing in the evening. However, the majority of the fleet arrived throughout the Thursday, with some even making the journey from as far north as Aberdeen.
During Thursday morning it was quite common to see Will Gould from Hartley Boats being swamped by the masses who had new sails on order and were chomping at the bit to see it in the flesh! Many of whom were keen to get out on the water to test the new sail and make the decision on whether they would stick with the North, which they had tried and tested rig settings for or opt to go for their new Hartley Boats (HB) sail.
As a fleet of 25 or so launched and recovered their boats from Paignton beach throughout Thursday afternoon the dinghy park on the green only continued to build. It wasn’t until Friday morning the scale of the fleet could really be seen, at least 70 Blazes strewn across Paignton Green – a marvellous sight for any sailing enthusiast.
The usual tinkering ensued on Friday, with many opting to use the new HB sail, complete with rigging guide, for the first day of racing. The Blaze fleet promptly launched in an overcast English Riviera for the scheduled 12.55 warning signal.
Unfortunately for the race officer, James Ripley, three very large cruise ships had decided they wanted to drop anchor right in the centre of Tor Bay, our race area. So, a course was set slightly closer to Brixham in the south of the bay in a gusty 12-15knot south westerly breeze.
Being the biggest Blaze gathering on record, the fleet was understandably nervous for the first start especially with such a long line, not seen before in a Blaze fleet. James set a traditional trapezoid course for this race. The start got away cleanly, with Mark Hartley showing incredible pace off the line and up the first beat. The top 3 finishers Ben Harden, Craig Richards and Mark Hartley finishing in that order.
Another 2 races got away cleanly in a breeze which was still around 12-15 knots, perfect fully powered up Blaze sailing conditions! Well the starts were mainly clean except in race two where there was a slight pin end incident resulting in protest from the race committee against one sailor (we won’t name any names, but we heard about it in the bar for the rest of the evening). Race 2 was on a Slalom course and Races 3 and 4 used the Reverse P course. The reverse P made for some very exciting racing with good reaches which the Blaze really enjoys.
Race Officer James Ripley made the excellent decision to keep the fleet on the water for one more race as the forecast for the rest of the weekend was looking very light. This time the fleet were obviously eager to get back to the bar as there was a general recall. The U Flag was hoisted for the restart and only one got pinged – our glorious leader Richard Botting!
Once ashore, the fleet seemed to be pretty knackered, especially after pulling their boats up the sandy Paignton beach and a long day on the water! However, the fleet was in great spirit as many enjoyed a cold beer and a story or two of the days racing whilst packing away the boats.
Friday night came and went pretty quickly with a lovely Commodores Reception and curry put on by Paignton Sailing Club, a few beers and then a mosey into the pubs around the harbour.
Top 3 after day 1
1st Ben Harden 1,1,1,(5)
2nd Mark Hartley 3,2,2,(17)
3rd Malcolm Hutchings 4,(6),5,2
(The first of 2 discards kicking in after 4 races)
Saturday dawned and finally the English Rivera delivered the sun, unfortunately, it didn’t deliver the wind, at first. Racing was postponed for an hour to let the sea breeze fill in. The usual umming and arghing ensued, would the wind fill in, would it not? What rig setting are you using? Those lowers look tight? Those lowers look loose? And so on…
Finally, the sea breeze prevailed and a light wind of maximum 10knots came in. Fortunately, the sea state hadn’t had a chance to build up in the days before and so it was certainly sailable.
Race 5 got away pretty quickly, this time with a more easterly breeze, so racing out to sea for the first time of the regatta. Eden Hyland took his first win of the event and was looking quick in the light winds.
Race 6, the wind had started to move to the south before this one got away and the fleet had also found their confidence with the start, resulting in another general. The course was reset more towards Brixham and the U flag hoisted for the restart. This time two of the front runners got pinged, Nic Tolhurst and Ben Pickering, both results that should they have counted would have made a difference to their overall standing. This time Ben Harden and Mike Lyons battled it out for first. With Ben getting away from Mike on the last downwind leg.
Race 7, Ben Harden just needed one more win and the event could be claimed already. As the wind continued to track right (southwest) Ben made a last-minute call and pulled off a pin end flyer, crossing the entire fleet on port and into a huge lead. The rest of the fleet battled it out with Jack Grogan leading the pack for the majority of the race until the last downwind gate. Where Ben Hutton-Penman chose the opposite gate mark, got a gust and sailed through into second. There was no catching Ben Harden though, who finished 2mins 30 seconds in front of second place Ben HP and with it took the overall Nationals win with a day to spare!
Once back ashore the fleet again enjoyed a few stories of the days racing over a couple of cold beers whilst packing away the boats. Congratulations could be heard coming from the Burnham Blaze Squads 18 strong sailors as they realised – Its coming home!
The fleet then retired to the club for the AGM at which Richard Hartley, the Rights Holder and class manufacturer, gave a very enthusiastic and supportive talk about his plans for the Blaze class. There was even a promise of a free demo boat for the class, if the class could manage to get a magic 100 on the start line for 2022! After the AGM the fleet tucked into a hog roast kindly provided by Hartley Boats and watched the sun set across the harbour.
Sunday morning the fleet arrived to the dinghy park and a very glass like Tor Bay. No wind, but plenty of sun! Race Officer James Ripley postponed racing for an hour, but for some, even if the wind had filled in it was going to be too much of a waiting game for not much reward. So, masts slowly started dropping across the dinghy park in anticipation of a long drive home. The smoke from the 3 cruise ships still anchored in the bay could be seen going straight up and it wasn’t long before the days racing was abandoned.
So, the results stood after day 2 and a 7-race series with 2 discards.
A thanks must go to everyone at Paignton Sailing Club for the great hospitality and support they gave to the Blaze fleet. The event was run extremely efficiently, and all sailors were fed and watered well.
Also, thanks to our great sponsors.
Hartley Boats – for providing great fleet support with plenty of spares, rigging tips and for the kind sponsorship of a cheaper sail for early bird entries as well as the hog roast on Saturday evening.
Allen – provided plenty of prizes and regatta support with spare hardware.
The Old Salt Loft – supplier of the T-shirt, jumper, face masks – all custom branded. Also, for providing some prizes.
ADM Sails – for supplying some great mast bags for prizes.
Rooster – for subsidised prizes which were distributed amongst the fleet.