Hornsea Sailing Club played host to the 2021 Blaze National Inland Championships with 23 boats entered. The competitors started to arrive on the Friday to beautiful October weather which promised much in the way of lovely sunshine, views, and scenery around Hornsea Mere but less so of wind.
Those who arrived on the Friday went out for a meal in the evening for fish & chips and several beers. A few of us learned never to take away Rob Froud’s beer…(a story you can ask Rob or Pip about if you see them).
3 races were planned for each day and Saturday began with an entertaining briefing from Race Officer, Steve Sharpe, who gave us a brief history of the Mere, its obstacles to avoid and challenging a few of the Blaze sailors on their knowledge of the rules.
Hornsea Mere has 9 marks set clockwise around the lake and as an introduction Steve decided in race 1 we should do a course to take us to all but one of these marks. This first race was particularly light and shifty and the key to the first leg was to find the right breeze, something the Chase Water contingent and the local sailors took full advantage of as Mark Blackham in 774 rounded the first mark in the lead, Gareth Hyland in 837 2nd and Tony Ridley in 857 in 3rd.
With the course set as it was it proved difficult for many opportunities to overtake however after rounding mark 6 Gareth Hyland, 837, went high on a reach and managed to find a bit of breeze which allowed him to pass Mark in 774 and take the lead. These positions held and ended with Gareth, 837, 1st, Mark, 774, 2nd and Tony Ridley, 857, in 3rd.
After a short break for lunch, there had been a significant wind shift and an increase a steadier breeze had filled in which meant a change of course. It also meant there was more of an opportunity for the race officer to set a course with a decent beat and more of an opportunity for place changes.
Race 2 saw Charlie Matthews in 834 round the windward in 1st, followed closely by Pip Warner, 812 in 2nd and Tim Heaton in 853 in 3rd. Round the next few marks Charlie managed to pull away whilst Pip was pulled into the pack and by the 2nd lap it was Charlie still ahead, Tim in 2nd and Gareth Hyland had moved into 3rd. By the end Charlie had pulled away to victory whilst Gareth managed to overhaul Tim to take 2nd and Tim finished 3rd.
Race 3 favoured a pin end start which Charlie in 834 took full advantage of and by the time he had rounded the windward already had a decent lead ahead of Pip in 812 and Josh Hyland in 848. Charlie pulled away and at this point was taking a commanding lead whilst there were place changes behind. By lap two Josh moved into 2nd place and Mark Blackham into 3rd. These three places held into the finish whilst a number of those behind jockeyed for position. Day one ended with Charlie Matthews, 834, in 1st, Gareth Hyland, 837, in 2nd, and Josh Hyland, 848, in 3rd.
That evening most of the competitors headed to the Med (familiar to anyone who has previously done the Hornsea Sprintz series) for a good meal plenty of beers and a good laugh (and some sore heads the next day).
Day 2 followed with a Northerly wind which would prove tricky for the race officer, as by his own admission this was one of the worst wind directions on the lake.
Despite this, we got started and it was Josh Hyland, 848, who took the lead with Mark Blackham, 774, 2nd and Charlie Matthews 834 in 3rd. The next legs were tricky as the wind was patchy and shifty and boats were seen gybing in two different directions to try and pick something up and take advantage whilst Josh and Mark were pulling away. By the second beat Josh had a strong lead whilst Mark followed. However, he then struggled as he picked up a clump of weed which by the time, he had sorted had allowed Charlie to move into 2nd. These places held and the race finished with Josh Hyland, 848 well in the lead, Charlie Matthews, 834 2nd and Mark Blackham in 3rd.
By race 5 the wind had shifted and there was a change in windward mark. The wind around the mark was particularly patchy and very shifty which saw a few of the leading boats struggle once they were close, however a small patch of wind was spotted by Chas Coghill, 671 and Charlie Matthews, 834, which allowed them to round the windward mark in 1st and 2nd respectively with the same patch of wind propelling Richard Woodcock in 793 round as well into 3rd. What followed was a nervy run as the breeze dropped off and then began to fill in behind again which bunched up the fleet and at the front put Chas, Charlie & Richard all close together by the gybe mark. Charlie just managed to get inside the mark as Chas kept ahead of Richard and followed down the reach. Charlie managed to start pulling away at this point and after rounding the next few marks had taken a good lead. By the time we had reached the next windward Charlie was still in the lead, but another puff of breeze filled in at the windward mark which allowed Mark Blackham, 774, to move into 2nd and kept Richard in 793 in 3rd. These places held to the finish.
At this point the wind had really died off and another change in wind direction saw an alteration to the course. The last race, race 6, saw a tricky first beat with low and fickle wind which meant it was key to find the puffs.
One such puff was spotted by Tim Heaton in 853, who rounded the windward in 1st place, followed by Charlie Matthews, 834, in 2nd and Josh Hyland, 848, in 3rd. This was the start of a great tussle between the 3 boats as the wind picked up and changed direction, which meant another beat and a chance for Josh to move into 1st, Tim in 2nd and Charlie holding 3rd. On the reach Charlie went high and managed to overtake the others round the gybe mark. However, it was all still close and by the time the next beat came Josh had managed to take the lead. However, there was a big wind shift on the windward mark which forced Josh into hitting the mark, Charlie hitting Josh and whilst both were doing turns and in the subsequent chaos Tim moved into 2nd just behind Josh. By the time the run to the finish came all 3 boats finished within a few boat lengths but Josh Hyland 848, held on for the win. Tim Heaton 853, took 2nd and Charlie Matthews, 834, came in 3rd.
Overall, a challenging weekend for the race officer and those trying to figure out the shifts and where the breeze was. It was a beautiful weekends sailing, a brilliantly hosted event by Hornsea SC and Pip Warner and the last main Blaze event in 2021. Here’s to next year!
The final standings were:
1st. Charlie Matthews – 834 – 5 Points
2nd. Josh Hyland – 848 – 9 Points
3rd. Mark Blackham – 774 – 10 points
4th. Richard Woodcock – 793 – 15 points
5th. Tony Ridley – 857 – 15 points
6th. Gareth Hyland 837 – 17 points
By Charlie Matthews.
Images by Howard Leak