Sponsored by Hartley Boats, Allen, the Old Salt Loft.
45 Sailors travelled to Stone sailing club situated on the river Blackwater in Essex. With a promising forecast, it was set to be a brilliant event, and it certainly was!
Day 1: With the temperature in the mid 20’s and the wind getting that way by the last race. It was always going to be great day of racing....
Race 1: 10 – 16 knots. The fleet got away cleanly despite the pin end being slightly biased. Paul Buckley tried a sneaky port end, which did not fully materialise. However, it was local sailor Trevor Bawden leading Jack Grogan at the top mark. With both sailors going harder left than others, giving them a sizable lead. On the next beat, Jack got through Trev, but failed to cover off the right-hand shift that Ben Harden had locked into. Ben led down the run on the ‘triangle sausage course’, set by Wendy and her great team, he then extended his lead to claim his first win of the series. Jack got gobbled up on the final reaching leg to the finish. Letting Malc Hutching’s and a huge gaggle of boats through.
Finishing positions: 1st Ben, 2nd Malc, 3rd Eden. Trev ‘The local’ getting a 4th and the special mention goes to Paul Buckley for coming home 7th in a Polyester boat, which can be bought for as little as £1000.
Race 2: 15 -20 knots. With the breeze now building and the pin end moved slightly, the committee boat was the place to be. Malcy got a belter of a start and being so close to the line he had to ask the committee boat after the race if he was over. Jack’s judgement was not so good, having to then reach all the way down to the end of the line and re-round as the ‘i’ flag was flying. This allowed Ben, Eden, Malc and Nic Tolhurst to trade places up the beat. Nic took himself out of the leaders group with a swim during one of his tacks. Ben and Eden soon separated from Malcy and they raced hard for the entire race with Ben grabbing the win from Eden. Youth sailor William Gould taking 3rd from Macly.
The special mention goes to the ‘Great Grand Master’ Robert Coyle who was 7th at the final Gybe mark, but unfortunately choose that moment to have a bath in the river, despite this he still got back to 12th.
Race 3: 18-22 knots (and some bigger gusts). With the breeze up, starting cleanly was the name of the game, as the ‘i’ flag was still displayed. The fleet got away smoothly. This time Nic stayed upright all race and lurked behind Ben who was leading until the run before Nic decided to pounce. Putting on the after burners he claimed a win, keeping Ben at bay for the final beat and two reaches. 3rd place was taken by Martin Jones, who had kept it ‘clean and simple’ opting for the left side of the beat keeping out of the tide, and also were the waves were smaller – smart sailing!
Special mention goes to Keith Gilmore. Despite only being 65kg he manged his best finish of the day with a 12th in the windiest race.
After a great day of sailing, it was safe to say the beers were flowing and it was well earnt. The Dick of Day flamingo shirt and shorts were on full display, being modelled beautifully by Will after maybe having a few to many pre-national drinks the night before. This did mean he was useful in the evening social of gaming and quizzing as he was purely drinking soft drinks. Special mention to Simon and Laura for hosting such fun evening festivities.
Day 2: Sun again, hot again and wind again – excellent.
Wendy and the race management team had mentioned in the briefing that the fleet would be sailing windward leeward courses today, however given the conditions it was deemed better to revert back to screaming reaches and the smiles, so that’s what they did.
Race 4: 16-20knots. ‘i’ flag displayed again meaning starting was key. As a trip (gybe) round the ends was not something that anyone was keen on doing. Tye Wichard, was showing us how it was done this time. Starting a 1/3rd of the way down from the committee boat he blasted off into the distance. However, in the final stages of the beat Ben squeezed through. These two being ‘heavy weather experts’ made it look easy and sailed into a race long battle with Ben taking the Bullet. However, Tye opted to come 3rd, instead of second, by going ‘safe’.... As he tacked around the final gybe mark, knowing this would mean sacrificing a position, and letting Eden take 2nd and Tye would come home 3rd. A good decision, maybe?
The special mention goes to me this time. As I joined the swimming team at the final gybe mark as I threw a 6th place away and also received lump on my head for my trouble (must duck next time)!
Race 5: 18-20knots. Still with the ‘i’ flag flying. Staying the correct side of the line with 1 minute to go was critical. Again, the line was clear and the usual battles started, this time Christian Smart was flying. He led to the windward mark. However, on his rounding touched the buoy so had to put in a quick spin. Just managing to hold the lead, Christian got to the spreader mark and promptly forgot the first lap is a Triangle and headed off downwind. Eden in second, seemed to follow suit. Ben who was third at the time saw the pair heading off downwind in the wrong direction and took the opportunity to fly past on the way to correct reach mark. This mistake by Christian landed him the Dick of the day flamingo suit!
Later in the race a huge 35-degree right hand shift shuffled the leading pack again. Charlie Matthews managed the shift well, much to Tye’s disappointment 😊. Christian Smart, sailed back through the fleet after his whoopsie moment and scored his 4th place finishes in a row. Being a past champion but having a bit of time away from the class, it was always expected he would be right up at the front in no time. By the finish it was Eden First, Ben second and Charlie Mathews third.
A special mention goes to Richard Botting, who managed the shift well but did not manage to avoid the 33ft trimaran so well, even when you’re on starboard! Richard’s lovely purple boat did not escape unharmed resulting in him retiring from the event, and being run over! A shame, as he was up to 5th at that point.
Race 6: 10-14 knots. ‘i’ flag displayed. Which was the new normal and again the new normal was a clean start. This time there was a committee boat bias. Jack got pole position at the committee boat and squeezed Ben into the 2nd row. Malcy started a few boats further down the line but popped out well. Ben did two quick tacks to clear his air from Jack. However. At this point Jack tacked out hard to the right hand side and therefore lead around the windward mark. With Ben behind. Over the next laps Ben and Jack battled for the lead, with Malcy keeping an eye on things. Ben managed to get away. Jack caught a lump of weed at the final top mark allowing Malcy to squeeze past him on the final reach. So Ben won, Malcy 2nd and Jack 3rd.
The special mention going to Mark Ripley on Fire sail (slightly smaller sail) coming home 9th. In lightest race of day showing that he is getting the hang of the blaze compared to his usual RS aero.
Also, another special mention is for Ben, as for the second time in a row, he became the Blaze national champion with a day to spare!!!
After racing Stone Sailing club hosted a commodore’s reception, free drinks and nibbles for the fleet. It was also noted at the commodore’s reception that the bar had been drunk dry of beer already! So, man of the hour Paul Buckley drove to a near by brewery and picked up plenty more beer to see the fleet through the weekend!
The commodore’s reception was followed by happy hour, an amazing curry and then a local band. I’m sure the majority of the fleet will blame their tired legs for the dodgy dancing seen in the club bar later that evening, oh, and the £1 shots!
Final day: Finally, the wind was 8-12 knots, still swelteringly hot, and the chat in the boat park was how to power up rigs for the lighter days racing. Also, there were some big battles looming. With Ben having taken the trophy and Eden locked in 2nd place, Malcy and Nic were contesting the final podium place knowing that they could not be caught from behind. Equally, the points were so close from 5th to 10th that it was anyone’s guess how that would turn out.
Race 7: 8-10 knots. Due to the earlier start this time the fleet had to deal with the tide taking them over the line at the start. With the ‘i’ flag displayed it was sure to catch some people out. However, it did not catch a few people out, the tide caught the whole fleet out, resulting in a general recall (the first of the series). Wendy quickly restarted the race, this time under ‘u’ flag. Thankfully, there were no victims and the race started cleanly. Ben was leading around the top mark and calmly sailed off to a sizable lead with Malcy behind. Whilst the chasing pack of Eden, Charlie, Jack, Nic and Keith got busy trying to grab 3rd. The place changing happened on the run this time with Eden and Charlie going right, which was incorrect. Resulting in them getting overtaken by Keith, Jack and Nic. However, it was Keith who charged through to grab 3rd and Nic overtook Jack to come 4th.
The special mention could go to Keith for a great podium finish, but he has had a mention already. So it goes to Alex Porteous, the only lady sailor in the fleet, who managed to come 24th, but more importantly beating Andy Ramsey, her brother in law.
Race 8 Final race: 8-12 knots. With the tide still rushing in Wendy had no choice but to the leave the ‘U’ flag up. As a result, it was respected, and the fleet got away first time. Malcy lead around the windward mark looking like he had certainly got is rig in the right window for the conditions. He was looking like he was nicely powered up for the small but inconvenient wind against tide chop that was forming. Despite Bens best efforts Malcy was too far ahead and claimed his first win of the national’s. Eden and Jack squabbled for 3rd with Eden just getting there on the final reach.
Being the final race the special mention goes to the whole fleet and for having some spectacularly close and fair racing, with great socials.
Stone sailing club were brilliant hosts. Wendy and her race team were faultless, getting away a full series of racing efficiently. The River Blackwater and the Essex coast showed why it’s the one of the sunniest places in the country with wall to wall sunshine and perfect sailing breeze.
The final placings were:
1st - Ben Harden.
2nd - Eden Hyland
3rd - Malcolm Hutchings (1st Grand Master)
4th - Nic Tolhurst (1st Master)
5th - Jack Grogan
1st Great Grand Master - Robert Coyle (18th)
1st Youth - William Gould (10th)
1st Lady - Alex Porteous (35th)
1st Polyester boat - Paul Buckley
1st Fire sail - Mark Ripley
Endeavour - George Somers
Thank you to our event sponsors
· Hartley Boats – Class builder for the Blaze fleet.
· Allen Brothers – Manufacturers of performance sailing hardware.
· The Old Salt Loft – Premium printing and stitching solutions for all types of clothing and kit.
Finally, thanks to all the travellers from as far away as Wales. We hope to see a lot of you at the next big event on the East Coast, which is the EAST COAST CHAMPIONSHIPS, being held at the -Royal Corinthian YC in Burnham-on-Crouch. Having had 30 boat last year, we hope for more this year. There is plenty of accommodation with onsite camping and many pubs. So put August 20th/21st in your diary!
See you all soon.
Find out more about the Blaze class - https://www.blaze-sailing.org
Written by Jack Grogan.