The annual Blaze Open meeting at Warsash Sailing Club saw an awesome entry of 20 boats compete in the waters of the Solent over the weekend 7th/8th September alongside a healthy fleet of Buzzes.
Despite the fickle Sunday forecast, 15 Blazer's made the journey to join the 5 local boats for a 1230 race start on Saturday, this gave all travellers plenty of time to rig and ready in the intermittent sunshine as the breeze steadily built to a nice 10-12 knots.
After the briefing, the 20 boats launched and punched their way into the tide as they headed to the racecourse just outside the mouth of the river Hamble. PRO Nigel Russell did a great job at getting the course set in good time in the incredibly shifty Northerly breeze. But, with the wind being so shifty the first start became very port bias with 30 seconds to go prompting an early trigger pull from Mark Blackham, The first OCS of the weekend. Martin Hattersley, from Chase SC, spotted the shift and managed a port end flyer. Keeping his form all the way round the track, he took a comfortable first bullet.
With the wind still super shifty but a constant 10-12 knots, the second race soon got under way. Mark Blackham of Chase SC was keen to make up for his first OCS, and with only a few seconds to go decided to push hard, again. This time however, Mark was unfortunately pushed up and over the line by Ben Harden for his Second OCS of the weekend. Malcom Hutchings, from Burnham SC, this time took his first win of the weekend after playing the shifts perfectly on the second beat to come back from 6th.
A short break to reset the course for the oscillating wind gave the sun time to break free of the clouds and make for some champagne sailing. Once the wind had settled and the sailors had figured out what was happening with the changing tide, race 3 got under way. This time it was Mike Lyons of Burfield that was OCS and so he opted for an early sail home. Nick Ripley would take a relaxed win in the 3rd and final race of the day.
The fleet was welcomed ashore to tea, coffee and plenty of cake! Sponsored by Vantage Sailing and baked by Petrina Hill and Julie Nunn. Before long the cake was followed by beers, dinner, an amazing sunset and the band Triggers Broom, to round out an excellent day on the Solent.
Unfortunately, the fleet awoke to the forecast 5-6 knots but plenty of sunshine to keep sore heads dehydrated. As PRO Nigel Russell explained in the 0900 briefing, sailors where to expect even shiftier winds than the day before as the forecast suggested a change mid-afternoon from Northerly to South Westerly.
After a drift to the race area it became apparent the day really would be a game of snakes and ladders, as 20 and even 30-degree wind shifts worked their way across the course. Incredibly, the 4th race got away after a short postponement and it was Malcom Hutchings who would continue his excellent form to win the first one, even after short periods of zero wind and 45-degree shifts.
The tone was very much set for the rest of the day, with huge shift playing havoc with the sailor's tactics. The 5th race was won by Ben Harden from Burnham SC who had managed to sail consistently throughout the weekend and take his first Blaze race win. Mike Lyons finished a close 2nd and Gareth Hyland scored his best result of the weekend with a 3rd.
Surprisingly, race 6, and the final one of the weekend was started without any hic-ups. That was until halfway up the first beat when the wind shut off and shifted 20 degrees and then filled back in. This shift allowed newcomer to the class Charlie Mathews of Burnham SC to round the windward mark in 1st place. As he was chased down by the rest of the fleet in the ever-flicking breeze, Mike Lyons soon got through and sailed to a very comfortable win. Followed by Ben Harden and Malcom Hutchings.
Thanks must go to all of the volunteers and to Jane Turner who masterminded everything onshore and ensured all ran smoothly. PRO Nigel Russell, who did a great Job in tricky conditions. Sponsors Vantage Sailing and the Blaze CA for providing prizes.
A very challenging weekend of racing, just what was needed before the Inland Championships at Chase Sailing Club on the 5th & 6th of October. More details here.