22 sailors took part in the first official Blaze event of the year, The East Coast Championships, on Sunday 23rd August at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club on the River Crouch.
Storm Ellen was blowing her socks off in the leading days to the event and so it was with much excitement that the 22 Blaze sailors launched from the RCYC pontoon when PRO Phil Aspinall announced racing would go ahead during the 10 am socially distanced briefing in the dinghy park.
All sailors made their way down the River Crouch on a slack tide to the sailing area just passed the mouth of the River Roach. The westerly wind was gusting just over 20knts at points and the tide was scheduled to start flooding just before the first race, the locals recognised this meant some large choppy waves would be the highlight of the day.
Although it was the first event of the year the competitors did not hold back with the first start being general recalled. The race committee promptly started the next race under a black flag with 5 sailors then being OCS and the tone for the day being set with the rest of the starts under the U flag.
Race 1 was the longest of the day and quickly blew the cobwebs off as the chop began to build making for some testing downwind conditions with many suffering a capsize during a gybe or sending it straight down the mine. Ben Harden finished first with over a minute lead on 2nd place Malcolm Hutchings, followed very closely by James Hutton-Penman.
Race 2 and visiting sailor Andy McIvor got a cracking start along with Nick Tolhurst and Chip Cole. The Top 6 spots in this race were closely fought with many position changes, Ben Harden took another big lead but lost it on the penultimate lap after a pitchpole. This let Andy McIvor sail through into pole position, with James HP chasing close behind. Nick Tolhurst continued to sail consistently and finished in 3rd.
Race 3 and many were starting to look pretty worn out, but unfortunately for the fleet, the wind was still blowing steadily over 15knts and the sea state wasn’t letting up. Ben, James and Malcolm had another closely battled race and finished respectively.
For the 4th and final race of the day, the wind decided to ease up slightly, but the sea state remained. This time it was Youth sailor James HP who would claim his first win of the day after surfing past Malcolm on the last downwind leg of the race. Ben followed in 3rd. A close finish on points.
After all, sailors had returned to the dinghy park and discussed many capsizes, breakages or generally how much they ached already, PRO Phil Aspinall called for the social distanced prize giving in the dinghy park.
1st Lady – Alex Porteous
1st Polyester Boat (Mk1 & Mk2) – Nick Tolhurst
1st – Ben Harden
2nd – James Hutton-Penman (first Youth)
3rd – Malcolm Hutchings
4th - Nick Tolhurst
5th – Paul Buckley
A huge thank you must be said to all involved in running the event at the RCYC. The club did a fantastic job of ensuring a COVID-19 safe environment. Also thank you to Allen for their support of prizes.