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Inland Championships at Draycote Water Sailing Club

On the morning of Saturday 1st October 34 intrepid Blaze and Fire sailors gathered at Draycote Water Sailing Club for their Inland Championships, an event combined with the RS300 fleet for their Inlands also.

The breeze levels were light to moderate on arrival, but with all the forecasts showing a sizeable increase in velocity, four sailors elected at registration to sail as a Fire (the smaller 8.4sqm sail).

After a welcome from the Class chairman and DWSC member, the Race Officer Dave Rowe, briefed the sailors on what to expect - three back-to-back races around a trapezoid course - and more importantly for the visitors where to avoid the two weed patches present in the lake, both identified by large yellow buoys.

The fleet launched on time into the building Westerly with a couple of boats returning to shore immediately to switch down to the Fire sail.

The first race got away cleanly, which was more than could be said for some of the gybes on the run (keeping the rescue crews busy). The deemed wisdom at Draycote in a Westerly is to go left up the beat, being a bit further down the order, this correspondent has no idea whether the leaders did or not!

The winner of Race 1 was Christian Smart (Pembrokeshire YC), a returner to the Blaze class in a new boat, having had a sojourn to try to find something better - I guess he just couldn't! Other notable mentions go to Lee Marriott (IOSSC) who finished second in his first Blaze Inlands and third was Nick Ripley from Paignton SC.

The fleet's usual sweeper, Ben Harden, coming in fifth, something he didn't let happen again for the other two races.

Race 2 was again a clean start and although the Race Officer set a start line with a 10 degrees port end bias, the Committee boat end was fought for. Sailors were starting to work out the shifts, as the wind increased hitting gusts of 27 knots, and the finishing order was Ben Harden (Burnham SC), Tye Wichard (Royal Burnham YC), and Nick Ripley.

Race 3 went much as race 2 except the meteorology decided to mix it up! The race course experienced light rain, that killed the wind, then heavy fast rain that hurt, and then returning gusts. Again the starboard end was fought for and after the regulation three laps on the trapezoid course, the 1 2 3 was Ben, Charlie Matthews (Burnham SC) and Lee Marriott, proving that the places for the day were mixed up a bit.

After sailing in the bar, meat pies were enjoyed and the Class held its AGM. Prior to the AGM the Dork of the Day (the honour of wearing a bright pink flamingo Hawaiian suit while sailing the next day) was awarded to Andy Wilson of Island Barn Reservoir SC - although it should really have gone to his wife! For the tale went that in readying himself for the event he couldn't find the detachable tow ball for his car.

So at great expense, and demonstrating his commitment for the event, he went and hired a car - only to be told by his wife that she had "tidied it away" in a shoe box in the garage!

Later that evening many of the competitors enjoyed a curry and beers in Dunchurch.

Sunday dawned to a very different day and a glassy looking lake. The forecast predicted wind filling up to about 6 knots between 11 and 12, and so with a 10.30 scheduled start, the Race officer postponed the racing to allow the breeze to fill in. That it did with a little aplomb, from the North West.

Sailing a trapezoid course again for all 3 races, with the windward mark being near the North shore made for some interesting approaches and wind shifts. These lighter winds should have favoured the light weights, and that was certainly the case in Race 4 with Christian Smart taking the win, Charlie Matthews second and Will Gould (Carsington SC) third.

Notable mention was for Lee Marriott who attempted, and pulled off, a port tack flyer!

Race 5 was in further light shifty wind with another new name appearing in the results. Ben took first, Alan Watkins (Pembrokeshire YC) second, and Will Gould third.

Race 6 was eventful! As the race started, so the wind decided to start a clock round to the West meaning that as the boats approached the windward mark they were pretty much reaching into it. The wind was moving direction further and faster meaning those now on what should have been the top reach, needing to tack for the mark. The wind had clocked 80 degrees!

The Race Committee rapidly reset the course, signalling this effect, which most heard although some had to take a long route back and 3 didn't at all! The race finished with Ben 1st and Inland Champion, Will Gould rising to second in this race, and Charlie Matthews third.

In the Fire fleet, Simon Beddows (Henley SC) took every race, and the Inland title. The Fire's started with the Blazes and Simon was often to be found in the top half of the bigger "canvassed" fleet.

After a Request for Redress for not knowing the change of course was heard and average points given, the prize-giving was held.

Malcolm Hutchings was awarded the Blaze Traveller Series prize. Simon Beddows was awarded the Fire Inlands Cup. Some other spot and category prizes were awarded including to the oldest fleet member Paul Taylor, who sadly now hangs up his hikers at the age of 79.

The overall mix of results, with names and places proves what a competitive fleet this is whether in a new Mk4 boat or an older version.

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