Words: Richard Botting Pictures: Jon Worthington
Last weekend saw 4 travellers meet with the 3 home helms at the picturesque Dee Sailing Club for the first Regional Championships of the Blaze 2021 Racing Calendar. There was some consternation as, it being low tide, all that the eye could see was mud flats – we were assured that with a tidal range of 6.5 metres, we would have sufficient water by the time we were scheduled to race.
With time to spare, and an early launch for practice out of the question, much bimbling ensued with a little heightened excitement for the unveiling of the first production unit of the new Hartley Blaze mainsail. A sail to replace the previous North, designed and produced by sailmaker Stephen Graham who has recently joined the Hartley team.
After a socially distanced briefing, and with the water starting to appear in the distance, the sailors changed and headed for the beach to try to entice the water to them. When a minimal water depth had arrived, sails were hoisted and we set off to the racing area, very quickly finding more wind than was forecast. With wind over tide, it was game on!
The Race Officer (Jon Worthington) and his team quickly set a trapezoid course with the run being alongside the moored boats to make it interesting. The deftness in setting the course, and getting the first race away was to become a hallmark of the event. With the warning from the RO that the tide would easily push a boat over the start line the fleet were patient and made a well timed start. Richard Botting, sailing with the new mainsail, pulled out a slight lead from the line and held this to the windward mark but with Will Gould hot on his heels could not relax. This lead was relinquished when fluffing a gybe angle in amongst the moorings and laying the boat on its side! 2 more laps allowed a claw back and the final order was Will 1st, Richard 2nd and Mark Cuthbert 3rd.
With by now only 6 boats to finish (one boat retiring due to buoyancy issues), the second race was swiftly underway. As the start line was near to the moored boats it was not long before the racers found themselves rapidly approaching a large trawler. Richard was able to tack away cleanly but for the 3 behind, shouts of “Room to Tack” and “Starboard” were a plenty! At the windward mark it was Richard followed by Will and then Mark. Positions that were to be maintained for that lap.
In the briefing, we were informed that a Laser (ILCA) fleet would be undertaking 2 races on our course but they would be of little affect. As the front runners were rounding the leeward mark, the Lasers could be seen congregating in the start are and the 1 minute signal sounded. As the course required crossing the start line each lap the question of would they be clear was apparent in the leader’s mind. Thank fully they were clear but with the Blaze in those conditions being substantially faster, the two leading blazes arrived with the 7 leading Lasers at the Windward mark. Richard, approaching on starboard held rights and had just 1 Radial to contend with who he quickly passed underneath on the reach. Will on the other hand rued the RO’s words as he had 6 to contend with and also to give mark room to at the next mark! Positions were held for the remainder of the race with Richard 1st, Will 2nd and Mark 3rd.
For Race 3, the wind had softened and the tide was now on its way out allowing a more aggressive start which Richard capitalised on. With the softening wind, it was also shifting more and a missed shift cost Richard the lead with Will capitalising, not to be caught. Race 3 finished Will, Richard and Mark making a hattrick of 3rd’s!
The boats returned to the beach where the Beachmaster delivered our trollies and the boats were then towed up the hill to the boat park where the sailors were met with sandwiches, cake and hot Tomato soup!
After a stormy night, Sunday dawned with beautiful sunshine and a distinct lack of wind. What little there was forecast, was also due to clock 180° during the scheduled race time. The same launch routine ensued with the sailors waiting for the water to come to them, but with the wind having swung, there was hope that it would now be stable allowing the 3 planned races to be completed. The journey to the race area was interesting as some found themselves going backwards at times with not enough wind to counteract the tide.
The AP was flown whilst the RO waited for the wind to fill in, which it did, but from completely the opposite direction! Much frantic activity ensued from the attending RIBS to turn the course around before the race got underway. The first lap was a slow affair but it wasn’t until the second lap that the wind decided it preferred where it had been and shut down. With the tide still running, some boats found themselves going backwards and it then became a bit of a lottery. The RO shortened the course at the leeward mark with those that had headed for Wales when the wind shut down coming out on top. Mark sailed a superb race in these conditions to almost hold his lead for the entire race before just being pipped at the finish by his stablemate from Leigh and Lowton, Chas Coghill. 3rd was Ian Mclean, a Dee SC member who came in from the left.
Race 5 and the wind had built to an acceptable level but it was still clocking right as Richard proved to the RO with 2 minutes to go by laying the windward mark from the committee boat end in one! AP hoisted and course reset. The race got away cleanly (not even an individual recall for the whole series so we obviously weren’t pushing hard enough), Will taking his usual position at the front and Richard and Mark crossing tacks. Positions were also nip and tuck down the run with Mark holding on. However, due to the time limit and falling water levels AP over A was hoisted and the fleet headed back to be met with trollies and again Tomato soup, sandwiches and cake.
The prize giving and thanks were held without delay with the final standings being:
Northern Champion: Will Gould
2nd: Richard Botting
3rd: Mark Cuthbert
4th: Ian Mclean
5th: Chas Coghill
6th: Leroy Matthews
The Blaze Fleet thanked Dee Sailing Club for a wonderful event and hope to be invited back in the future.