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Blaze fleet unveils new sail at the Southern Championships.

Sat 22nd & Sun 23rd Southern Championships – Warsash Sailing Club.

After what felt like an eternity, Warsash Sailing Club resumed open event racing and hosted the Southern Championships with 17 boats in attendance, there was of course a little bit of palpable nervousness, a bit like when you start dating again, you are keen to get in on the action but worried you might be out of practice.

After the teasers during the week of course the first question on the lips of all Blazers was, would the UK get any points in Eurovision later that night. The second question, what does the new sail look like and how will it perform? More on that later.

With the looming Sunday forecast which unfortunately lowered expected entries, 4 races were scheduled in the hope a series could be completed.

Race 1 was a trapezoid that started in around 10 knots, but the wind was up and down all day and some decent shifts meant you had to be brave to bang a corner.

Off the start Ben “Hard’n Fast” Harden quickly got out in front, which was to be a feature of the weekend, Craig Richards in 796 showed good speed upwind with Nic “Tolly” Tolhurst hot on his heels. Not far behind was the rest of the fleet fighting it out in the choppy and shifty conditions. On the run Nic managed to make a break for glory surfing into the lead but it was relatively short-lived as Ben passed halfway up the next beat and went on to win, with Nic 2nd, Eden in 3rd and Malcolm “Malcy” Hutchings in 4th.

Race 2 was a copy of the first, except this time Hard’n Fast pulled off a glorious pin end flyer. Anyone else who managed to get out to the right side of the course was also promised a successful first leg. Malcy tacked off onto port early from the committee boat end and benefited from the tidal advantage and got to the windward mark first. Ben followed closely behind and a little further back Will Gould and then Nic who was slightly impeded by Eden swimming at the windward mark after a slightly aggressive roll tack. Ben managed to get past Malcy who then finished in that order followed by Nic then Will.

The wind then promptly made like a UK Eurovision song and dropped to zero for an hour, leaving us wondering what a beer might taste like now. With a few boats shuffling towards the exit the wind suddenly came back with a vengeance and was reportedly 20 knots gusting 25.

The younglings (Ben and Eden) made light work of the conditions and went off and had a race on their own leaving the rest of us to battle up the beats and scream down the reach’s feeling we were always just a moment away from submarining. Ben completed with a full set of bullets, Eden second, Nick Ripley a well sailed 3rd and Craig rounding out the top 4.

It was wisely decided by the PRO that the 4th race might be pushing all our limits and that it was definitely beer o’clock.

Over many beers and a delicious club meal, the talk was all about the new “Fathead” sail performance and the chances of racing on Sunday. As the morning dawned and heads cleared our PRO wisely decided that all racing was canned and the overnight results stood leaving Ben as the Southern champ, again, and Eden pipping Nic on countback with Nick Ripley 4th.

A thanks must go to event sponsors, Allen, rooster and the old salt loft for the amazing prizes. And of course a thanks to those at Warsash for running the event.


Ben Harden: 1 - 1 - 1

Eden Hyland: 3 - 6 - 2

Nic Tolhurst: 2 - 3 - 6

Nick Ripley: 7 - 5 - 3

Craig Richards: 8 - 7 - 4

Malc Hutchings: 4 - 2 - 14

Martin Jones: 5 - 10 - 5

Tim Freeman: 9 - 8 - 9

William Gould: 16 - 4 - 8

Richard Botting: 12 - 12 - 7

Keith Gilmore: 11 - 9 - 12

Peter McFarlane: 10 - 15 - 10

Richard Hill: 8 - 11 - DNF (18)

Douglas Clow: 14 - 14 - 11

Andy Wilson: 15 - 13 - 13

Robert Cowan: 13 - DNC (18) - DNC (18)

Simon Mann: 17 - 16 - DNC (18)

The new Blaze sail.

The Blaze Class Association was pleased to unveil a modernised and refined new sail design, produced in-house by Hartley Boats at the Southern Championships.

Saturday was the first “mass” outing for the new sail, with five lucky sailors taking delivery of the sail for the event.

It came as no surprise that when the first sail was hoisted, the fleet came quickly pacing across the dinghy park to check it out. First impressions – it looks very cool!

The sail has been modernised with a variety of design changes. The most noticeable is the change in sailcloth from Ax40 to Pxb10. This change in sailcloth is expected to help the sail last longer and make it much easier to read for the sailor on the water. An almost as noticeable change is the now squared-off head of the sail. This new design allows the sail to fold away more efficiently in stronger winds, which should make the sail more manageable and more easily depowered. Slightly less obvious is the subtle change to the radial panel layout, something that should again make the sail easier to read and make the Cunningham control more effective.

After the fleet had seen enough, we all headed onto the water for the first race of the day and to see how the new sails performed. The one thing the class had asked for from Hartley Boats was a sail that wouldn’t offer a huge performance gain and annihilate the old design and with it write off half the fleet.

It's safe to say the performance gains from the new sail were marginal with the real “gains” coming from the usability of an easier to read sail. Head-to-head around the course, the new sail was not deemed noticeable quicker. Exactly what the class wanted.

Another design brief requested by the class was for a more reasonable price. The old sail had crept above £1000, which is one of the main factors for the class approaching Hartley Boats and requesting a new sail. The new sail has been offered at £699 for early bird nationals entries - a whopping deal!

So, with a new sail and a fleet that is about to hit the 70 entry mark for its National Championships, the Blaze fleet continues to go from strength to strength.

For questions about the new sail contact Hartley Boats or one of the class committee.

Thinking about joining the Blaze fleet? Get in touch! We are extremely friendly and social but secondhand boats sell quickly. So, join the Blaze Facebook page and keep an eye open. Feel free to contact the committee if you have any questions about the class.

Sailors using the new sail finished 1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th and 16th. A good spread, showing it's down to ability more than kit!

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Ben Harden
Ben Harden
May 24, 2021

Thanks to Tolly for helping write the report.

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