The Blaze Nationals for 2023 returns to Warsash Sailing Club with new headline sponsor, Sea Sure, for 3 days of (usually) champagne sailing on the Solent Waters off Solent Breezes. At the time of writing, 68 boats are entered with the organiser confident they can exceed the previous class record, set in 2021 at Paignton, of 71 boats.
There are some notable entries within the list so this article gives a view of some of the top Runners and Riders for the event. If your name is missing though, don't worry, just go harder!
Listed in Alphabetical order to avoid undue favouritism!
William Gould Stable lad as manufacturer's representative and employee of Hartley Boats. Will can be fast in his factory pimped boat as long as he gets a good night's sleep in his van or doesn't have to walk back the 4.7 miles to his hotel having missed the last taxi! There's usually a new bit of string to look at and try to replicate with him as he tries another new approach striving for manufacturer development.
Ben Harden Multiple previous Nationals and Inlands winner has been off for a while Moth'ing but makes a return to the Class for the event in a borrowed boat. Now, Ben is one of those with insane inbuilt talent and could make a paper bag look fast but in a borrowed boat.....As a member of the Burnham massive he'll be well-practiced and will certainly be one to watch if you can get close enough to see him.
Daniel Henderson Daniel, as Sales Director for title sponsor Sea Sure, has been the driving force for supporting the event and providing the generous level of sponsorship. Sea Sure supply many of the fittings to Hartley Boats and Dan will be sailing a Mk4 Hartley, new out of the mold this year. Local intel says Dan is seriously quick, with the added advantage of home territory (Sea Sure being based in Warsash).
Alex Horlock Alex comes from some very good sailing pedigree and has entered the class for this event (we hope he'll remain after as well). Another Warsash member that is on home water.
Malcolm Hutchings Malc is a long time member of the Burnham massive and can be regularly seen in a Squibb. Malc has regularly picked up the Grand Master trophy, with individual race wins, and awaits his turn at the top of the podium. Malc can easily be picked out in the fleet by his large floppy hat.
Josh Hyland Josh returns to the fleet in his brother Eden's boat. Eden, another Hartley Boats employee, apparently too busy doing his Forest Gump impression - running (but from what?). We know Eden's boat is quick, having also won titles previously. Josh, though, has recently been eating up for Phantom sailing so will be wanting a heavy-winds event.
Mike Lyons Previous Class Rights Holder, Mike, is a wily character, never to be underestimated despite his protests of "...what, with this shoulder?". Mike's form at the recent Paignton Open for Single Handers (POSH) with the Fire sail proves he's still fast. If Josh is in for heavy winds, Mike will be feeding the gods for a light wind event.
Ian Pittendreigh Ian gets a special mention in this report for 2 reasons; firstly, he will most likely be the furthest travelled hailing from Aberdeen - a 10-hour journey each-way demonstrates commitment to the cause in anyone's book. Secondly, Ian prefers to sail the racked Blaze without anything filling the hole between hull and rack. While some have skinny laced tramps and others nets, Ian relies on defying gravity for the leap to the outer tube.
Nick Ripley As previous Commodore and Now Rear Com Sail for Paignton Sailing Club, Nick knows how to connect the dots in sea conditions. Usually to be found battling with his son Mark, last year Nick's boat decided to let him down so he'll be all out for restitution this year.
Christian Smart Past Nationals winner, Christian, is renowned for taking Blaze 500 (the first production boat) to the front of a much younger fleet and winning the Title. Christian has a new boat from Hartley's this year though so will be fast - he can't be missed with bright orange foils, not that we expect to see them above water! Christian is known to like a beer with the Pembrokeshire posse (and anyone else) so if the rest of the fleet can keep Christian at the bar, they might stand a chance. Christian will be sailing against his son Robbie. Will Dad outclass the young pretender?
That concludes the Runners and Riders but a few others to note:
Alex Porteus, the only female competing, and proving the boat can be sailed by the fairer sex, will be guaranteed the 1st lady prize.
Richard Botting, who after 6 years as Class Chair is stepping aside at the AGM during the event, needs to avoid being run over by a 32' trimaran, as last year. The Class thanks him for a sterling term in office, having spearheaded the class to record Nationals turnouts.
Bob Cowan, long time member of Warsash SC and event organiser, for whom the class are really grateful.