top of page

Sailing a Blaze upwind

Well a lot of queries there as usual - stuffing Lasers upwind is not at all difficult with good setup and technique in almost any wind. But more wind allows you to do it with a great deal more style (on either side of them) !!


rake 7000 to 7050mm measured from mast top to underside of hull either side of the rudder post. Does not matter if its Mk1 or X - the hull underside is totally identical (the rudder post is larger on the X being the prime difference).


this is CRITICAL as set up properly stops you oversheeting. Forget what you think might work and try the following first - strop has traveller block on it attached to the bottom block of the mainshet system. Adjust it so that the centre of the rope can be pulled up no higher than the base of the centremain ratchet. Now TRY it !



must have tapered battens. Do not oversheet, do not use kicker unless overpowered - only a little bit offwind and even less upwind being the norm. Very little outhaul and don't fiddle with it around the course - underpowered? try even less.



only to do a little tidying up unless grossly overpowered. Rig tension? You don't need much with an M7 really you don't ! The Blaze is all about mainsheet control and sensing when the sail is stalling (ease a bit and/or go a bit lower) or when its really driving (tighten and really point). Boat flat but a little leeward until it gets going - lean to windward when all is going really well especially on flat water. In waves go lower and DONT PINCH - ever and I mean ever.
All the time I'm slow up the first beat until I can just work clear of those around me - then go a few degrees lower but a lot faster and then gently feel for the 'sweet' angle upwind. Most important of the lot - spend a lot of time on the water just playing and race when you can. Ideally get along to the larger Blaze events and treat them as good value training. Don't worry about the results only about improving your technique and speed and the results will come along in time anyway. See you at the Inlands then? Start planning now ! Mike Lyons

Chris Coleman's upwind technique

Having read several e-mails requesting tuning and set up guides, as 2003 Inland Champion, here are a few notes on how I sail upwind.

I know that I am relatively slow downwind, which is due to a combination of a boat set up to go fast upwind, my weight of 90kg or fourteen and a half stone and poor downwind technique as I am 6 feet two inches tall and kneel next to the centre board on the runs instead of sitting on the side deck as the shorter and more athletic guys do. If I sit back and the boat gybes unexpectedly my legs are too long to be able to get in and across the other side before the boat is capsizing on top of me and that is a really slow way to sail downwind! Upwind, however, I can use the long legged leverage and weight to good effect.

I sail from Warsash Sailing Club on the River Hamble so our club courses take in both tidal river and estuary sailing with the added wash from fast ferries, commercial shipping, numerous yachts and power boats. My boat is therefore set up for these choppy conditions which would probably not be suitable for sailing on flat water where the ability to point high was necessary.


Rig Set Up

Mast rake set to 7010mm from mast tip to underside of the hull at the rudder post. I moved my spreaders forward one hole from the standard setting to provide more power. I can't remember the exact position but if you are heavy and feel underpowered try it and see how it feels, but only change one thing at a time and make a note of your default settings in case it doesn't feel right for you.  Shrouds and lowers are set up as per the Mike Lyons set up on the web site.  I have changed to Harken blocks on the boom and use a Rooster anti twist mainsheet.

I have replaced the toe straps with a set of Rooster padded ones with a 10mm diameter length of bungee tied to the front tube to hold them up and clear of the deck. I prefer a telescopic tiller extension and use the Holt carbon one. Remember to let go before you fall in or you'll snap it off making for an expensive capsize!

Sailing Upwind

The above photo of me was taken at the 2003 Warsash open meeting.  Mike Lyons described my style as 'hanging deep' but for me it is the most comfortable way to hike hard all the way up every beat of every race. If you want to go fast I'm afraid you can't just perch on the rack and lean back a bit, you have to get your weight out of the boat and to windward!   Hiking shorts are essential to spread the load on the back of the thighs. Toe strap length is adjusted so that I can sit as far out as possible but still use my feet to pull myself back inboard in a lull. If it is light I tighten them up a bit.
A Blaze does not sail fast if it is heeled over on its ear. It must be kept upright or heeled to windward so that the foils can create lift. Notice how my tiller is in the middle so that the rudder is creating minimum drag.  Boom sheeted over the quarter of the boat with mainsheet tension controlling the leech. Kicker and Cunningham used as required to de-power the sail.  In a gust I point up a bit and allow the Luff to lift but ease the sheet as necessary to keep the boat flat and moving forwards, rather than screwing up into the wind, heeling over and stalling.

I don't try to sail particularly high but concentrate on VMG (velocity made good) towards the windward mark. Low and fast will not work in all conditions, but that is the way I sail, so in light winds I don't usually do very well!
In flat water with about twelve knots of breeze it is possible to plane the Blaze to windward. Pull the centreboard up a little so that the centre of effort moves back under the centre of gravity of the sail, keep the boat upright and bear off a couple of degrees until you feel the boat accelerate. There is a narrow 'grove' in which the boat will break through the 'water line length v speed' barrier and begin to plane. Once there it is a fine balancing act between pointing ability whilst maintaining the plane and bearing off to a fetch and disappearing off over the horizon to leeward of the fleet. It is something one has to feel through the boat and there is, I'm afraid, no substitute for practise afloat until you get to feel that the boat is going fast.
Fitness is the other issue. I am now 42 and do not have the time to spend hours at the gym waiting for machines to become free. I have a Delta Airmaster rowing machine at home and try to do at least two good sessions a week, three in the run up to an open meeting. They cost around £200 from Argos and give a really good muscular and aerobic work out in a fraction of the time it would take to go to a gym. Even if your sailing doesn't improve I guarantee that you will feel and look a lot better after a few weeks rowing. When I got mine I thought I was going to die after just two minutes rowing! After gradually increasing the time and effort and making a note of each row it is possible to see the improvement, which acts as an incentive to prevent the machine from gathering dust, like so many other pieces of home fitness equipment, under the bed or rusting away in the garage.
Well that's about it. There are a few pointers on going upwind and I do hope that they help. You also now have an idea of what might be useful to work off the excess Christmas Pudding and keep the New Years resolution running for longer than has been achieved over the last twenty years or so!

There will no doubt be a few who say I am talking a load of old rubbish, I might be, but in the two Blaze Open Meetings I attended in 2003 ( Warsash & Datchet) I scored two second places and ten firsts. Unfortunately Steve Cockerill wasn't at either event, so on the top of my Christmas list will be, 'How to fly downwind like a Rooster'!
Cheers for now. Chris Coleman, Blaze 669


The Blaze has relatively little rocker - hence it's not exactly a Laser or an Enterprise when it comes to tacking in light winds. It's all about practice and not rushing the boat. Roll the boat to windward facing across the boat, probably on your knees if very light. This starts the turn, add just a minute amount of helm and then let the rudder follow - no force either way by the helm. If you get it right you can keep some speed on and just before the windward wing contacts the water get across and now just maintain the rudder at a constant angle. Once across (the boats now leaning to leeward of course) bring it up just enough to crack the battens over, perhaps with a little encouragement on the mainsheet, but do not sheet in aggressively - allow a little speed to develop and bring the boat up to a 'normal' light wind angle - just a little leeward heel. With a bit more speed sheet in slowly to correct angle - easy really! But a lot of practice is needed .... Many ex-laser sailors etc get frustrated as the same approach that worked previously can result in a stopped Blaze - but then they often have a raked rudder that kicks the boat forward if you 'use' it. Give them a vertical rudder and they might stop as well! The key is to be smooth and NOT rush things - good technique is heavily rewarded. Also you do need to go behind the mainsheet in the tack - and then gently forward again. Also in light winds - ALWAYS take the tiller extension around the back. Taking it 'through' forward when its very light means inevitably forcing the rudder rather than letting it 'follow' - it's a very effective brake. As with all classes - get along to the meetings, not to win at first necessarily, but mainly to accelerate your learning. Make a point of watching effective technique and then practice yourself. It's the cheapest form of training anywhere.... Oh and do come along to the Nationals, even if only for a day. Regard it as a really cost effective investment and by far the quickest way to learn the specific class skills. If you are struggling a bit without a fleet around you at your club a planned season of the Nationals and a couple of meetings will transform your course speed. Good luck ! Mike Lyons


When boats plane the bow lifts first and the whole boat rises clear of thewater as it goes from displacement to planing mode. In terms of where to sit - you will tend to move back as the speed increases and when in very high winds you can be right at the back corner of the boat. Many dinghies can plane offwind - fast ones do so more easily and this change is much smoother and possibly less obvious. (If you have ever planed fast in an Enterprise YOU KNOW - they are not a planing boat really so when they 'go' they make it very clear to the crew!)
Fortunately for us the Blaze can also plane upwind as well in some conditions (some modern ones and a few older ones will) This is a function of its excellent power to weight and leverage provided by the wings. The best way to promote this is to sit a little further back than normal - but you must have enough wind first and bear away only slightly. As the boat accelerates away carefully bring it back on the wind but do NOT pinch.
The velocity made good is much higher and you can overtake many lesser boats to leeward planing at speed but going just a little lower - and you can achieve this much more effectively than trying to outpoint them. If you do you can end up sacrificing your planing advantage by pinching as the boat goes 'displacement' once more. In medium and high wind conditions many of the decisions you need to make to get round the course fast will be related to this judgement. Get to recognise which is applicable and when - 'displacement pointing' or maybe 'low and fast' - Get this right often enough and you will get around a lot faster. If the wind is very high - make life easier for yourself and bring the plate up 1/4 to 1/3 - this will help as well in promoting and maintaining planing upwind - offwind in any wind most prefer it 1/2 up or 3/4 up. Some however swear by leaving it down all the way around - try both! It's trial and error and racing with other boats - this all takes time on the water to get right so expect any advise you try out not to necessarily work first time. Put the time in though and it will come. Where do you sail and can you get along to the training this year ?- at Burghfield in April and particularly at the Nationals in early June (it's not all 'gritted teeth' stuff at the Blaze Nats and we are running a lot of training there) Hope this helps but let us know........ Cheers - Mike Lyons

bottom of page