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TOPIC: Introducing myself - Stewart 609

Introducing myself - Stewart 609 5 years 7 months ago #816

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I've bought Blaze 609. I got it at a bargain price from Matt Clarke at Wilsonian SC which is on the Medway. I bought it in September and have sailed and raced it a bit but its currently packed up for the winter.

I'm impressed, although really keen on the Laser 4000 I have spent the last couple of years in Dragons and Sonatas. They are to slow and the chances of getting a competent 4000 crew are remote. I expected to miss the downwind blast with a big gennaker but have found the Blaze very interesting. I had forgotten the challenge of using the waves and concentrating on the tide and to add to the pleasure there are other Blazes in the club - 2 quite well sailed.

It's not a throughbred, if you can liken it to cars its a bit of an American muscle car - lots of brawn like a Ford Mustang and not a Ferrari. This is a pleasing characteristic on the Medway where you are often in a dangerous place with no safety boat in sight. It has plenty of stability and gets its performance from brute power, so when things go wrong it doesn't always mean you go swimming - unlike the RS 300 for instance. Also in light winds that stability means it sits steady in the water for you to nurse it along, unlike some which are always trying to fall over and so you end up doing a balancing act like a lumberjack on a bulk of timber. Of course when it does capsize its easy to right and doesn't take off as soon as you right it.

I've not sailed it in anything greater than a 5 but I think I'll enjoy that. I do like the way it almost planes to windward, and as soon as you crack off a bit it really goes like, well - blazes!

I suspect I'm going to be in the prizes again after years in the doldrums with the 4000 which has a poor handicap. I think the Blaze will excel in the strong winds and the pivoting centreboard a boon in the shallows when dodging the tide. That and the "passage" type racing meaning there is often a close reach means I'll be sailing a boat where the handicap is favourable.

So far in racing I find I'm on the pace, and able to match a well sailed National 12 upwind and match one of the well sailed Blazes, indeed out point it. I have to learn that it pays to go high at the beginning of a broad reach to get the speed and some apparent wind, rather than go low as I am used to with a boat that has to hoist a gennaker.

After a week or two sailing I switched to sheeting off the boom which is a great improvement and I have a few more modifications to make before March - like a downhaul that has some real power.

I can't wait.
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Introducing myself - Stewart 609 3 years 10 months ago #1184

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In appreciation of the Blaze and the Medway

Well its nearly 2 years since I wrote the above introduction to myself. Since then I have won a few club trophies and I've become the fleet rep.

I'm now a complete Blaze convert and my evangelising has certainly paid off as we now have 10 Blazes in the club and 7 or 8 of them are keen and quite good at club level. You will see elsewhere on this site a blog I keep about Blaze sailing on the Medway and we have had 6 hard sailed boats out on occasions - generally is 3 or 4.

Yes I've won the odd trophy and Chris Saunders (Blaze 679) has won many (thus depriving me of some). Since owning the Blaze its PY has fallen from 1040 to 1026 and this makes life difficult, but what the hell we have virtually class racing and so aren't really looking at the other classes.

I'm always bimbling my boat and it is one of the fastest in the club. I tried another boat last week, with centre main - wow what a disadvantage. I find the Blaze very sensitive to kicker and fore and aft trim. The boat planes to windward as soon as there's enough power to get right out on the wing and its very important to sit back a bit to encourage this. And downwind I find the further back I can get without creating turbulence at the stern the faster it is - its such a temptation to sit too far forward in the light stuff. This means of course that you have to stay very mobile, down wind the slightest extra puff means you have to move back and as soon as the boat slows it means moving back towards the bow.

As for the kicker a lot of mechanical advantage is required and just small changes in wind strength require a change of kicker setting. I'm talking off-wind sailing of course because you don't really apply any kicker upwind until you are getting over-powered. However upwind you do need to apply some Cunningham as soon as that mast starts to bend because the sail is quite flat behind the mast and if you let it get too flat its difficult to keep the boat at the optimum angle because the optimum angle is then very fine and intolerant.

The Blaze is not a light wind boat, the sail is difficult to read, the hull is too flat and I find it difficult to find the groove. Perhaps somebody could give me some tips?

I'm very impressed with the boat in a blow. Such a large sail looks intimidating but it is quite manageable and I'm presuming this is because of the sitting-out power. I weigh getting on for 90Kg but I'm past retirement age and so I would have thought about 80Kg would be the optimum, perhaps less if you were sailing inland. Somebody who was sailing several times a week and cycling and training the would certainly be able to handle it at 70Kg I would have thought, and they would be devastating down wind. But that's my imagination or should I say dream! No what I'm really trying to say is that if you are light don't worry - sail a Blaze - you'll be a little slower upwind in a breeze and faster downwind. Do use off-the-boom sheeting though it's so much more responsive and it also a lighter load. 10 square metres of sail is never going to be actually "light" though.

For an old guy though this is a great boat. It's so safe, as soon as it does capsize it becomes a pussy cat. It's reluctant to turn turtle and comes up slowly and sits head-to-wind until you grab the controls and tell it to do something different. I can't remember when I last got wet in a capsise - I normally step on the gooseneck, step over the boat onto the centreboard, lean back a bit and up she comes, very slowly. In all probability the slowness is caused by the resistance of the tramp in the water. In the past I've always sailed high performance boats and on the Medway - which is a hostile environment - this has meant only going out when there is a safety boat somewhere about. Not now, I'm very happy to go miles down river and explore the huge area of saltmarsh and waterways where few other people ever go. I know baring a serious breakage I will always get back and I have the performance to do that even with a foul tide.

Back to racing. On a day of very strong winds earlier this year only the Blazes went out. We have ex-National Champions in some of our classes and several people who have picked up trophies at national events, but no it was too strong for them. Four Blazes went out and all came back - non of them broken, but a couple of helms were very wide eyed with the speed they had attained. On a reach a Blaze is a very fast machine and that sitting out power means high speeds can be attained. Naturally an asymmetric if sailing at its optimum angle will leave it but when its a bit tight for the kite or a bit too windy to risk it you will find Blazes gong as fast as boats with yardsticks around 900. Dead downwind is a bit scary in a Blaze, but remember what I said "its a pussy cat" once over, so the best attitude is go for it, you are unlikely to break it. If you read my Wilsonian Sailing Club - Blaze Blog and find the post on the Medway Marathon you'll get the idea. I think I've pasted in the correct link.

Racing a Blaze is an intense experience. Racing a high performance boat is all about getting maximum boat speed and not making a mistake. Well its the same but different in a Blaze. There is less difference in speed between the good and the bad and the mistakes are not so costly. Consequently the racing is closer. Its not so close that a bit of boat speed can't make a difference but nobody gets completely away. Well that's my experience at Wilsonian, there's always a chance of grinding down that lead and consequently those behind are also thinking they can grind down your lead.
This really concentrates the mind, you search for every little gain you can make. Catch every wave down wind, make a nice clean tack, look around and work the wind shifts and make sure you are using the tide to your favour. Then there is the whole boat and rig trim to consider, sitting in the right place both to keep the boat level but also fore and aft, and what about main-sheeting and kicker and would a little Cunningham be advantageous? Should I point here or go for a bit of speed?

Then of course there is that whole tactical thing. Should I sit just behind the boat in front and pounce when he makes a mistake, or should I drive a bit harder and gain a bit to use to my advantage later. Perhaps I should tack now so that when we meet I'll be on starboard, or perhaps it will be to my advantage to meet with me on port and he has to hold his course? And so the discussion in your head goes on. I won't even mention the whole strategic thing about tides and wind bends. The nice thing with the Blaze is that you can just try a little less hard and it doesn't slow too much but it lets more blood flow to the brain and at times the complexity is such that a little extra brain power can be helpful. As you can see its intense and I have to say I think I'm enjoying this more than sailing a high performance boat where getting maximum speed is the dominant consideration.

I hope you've enjoyed my musings. I did say I'm an evangelist for the class and I suspect this has been communicated. I'm also an evangelist for the Medway, its a complicated place to sail. You can be surprised by the odd seal poking his head out of the water in front but its a good idea not to be surprised by the 200 foot dredger coming down with the tide. The Medway does offer a huge sailing area, especially at high tide and at low tide one is more constrained like those people who sail on reservoirs and lakes although the edge is not so clearly defined so that tilting centreboard is certainly appreciated! The tidal nature means our races are "out and back" affairs, this often means there are some reaches at which the Blaze excels. We rarely have "windward/leeward" type courses and mostly our start is not square and even not upwind, but there's still a place where the best start is to be made and its up to you to find it. To cap it all Wilsonian Sailing Club is a club full of keen dinghy racers so we got a good turn outs but if you want fine dining just join Medway Yacht Club just upstream and if you want Old Gaffers, cruising and motorboating there are good clubs just downstream.

Finally an invitation, we are keen dinghy racers and we just love to meet others and better still race against them. We are not formal, if you fancy a taste you'd be welcome to race against us for a weekend, come and try it. We even have some special events which you could join in, such as the Medway Dinghy Regatta every summer. In fact the Dinghy Regatta would be a good event for the association to encourage travelling Blaze sailors to visit and they'd be very welcome. If you know of any dinghy racers who are feeling lost point them in our direction and if you know of any Blaze sailors in the area - well there is only one place for them and that's Wilsonian.
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