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Leaderboard FD July August September 2023

Sea Sure and Hartley Boats Fire Nationals 2024 at Warsash Sailing Club - Preview

by Andy Wilson 3 May 15:41 BST 1-2 June 2024
Fire fleet at Paignton © Nick Ripley

For those of you not in-the-know about the Fire Class, it's useful, firstly, to note that the Fire is sister to the popular 1996 designed Blaze.

Currently part of the Hartley Boats boatworks, the Blaze and Fire's modern epoxy manufacturing creates a fast and exciting single-handed, hiking racing craft, stand-out with its wind-hungry hiking racks and a grin-factor included as standard. The Fire sail variant was developed in 2014 as a smaller rig for use in stronger winds, and/or for presenting a more manageable option for lighter helms - the young, the not-so-young and with ladies very much in mind. It uses the standard Blaze hull, and the sail sets on regular Blaze spars with minimal rigging adjustment. The Fire sail is approximately 8.8m" and, like the Blaze's 10.4m" main, sports a mix of full width and partial battens. The performance is crisp and while the reduced sail area is hardly a slouch on the racecourse it is less physically demanding.

After steady growth in recent years, 2024 sees the biggest ever Fire National Championship. Warsash Sailing Club has been a regular venue on the Blaze Class programme for decades, hosting Southern and National Championships many times over the years - it's superb open water and hearty breeze are what the boat is made for and shows off its best racing face. This year, Blazes have given way to the Fires to take advantage of the fantastic facilities, organisation and warm, sociable welcome that Warsash SC has a knack of pulling off.

Together with joint headline sponsors Sea Sure and Hartley Boats, (with very grateful thanks for their generous contributions) the 2024 Fire National Championship promises competitive, world-class racing with onshore exuberance to match.

The competition this year comprises some big names from Blaze-family National, Inlands and regional championships and has attracted the interest of Aero Champions (both male and female) to test their hikers on the racks of a Fire. There is a hefty representation on the entrants' list from the adopted home of the Class, Burghfield SC, from which 3 of the names below base themselves. Another Blaze/Fire stronghold of Pembrokeshire YC is well accounted for and Warsash SC themselves field a strong delegation.

Who are we watching?

Simon Beddows - Instrumental in the development of the Hartley Fire sail, no-one on the start line will know the sail better than Burghfield's Simon. 4th in the 2023 Fire Nationals and previous National Champion, he'll be a name to watch this year.

Christian Smart - 2023 Fire National Champion and 2023 Blaze Inlands Champion, this Pembrokeshire YC multi-class high-achiever is no stranger to the Blaze podium. Christian is hungry for greater Fire glory this year - if his club-epitomised evening thirst doesn't win over!

Dave Shafto - 2024 Fire Inlands Winner on his Burghfield home-turf, Dave has demonstrated his improving credentials and is a name we'll definitely be seeing more of.

Nick Ripley - 2019 Blaze Nationals Silver-medallist from Paignton, he'll be hoping the wind's up to capitalise on his proven heavyweight capabilities. Still showing heart and passion for his Class, never discount experience over youth!

Mark Ripley - 2023 Aero5 Worlds 4th and 2023 Fire Nationals Bronze, Nick's son, Mark, is on the up, looking to oust the 'old man'! Word on the grapevine is that he's got nothing other than top honours in mind.

Abbey Hire - 2023 youth and overall female Aero5 National Champion, first time Fire racer, Abbey evidently knows her way around a performance single-hander. Will the Fire racks prove 2ft too far? I wouldn't be so sure!

Bob Cowan - Event organiser and 6th in the 2023 Fire Nationals, don't overlook this experienced campaigner.

Graham Brown - Owner of Sea Sure and celebrity entrant, if he takes the podium we promise this wasn't a diplomatic gift!

Mike Lyons - 2023 Fire Nationals Silver medallist. Just in case Mike's customary late-entry goes in after going to press... Previous owner of the Class and inceptor of the Fire sail, Mike's presence will certainly challenge the front of the fleet if he hits the start line and stays the course.

We look forward to a competitive - but always fun - event, with all the fanfare that Warsash SC, Hartley Boats and Sea Sure have to offer. Race, Relax, Enjoy!

Race entries and more information at warsashsc.org.uk/open-events/blaze

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