We have only a handful of Blades racing at this time with halve of them in the southern hemisphere (their season is only starting). But still Matt/Gina are leading the endureance series http://www.1design.net/scoring/endurance05.htm
and have (I believe) 2 event wins under their belts while racing Jennifer Lindsay/Kelly Gray on their Taipans. Of course the last crew won the alter cup qualifiers for the Alter cup race of 2005. So they are a good benchmark.
I think a good argument can be held about how good the achieved results thus far were. Afterall, it is a new boat and any crew will take at least 1 season to get the boat fully tuned out. Also Gina started from zero with respect to handling the spinnaker. Their is a learning curve involved with sailing a new boat (design)
I will state first that I personally have sailed the Blade for only an extremely short while so I'm not able to compare it properly to both the Taipan 4.9 , Taipan F16 and Stealth F16 which I all sailed and raced for a considerable time. At at least more than 5 hours during actually serious racing.
I can tell you however what the guys who took a demo on the Blade are telling me. This includes current Taipan 4.9 owners who are now selling their boats to buy an Blade. We have 3 of these now and a 4th on the bench; 3 Taipan 4.9 and 1 Taipan F16 (the bench guy) owners. 2 of these are active racers and 2 are mostly recreational sailors. This in itself does suggest something as in my personal opinion the Taipan is a pretty high benchmark. You don't just out perform it.
In addition to that we have reports by independent sailors like Tim Bohan which can be found at : Tim Bohans Blade F16 report
Overhere I have gotten (verbal) reports from people I personally trust very much. Both of the them know the Taipan design, one of them owns a Taipan 4.9 now and the other one knows my Taipan F16 upgraded version. Note that the Taipan F16 is an step upward from the Taipan 4.9 . Both of them came off the Blade after a demo sail with a mind to get one themselfs. Believe me when I say that this is a hard crowd to please.
The general theme in the reports is that the Blade has a better feel of control and that it feels "slippery" throught the water. All say that the feeling of sitting on the water is so different from sitting in the water as with other boats. Also the steering seems to attract many comments. The boat seems to tack very well. The rudders adn hullshape allows it to turn very rapidly and very accurately.
In the way of performance it feels and it is reported to be at least as fast as the Taipan. I personally sailed along side one for about 30 minutes while sailing my own Taipan F16 (with which I did score a few good results this year in races) and found the Blade to be at least as fast as my own boat while the Blade was sailed without a season of tuning under its belt and with a crew that had never sailed together before. Similar comments are coming out of singapore (former Taipan owners) and Australia.
I can go on and on but to many of us it is now quite clear that the Blade F16 is far more than a bar story or a hype design. The bloody things truly appears to be that good.
With respect to the other boats; The stealth F16 and the Taipans I can say the following. Last winter there was a group overhere in the Netherlands of 4 sailors wanting to buy 4 Taipan F16's in one group package. Were they serious ? Well 1 of this group now owns a Blade F16 now, a second is about to order one and a 3rd of that group is seriously considering switching to the Blade F16 as well. That is how serious they were back then. Why didn't they all buy Taipan F16's, because the person negociating the deal for the AHPC side handled the deal like a right amateur and blew it. Despite repeated warnings.
With respect to the Stealth F16, a boat that impressed me personally, I can only say. Both Taipan deals and Blades deals were made after extensively showing the boat and getting people to take demo sails. This is also the way the Stealth is selling in the UK. However overhere in the Netherlands, the Stealth remains a relatively unknown boat. Most sailors can recognize the Taipans and Blades by now because of the efforts by the respective builders and owners. Stealth at this time simply has some catching up to do. Especially Blades internet presence and promo efforts were at a significantly higher level than those of the others. And my personal opinion with regard to the Stealth is that they should really focus on the biggest strong point of the Stealth. A really inexpensive entry into the F16 class with good performance. I really see this boat as having an advantage over the others in getting to the recreational sailors and recreational racers. Simply because you get so much bang for the buck. The other boats are noticeable more expensive and must justify such higher cost price by being very refined and having excellent feel while sailing. That is a rather tall order.
A 3rd argument for all the attention for the Blade F16 is that it is just such a good looking boat. I noticed it when my Taipan F16 was right next to Jaaps Blade F16 after we compared both boats to eachother on the water. People would walk up to us and glance at my boat only to continue to really drool over the Blade F16. Our experience overhere has been the same everywhere. It was just like that at the Westland Cup event in July and I hear rumours about the same thing happening at the Round Tiengemeenten of last weekend. Both the Taipan and Stealth don't have in such amounts what the Blade has in that respect.
It is quite clear that Blade will make it overhere in Europe. The boat is selling itself. A rare talent.
With respect to the other makes and I'm thoroughly honest here :
AHPC needs to get on with their Capricorn F16 designing or fully focus on the Taipan F16; both of which are one noticeable step up from the standard Taipan 4.9. The standard Taipan 4.9 is over with respect to USA, Europe and Asia. There is no kind way of expressing this. The Taipan design needs to move with the times and the current Standard Taipan 4.9 class rules are preventing this by serious limiting the size of the squaretops, disallowing selftackers and forbidding spinnakers. In addition AHPC needs to start a comprehensive promo campaign for their F16 boat. If they don't do that then they will loose the US, EU and Asian markets to the Blade F16 design.
Stealth will do best to just hunt down the current H16 and Dart 18 sailors, especially the younger sailors and actively offer demo rides to them. It is just a great entry boat. Their promo campaign should focus to a large extend on the low asking price for a very respectable preformance level. Something that is much better than any other boat out there especially the H16's (which are more expensive!). Just have people experience the thrill of the boat and don't try to compete with the Blade F16 by pictures and video alone. The Blade F16 is considered by all to be alot more photogenic so don't compete with that boat on its strong point (pictures etc). Just sail hard and often and take people along and then mention that they can have that boat for several thousant Euro's less than the next F16 design. That will work. Stealth still needs to make a name for herself in mainland Europe and you can only do that by doing plenty of demo's.
Also promo material like the new stealth promo video are great in getting people to talk about other designs then the Blade F16. As we have seen just recently on this forum. Maybe I need to warn everybody else out there that the Blade guys are also alot more marketing savy then most of us. In addition to the fact that the Blade F16 is a very good boat. A lethal combination if there ever is one. I've seen the new Blade design webpage and boy, you don't get better in the "looks" department than that.
Maybe we all need to realize that F16 is a formula class and that that means that you will have to compete with other builders and their marketeers to win the available buyers.
It is race !