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If Mother Nature was considered stingy with her allocation of wind to the 5o5 Worlds recently sailed in Cork and the start of the GP14 Worlds currently being hosted by Skerries, she lavished her bounty on the Fireball Pre-Worlds and Irish Nationals which are the curtain raisers to the Worlds which start on Sunday next.

We woke to grey and slightly overcast conditions and in his briefing to the competitors, International Race Officer, Con Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), indicated that a) we could also expect drizzle and b) the forecast was for the wind to go westwards.

Forty-six boats completed the first race, which was sailed in winds in the high teens and got away reasonably cleanly. The fleet had a three-race agenda for the day so races were restricted to a triangle and a sausage with an offset finish mark, administered from the committee boat which didn’t (voluntarily) move during the first race.

Chris Bateman and Thomas Chaix IRL blast reaching on Lough DergChris Bateman and Thomas Chaix IRL blast reaching on Lough Derg

The P&B liveried boat, sail number GBR 15162 led the race for its entirety, I think as they flew a red spinnaker and there were three of those at the head of the fleet for the off-wind legs of the triangle. As has become the custom, the fleet spilt downwind high-wiring it on both sides of the course. It made for exciting racing as the fleet converged on the leeward mark from opposite sides of the course. If they weren’t always in the lead, they were at the most critical part of the race – on the finish line. Thus, Isaac Marsh & Ollie Davenport opened the regatta with a race win.

Second place went to David Hall & Paul Constable sailing GBR 15155, an experienced duo who relish the stronger winds. The first Irish boat also occupied third place at the finish. Chris Bateman & Thomas Chaix IRL 14750 were at the head of the fleet for the majority of the race. Bateman has just sailed the 5o5 Worlds in Cork and rumour has it that he thinks the Fireball is a nicer boat to sail in these conditions.

Fourth went to the father/son combination of Martyn and Daniel Lewis (GBR 15151) while the Swiss combination of Claude Mermod and Ruedi Moser (SUI 14799) took fifth and first of the continental visitors.

For Race 2 the breeze ramped up and became more variable in direction and that signalled problems for the pin end boat which was having difficulty staying on station and eventually had to be replaced with a rib flying the pin end flag. It was a wet station in life! The rising wind took its toll on the fleet with only 24 boats finishing the race and that in part may have been due to the difficulties in getting the second start away. A swinging breeze, a pin end that was moving, multiple attempts at a start under P, U and eventually black flag resulted in three boats being sent home for an early shower. For those who persevered, they were rewarded with another exciting race. We could see the boats scudding across the top reach but negotiating the gybe mark seemed to a bit more challenging. By now the wind speed was routinely going above the 20knot mark on the anemometer on the committee boat. Many chose to two-sail the reach, having seen the difficulties the leaders had.

Race 2 went to the Czech combination, Jiri Paruzek & Jakub Kosvica (CZE 15141), with Davis Hall & Paul Constable second and Bateman & Chaix 3rd and the first Irish boat again. Fourth went to another Irish combination, Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella (IRL 15093), while another Czech combination, Marin Kubovy & Roman Rocek (CZE15019) rounded out the top five. Special mention must be made of Ben Graff & Alexander Farrell (IRL 14378) who were the only boat to fly spinnaker between the leeward mark and the finish line.

By Race 3 the rib on the pin end had been replaced by a Dory and the start that got away was the most conservative of the day. The fleet had almost halved again! Bateman and Chaix arrived at the leeward mark with a considerable lead, that was obvious across the top reach except, we in the committee boat didn’t know that it was them – it was simply another red spinnaker. The P&B boys, Marsh & Davenport were chasing hard and by the time they reached the leeward mark for the second time the Irish lead had been shortened considerably. However, a home win was secured by Bateman & Chaix to end the day on a high for the hosts. Behind Team P&B were the Czechs, Paruzek & Kosvica, ahead of their compatriots Kubovy & Rocek with another Czech boat Milan Snajdr & Matej Snajdr (CZE 15163) fifth.

Thus, with three races complete, the overall situation is as follows;

1. Chris Bateman & Thomas Chaix, IRL 14750: 3, 3, 1, 7pts
2. Isaac Marsh & Ollie Davenport, GBR 15162: 1, 7, 2, 10pts
3. Martin & Daniel Lewis, GBR 15151: 4, 6, 7, 17pts
4. Martin Kubovy & Roman Rocek, CZE 15019: 13, 5, 4, 22pts
5. Milan & Matej Snajdr, CZE 15163: 6, 11, 5, 22pts
6. Steve & Tom Goacher, GBR 15145: 12, 8, 6, 26pts
7. Noel Butler & Stephen Oram, IRL15061: 10, 9, 8, 27pts
8. Michael & Adam Whitehouse, GBR 15096: 16, 13, 9, 38pts
9. Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer, IRL 14938: 20, 20, 11, 51pts
10. Frank Miller & Conor Flynn, IRL 14915: 24, 15, 13, 52pts.

Another three races are scheduled for tomorrow.

Published in Fireball

This morning in Lough Derg the Fireballs have grey skies and low clouds on the County Clare side of the water.

A briefing is scheduled for 10:30 from Race Officer Con Murphy (IRO) who arrived on site this morning. Racing in the Irish Nationals which will double up as the Pre-Worlds is down for a 12-noon start, with three races on the agenda.

The Australians, Heather McFarlane & Chris Payne arrived yesterday and took to the water as soon as they could, not having seen their boat for close to three years.

Yesterday, 45 boats went through the measurement process with some very favourable comments on the speed and efficiency with which this process was carried out.

Photo (by Cormac Bradley): The 60th Anniversary Fireball Flag flies over Lough Derg this morning – maybe not so healthily as we might like, but at least it’s flying.

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Barry McCartin and Teddy Byrne were crowned the new Fireball Leinster champions at Blessington Sailing Club at the weekend. The pair won every race in the 19-boat fleet with top-class boat speed and brilliant picks of wind zones. Race one on Saturday saw light and tricky winds from a northerly direction which shifted up to 80 degrees during the race. The first downwind leg of the triangular course in particular was difficult to judge and the fleet spread out over a wide area as sailors picked high angles to keep their boats moving. While there were winners and losers downwind in general places did not change that much. Race officer Joe Crilly decided very sensibly to shorten the race after one round to the start/finish line a little up the beat.

Fireball Leinster Champions Barry McCartin (right) and Teddy ByrneFireball Leinster Champions Barry McCartin (right) and Teddy Byrne

Unfortunately, although a rib and an S flag signalled the intention to all sailors at the leeward mark this particular method of shortening was not accounted for in the Sailing Instructions and the race was thrown out following a protest from Noel Butler/Stephen Oram who scored an 8th in that race after a difficult start.

After that finish, the wind continued to swing around and never settled enough to set a course. The race committee took pity on the competitors in the sweltering heat and sent everyone ashore to wait for a reasonable breeze to settle in. Ashore Fireballers were treated to a terrific barbecue put on by a team of club volunteers. The breeze did fill a couple of hours later and competitors launched again to sail two races with the breeze now Southerly.

Max Cully and Lisa Flynn Junior team prize winners - Max Cully and Lisa Flynn

Again McCartin/Byrne led the way around the course in both races by careful choices of wind zones and angles and judicious tacking and loose covering decisions. Conditions were very tricky and those who found boat speed and made good tactical decisions found their way to the front. Jane Butler Sailing with her "old" 420/470 crew Jenny Andreasson played a blinder with two seconds and a third. This placed them in second overall overnight despite race 1 being thrown out. Her brother Ed Og, Sailing with Ismail Inan, were in third position but the lost race demoted them and Adrian Lee/Ossian Geraghty took over that position. With the stunning weather many sailors camped by the lakeshore and the whole scene resembled the Italian riviera rather than the typical Wicklow landscape. More barbecues, shared meals, shared drinks and shared stories were the order of the evening.

Jane Butler and crew Jenny AndreassonJane Butler and crew Jenny Andreasson

Sunday dawned extremely hot but windless, which was the forecast all along. The postponement flag went up and stayed up and by early lunchtime race officer Joe Crilly made the absolutely correct call to abandon racing for the day. Hanging around for a couple of hours in blazing sunshine gave Irish measurer Owen Sinnott the opportunity to brief the class on what to expect at the measurement checking process at the forthcoming Worlds in Lough Derg. With 75 boats now registered everyone is keen to have a smooth, fair and fast checking process.

Adrian Lee/Ossian GeraghtyAdrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty and young James Geraghty

The becalmed conditions also allowed some re-measuring of sails where old measurement stamps had faded to invisibility. After another great barbecue generously provided by the BSC volunteer team prize-giving took place outdoors in idyllic conditions. Besides the above, overall winners Brenda Nash and husband Glen Fisher deservedly took the Silver Fleet prize. The junior team prize was won by Max Cully and Lisa Flynn.

Brenda Nash and Glen Fisher Brenda Nash and Glen Fisher

The lemon prizes were awarded randomly to Nick Miller and Pat McGoldrick for their lack of a boatname, something of a Fireball class habit! One of the most charming moments at prize-giving was seeing young helper James Geraghty present his father Ossian with his third prize. The class made their traditional presentation to Joe Crilly for his solid race management in very shifty winds, and in addition to commodore Richard Street, the human dynamo who pulled the whole event together. A particular feature of this event was the incredible welcome and hospitality provided to the class at their first appearance in Blessington in many years. The warmth and energy of the volunteer ethic at the club literally shone through the whole event. The appearance of so many new faces, both young and not so young augurs well for the future of the class.

Next up for Fireballs is their Nationals at Lough Derg, the prequel to the Gul Worlds in August. Blessington provided a testing ground for sailors to practice their light air skills which will surely be useful at some stage over the week-long Worlds, though everyone will be praying for good winds on that very much larger lake.

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A surge in entries before the main closing date for the GUL Fireball Worlds at LDYC Dromineer on Thursday saw entries reach 75 boats. Earlier in the week additional sponsors GUL and Failte Ireland came on board, joining Carrickcraft and Tipperary Co Council as key supporters of the event in August. The watersports apparel company GUL becomes the title sponsor of the Worlds, now known as the GUL Fireball World Championship 2022. The event has additional support from Fireball International.

As this is the first Fireball World Championship since Montreal in 2019 there is significant interest around the globe with teams entered from Australia, Canada, France, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic and South Africa, along with a large contingent from the UK and a rapidly growing local fleet. Many teams are travelling with their families and extending their trip so the event is expected to provide a strong boost to tourism in the lakelands area and beyond.

The stunning lakelands area, a lesser-known gem of the Irish tourism offering, is likely to surprise domestic and international sailors alike with its beauty. With special Irish Ferries rates for competitors the ‘Trip to Tipp’, is an attractive option for sailors from mainland Europe and the UK. Another great attraction at LDYC is the amount of space available for camping and for camper vans so much of the Worlds fleet is expected to live on-site for the event helping to keep the event both affordable and extremely social. With Carrickcraft cruiser hire as one of the sponsors discounted cruiser hire is available to competitors and their families, providing an attractive accommodation alternative which would allow families to view the racing from their floating holiday homes based on the marina beside the sailing club.

 Up for grabs - The historic Fireball World Championship trophy which dates from 1966 and is engraved with some of the most famous names in sailing worldwide.Up for grabs - The historic Fireball World Championship trophy which dates from 1966 and is engraved with some of the most famous names in sailing worldwide

In preparation for the Worlds, the International trophies have been shipped to Ireland. Of these the most impressive is the World Championship trophy, a genuine work of art dating back to 1966 and featuring the famous sailor and journalist Bob Fisher as the first winner. Other famous names include John Caig, Ian Pinnell, Lawrie Smith, and of course the only Irish winners John Lavery and David O’Brien in 1995. The class celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with the major events being the Lough Derg Worlds and the special anniversary event at Hayling Island UK last weekend.

International race officer Con Murphy will be PRO for the event. The World Championships take place from August 21st-26th with a warm-up event on 18th & 19th August which doubles as the Irish National Championship. Measurement checking is expected to take place mainly on Wednesday 17th and Saturday 20th August with the racing programme of two races per day running from Sunday through Friday with Wednesday as the lay day. With some fifty square miles of open lake the venue is likely to challenge sailors with a good mixture of conditions over the week. While not at all as shifty or light as smaller lakes it will be interesting to see if the venue suits the Swiss and Czech competitors who predominantly sail on lakes. Amongst a hot entry list are multiple World champion Tom Gillard (UK) and former Fireball World champion Ruedi Moser (SUI). There are several top Irish teams participating including Barry McCartin and crew Conor Kinsella, Noel Butler and Stephen Oram, and also several new teams who have joined the fleet in recent months and have shown real potential. Not least of these is Chris Bateman who won the recent Fireball Ulsters in very lively and hotly contested conditions and has teamed up with professional dinghy coach Thomas Chaix for the Worlds.

The event will include an activity programme for families and non-sailors with many and diverse regional attractions. The long lead-up to the event, with the delay caused by the pandemic, has given the domestic Fireball fleet a great boost and the last couple of years have seen a big increase in local numbers. Some 28 Irish boats have now committed to the event, the first Fireball Worlds on local waters in eleven years.

Youth sailors are welcome and can enter at a discount of 20% and the class is encouraging sailors from other classes to get hold of a Fireball and to join the fray. Recent months have seen a huge increase in interest in Fireballs in Ireland and sailors have joined from the 420s, GP14s, 49ers amongst other classes. Latecomers are advised to enter now via the club website at ldyc.ie before the event finally closes to late entrants on Friday August 13th.

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Chris Bateman of Monkstown Bay Sailing Club and Conor Flynn of Blessington Sailing Club are the new Fireball Ulster Champions after six hard-fought races in lively conditions at Sutton Dinghy Club on Dublin Bay last weekend.

The young team, who also took the youth prize, counted two wins, a second and two thirds to win the trophy by five points over Ed Óg Butler and Fionn Conway.

 Bateman (right) and Flynn close in at a leeward markBateman (right) and Flynn close in at a leeward mark

Bateman leading and Flynn lead the fleet on Dublin BayBateman leading and Flynn lead the fleet on Dublin Bay

Second was Ed Og Butler and Fionn ConwaySecond was Ed Og Butler and Fionn Conway

Third was Niall McGrotty (left) and Neil CramerThird was Niall McGrotty (left) and Neil Cramer

The event was one of the most exhilarating and competitive Fireball regional event for several years.

Several new teams were afloat testing their skills and their boats against more experienced opposition in conditions which ranged from medium to very strong North-Northwest winds. Saturday saw good medium breezes, mostly from the northwest, with testing shifts and light patches.

Day one racing under the Pigeon HouseDay one racing under the Pigeon House

Every race saw multiple place changes over the various legs with no one team dominating.

Frank Miller and Grattan Donnelly pulled off a win in race one by going slightly further inshore on a beat and finding better wind and a lift to the weather mark to take them from fifth to first and holding on to the finish.

Frank Miller and Grattan DonnellyFrank Miller and Grattan Donnelly

Race two saw Bateman/Flynn take the bullet from the highly experienced team of McGrotty/Cramer in second.

Race three saw Butler/Conway prevail. Race four saw McGrotty/Cramer squeeze inside Louise McKenna/Hermine O’Keeffe at the final leeward mark to take the win, and the overnight lead on points over Bateman/Flynn.

Courses were the of the preferred triangle-sausage variety leading to some great reaches thanks to the skill of race officer Scorie Walls and her team.

What was really remarkable about the weekend’s racing was the level of competition. New sailors quickly found their feet in the Fireball and gave plenty of challenge to the more experienced, often emerging on top. Whoops of delight were heard on some of the windier reaches.

Day two dawned with a slightly ominous forecast. Slightly different forecasts were on offer from Wind Guru, Windy and Met Eireann. The bottom line suggested possible breezes of up to thirty knots. After consulting the thirteen-boat fleet and taking in to consideration the flat sea conditions and the ability of the Fireball to be tuned to sail comfortably in very strong winds racing went ahead in a building breeze which ultimately saw some gusts reach 27 knots.

Special mention here for Paul Ter Horst, who with his son Maurice were probably the only true “silver” fleet sailors afloat. The pair took to the conditions and finished every race but the last when the wind was very clearly on a steep upward trajectory.

On the course, there were some very strong veins on wind, most coming over the hill from due north, with some great lifts, and also some great headers. Racing was a game of making the most of these patches and lifts while staying upright and flat. This is probably where Bateman/ Flynn really excelled, sailing “bow down” for maximum speed and crossing ahead on the big shifts. The pair won race five and were second in the final race to Butler/Conway. Their victory in the event is all the more remarkable because this was Bateman’s first competitive outing in his Fireball. The silver fleet prize was won by Conor Twohig and Matthew Cotter.

The Fireball silver fleet prize was won by Conor Twohig and Matthew CotterThe Fireball silver fleet prize was won by Conor Twohig and Matthew Cotter

The very fast team of Josh Porter and Cara McDowell had been leading the final race and heading for their best result when a strong gust wiped them out at the final gybe mark. Equally McGrotty/Cramer went down to a strong gust in race six but their overall solid scoring saw them take third overall by a point from Miller/Donnelly.

Special mention too for Fionn Conway who crewed for Ed Óg – the highly skilled Laser and Moth sailor was trapezing and flying a spinnaker for the first time.

This was a tremendous weekend at Sutton, who led by event organisers Andy Johnson and Jim Lambkin, stepped up as an unlikely but terrific venue to host the Ulsters, just North of the Liffey when other venues and dates fell through.

The event organisers Andy Johnson (left) and Jim Lambkin (centre) with Race Officer Scorie WallsThe event organisers Andy Johnson (left) and Jim Lambkin (centre) with Race Officer Scorie Walls

The club, which has just finished a major renovation, provided exemplary race management and extremely warm and open-hearted hospitality to the class to mark its return to the spiritual home of the Fireball in Ireland. It was from Sutton in 1962 that the first Irish Fireball was launched by Roy Dickson.

race six fireball startlineThe Fireball race six startline

This year is the 60th anniversary of the class, a landmark being celebrated at a special event at Hayling Island in the UK and at the World Championships at Lough Derg YC in Dromineer this August.

Appropriately enough numbers for the Worlds at 58 are now close to that 60 mark. The event in Sutton last weekend showed clearly that there is new Irish talent entering the fleet ready to take on the best the world has to offer.

Published in Fireball

This weekend, Sutton Dinghy Club on Dublin Bay welcomes the Fireball fleet to Sutton Creek for the first time in quite a while. It will be an unusual situation as it will the first time we have hosted the Fireball Ulster Championships. With the Worlds in Ireland this year, the Class were very keen to ensure as many of their events were run and Sutton were more than delighted to help out writes the Club's, Andy Johnston.

The Fireball is a Class that Sutton are very familiar with from a historical perspective, as it's here 60 years ago that the first Irish Fireball was sailed by our former Commodore Roy Dickson, when in September 1962 Roy sailed hull number 38 across Dublin Bay to Dun Laoghaire.

Fireball 38 in Sutton Creek sailed by Roy DicksonFireball 38 in Sutton Creek sailed by Roy Dickson

By the following years, Roy had helped build a formidable fleet of Fireballs with the likes of Bunny Conn, Ian Baird, David Lovegrove, Hugh Morton, Ronan Henry and Brian Galton all involved. In 1963 the first Fireball Nationals were sailed from Broadmeadows in Malahide and were won by Noel 'Bunny' Conn and Ronan. Roy with Pat Gilmour crewing won the Championship in 1964. The fleet remained strong in Sutton well into the 1970s with Barry O'Neill, Jamie Wilkinson, Brian Matthews, Joe McKeever, Vincent Wallace, Freddie Harrison, Ian Baldock all campaigning out of Sutton Dinghy Club. Aside from winning multiple national championships, the Sutton fleet campaigned at World and European level with a 4 boat team travelling to Bendor in France in 1967, where Roy Dickson and Hugh Morton took 3rd with David Lovegrove and Ian Baird in 4th. The quality of that fleet is demonstrated with Barry O'Neill and Jamie Wilkinson progressing to Olympic level together in Montreal in 1976. Jamie returned to partner David Wilkins in Moscow in 1980 to a Silver medal.

1973 Fireball Nationals and the winners take their prize1973 Fireball Nationals and the winners take their prize

The fleet started to disappear from Sutton in the late 70s with intermittent campaigns by the likes of Ruan O'Tiarnaigh and Stephen Boyle in the 90s. The pair were quite successful, with podium places at a number of Fireball National Championships including 1994 and 1995, with Ruan ultimately taking the Helmsmans Championship in 1995. The most recent sighting of a Fireball in Sutton was multiple IDRA14 Champion Alan Henry and Simon Revill who attended a number of events from 2015-2017. Simon in fact won the Fireball Nationals in 2017 as a crew with Noel Butler.

Fireball Worlds 1967 - 3rd Prize Fireball Worlds 1967 - 3rd Prize 

This weekend's Ulster Championship will have a small but perfectly formed fleet that includes the ever-active Class Captain Frank Miller and will include we believe a crew from the host Club. With the GP14 Worlds also in Ireland in 2022, Conor Twohig and Matthew Cotter are using the Ulster Championship to hone their skills and get more time on the water and are joined by another GP14 crew from Blessington in Richard Street and Lisa Flynn. We believe there are a few notable Fireball crews missing so hard to gauge who is the most likely winner. Maybe there will be a surprise. Irrespective it is brilliant to see the Fireballs back 'Home' in Sutton Creek and we look forward to a great weekend.

Published in Fireball

After the Covid enforced hiatus, the first one-day regatta hosted by a Dun Laoghaire harbour yacht club in four years took place last Saturday, with the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club “breaking the ice” for the other three clubs.

Despite a good deal of sunshine on the day, the wind forecast wasn’t so benign and a South-Westerly of 15 knots gusting to 23/24 knots was “on the cards” from early in the week before. Indeed, on the morning of the regatta, the three Race Officers, Susanne McGarry (DBSC Hut), Barry O’Neil (Green Fleet), Cormac Bradley (Dinghy Fleet) and Regatta Co-ordinator, Ben Mulligan, contemplated an hour-long postponement in the hope that the predicted and apparent breeze might ease. It didn’t and the Race Officers and their RIB entourages set out to provide the day’s racing. The dinghies, comprising Fireballs (5), Aeros (4) and ILCA 6s (5) represented about half of the starting roster with Squibs and Mermaids absent and no other ILCAs coming out to play.

The dinghy course was set off Salthill inshore of the Green Fleet and well to the West of the DBSC Hut Fleet who initially set out westwards before peeling off on a spinnaker leg to the East. While a hand-held was recording regular wind speeds of 15 – 17 knots, the numbers went up on a routine basis to record gusts in the low twenties and their arrival was heralded by darker clouds passing overhead. A postponement was flown to allow the dinghy participants more time to get to the race area but even those who did make it decided that there was to much “oomph” on the water and hightailed it home almost as soon as they arrived.

Racing in winds in the high teens/low twenties can be challenging enough, but couple that with multiple gear failures and the day goes from potentially intimidating to downright frustrating. One well-known Fireballer suffered a broken main halyard before the racing started. Having taken some time to resolve that and present himself on the start line he would go on to suffer a broken spinnaker sheet and a shredded mainsheet, proving that even multiple throws of the dice by an experienced hand can still produce ones.

The five-boat Fireball fleet saw both races won by Josh Porter & Cara McDowell (14695), though they did get a slice of luck in the second race when the boat leading into the last leeward mark capsized giving them the win. Adrian Lee (14713) took second place ahead of Frank Miller & Neil Cramer (14915). On a day when staying upright was key, the level of competition within the fleet was modest and exchanging tacks on the course was not a primary activity. However, Porter & McDowell showed what a light crew can do on a heavy-duty day and looked very comfortable, both upwind and downwind. Spinnakers were flown in both races but not on both reaches of either race.

Another to score a pair of aces was Hugh Cahill (216594) in the ILCA6 fleet which also had five boats racing. Hugh was well placed in the first race, but not leading, when the lead boat went for a swim, allowing Hugh to take the first gun. In the second race he didn’t have to rely on others making errors in order to cross the line first. In overall terms he was followed home by Damien Delap (183295), and Michael Norman (219126).

The Aero fleet mustered 3 Aero 7s and an Aero 5, the latter sailed by Roy van Maanen. This added a bit of intrigue to their racing as it meant there was a handicap race going on within their fleet. Stephen Oram indicated that they enjoyed close racing by way of the lighter van Maanen in the smaller rig being competitive relative to the “bigger helms” sailing the Aero 7. Three of the four Aeros enjoyed relatively close racing with the fourth boat being off the pace. Brendan Foley took the regatta win in the Aero 7, followed by Roy van Maanen (Aero 5) and Stephen Oram (Aero 7).

With two races in the bag and a recent gust of 26 knots recorded on the handheld and given that the Green Fleet had shut up shop for the day, the dinghies were dispatched to the harbour where the day’s proceedings were assessed under a blue-sky afternoon.

DMYC Regatta 2022.

Fireballs
1. Josh Porter & Cara McDowell, 14695 (2)
2. Adrian Lee & crew, 14713 (5)
3. Frank Miller & Neil Cramer 14915 (6)

ILCA6s
1. Hugh Cahill 216594 (2)
2. Damien Delap 183295 (4)
3. Michael Norman 219126 (7)

Aeros
1. Brendan Foley Aero 7, 1321 (3)
2. Roy van Maanen Aero 5, 3822 (3)
3. Stephen Oram Aero 7, 3288 (6)

Published in DMYC

Josh Porter and I represented the Irish Fireball Association at the GUL UK National Championships held over the four-day British jubilee holiday weekend writes Frank Miller

The Fireball UK Nationals is one of the most competitive on these islands and 2022 was no exception. Thirty-four Fireballs made the trek to Brightlingsea on the east coast of England. This was a double National championship, shared with the Contender class who had similar boat numbers. As always, the event was extremely well organised with food, entertainment and daily prizes most evenings. A feature of UK Nationals is the daily prize-giving and generous spot prizes were presented by main sponsors GUL, by North Sails, Pinnell and Bax, Allen Brothers and West Systems. The regatta team, led by regatta chair Fiona Brown, made a special arrangement with the local council to use an adjacent field for tents and campers with access to the scouts’ den for kitchen and loos. This, coupled with the cosy atmosphere of the little seaside town meant that sailors were sited close together adding a friendly and intimate feeling to the championship.

Team IRL selfie - Josh Porter (left) and Frank Miller in Brightlingsea Fireball Team IRL selfie - Josh Porter (left) and Frank Miller in Brightlingsea 

With measurement checks out of the way on the Wednesday the event kicked off in earnest on the Thursday. Launching was interesting as the curving slipway leads at low water to a gravel oyster bed. An extremely strong tide runs across the route out so a special nod of admiration must go to those sailors who have fixed rudders and manoeuvred rudderless for first several hundred metres out through the narrow-marked channel. Out in the wider estuary, the first courses were set and the Fireballs got away on mostly two round Olympic Triangle type courses. Day one saw light to moderate winds increasing as the day wore on. We had a reasonable start in race one and a reasonable mid-fleet result. Conditions for the day were choppy but with enough wind to get through the slop. The wild card was the tide. With two rivers flowing into the estuary and an extremely strong tide even the locals admitted they found it difficult to decide a strategy in the wider estuary when these factors combined - or didn't! Certainly, team Ireland were as perplexed as most of the sailors and mainly played shifts upwind while tending to go inshore as this appeared to be the favoured side - except when it wasn’t. Race two saw me make a dog’s dinner of the start and we had to tack multiple times to clear our air. By the time we reached clean wind, it was a game of catch-up and an appropriate result followed.

Josh Porter and Frank Miller (left) sailing in Brightlingsea Photo: William Stacey

Day two was an entirely different kettle of fish as winds far stronger than forecast competed against tide giving a very lively and disturbed sea. The wind increased a couple of notches to 18-25 knots by race four delivering champagne conditions to be enjoyed by those who managed to stay upright. We achieved that critical task and had two fairly decent results posting a 15th and 14th. Special praise here for stand-in crew Josh who normally holds the tiller but donned the trapeze harness for this UK adventure. He stepped into the breach at short notice when regular sailing partner Ed Butler suffered a cycling injury. Josh made nearly all the good calls during the event, especially in careful positioning relative to the fleet for clear lanes, excellent boat tuning and active dynamism on the windier downwind legs which gained us numerous places.

Fireball Team IRL HQFireball Team IRL HQ

Even stronger winds were forecast for day three and sure enough our tents rocked during the night. By morning the winds were such that our PRO, International Race Officer Paul Jackson checked out the “horrible” sea state and made the early call to abandon racing for the day. There were no complaints. This gave us the chance to relax and catch up with friends in the club bar, and to take a gander around the town. Given that the jubilee weekend was in full flight the town was an interesting sight with a plethora of union jacks and window displays of royal memorabilia, some of which would fetch high valuations on the Antiques Roadshow. We were especially taken with the knitted crown atop the Royal Mail post-box outside the local Tesco. To my eyes however the most fascinating sight was the rows of seaside huts, each uniquely decorated and distinctive. Several were festooned with bunting and hosting Jubilee parties. These quirky gems do not come cheap.

Jubilee celebrations at the Beach HutsJubilee celebrations at the Beach Huts

A nose in the windows of local estate agents showed prices between 25 and 35k. Not cheap, especially when you consider that the town doesn't really have a proper beach. And not cheap either when you see that pretty little redbrick houses dating from the late 19th century can be had from about 200k upwards.

Crowned PostboxCrowned Postbox

Saturday night saw the main championship dinner at the club. This was a terrific social evening with lovely food cooked and served entirely by volunteers from Brightlingsea Sailing Club. A highlight of the evening for me was meeting Bob Fisher's daughters Alice and Carolyne. The legendary sailor and columnist was born and raised in Brightlingsea. Fisher, who died in 2021 has his name engraved above the bar marking his Fireball World championship title in the 1960s. The sisters posed with chair of the UK class Derian Scott beside a special cake commissioned for the event marking the 60th anniversary of the Fireball. Before the Jazz band struck up for the evening, I had the opportunity to do a quick presentation for the Fireball World Championships in Lough Derg YC this August. With 19 British entries so far amongst competitors from as far away as Australia and South Africa the UK fleet are strongly supporting the upcoming Irish Worlds. And with an attractive ferry discount thanks to Irish Ferries, we expect that number will increase before the cheaper entry closing date at the end of this month. Currently, there are 55 teams entered and the class now expects boat numbers to top the 60 mark.

Bob Fisher’s daughters with UK chair Derian Scott (centre) – from left Carolyne Archer, Derian Scott and Alice Davies, commodore BSC.Photo: William StaceyBob Fisher’s daughters with UK chair Derian Scott (centre) – from left Carolyne Archer, Derian Scott and Alice Davies, commodore BSC.Photo: William Stacey

Rested after our day off as tourists and our championship dinner we launched next morning for the final day of racing with three races planned. The forecast promised medium winds, declining to light and clocking left as the day progressed. And so it proved. We had a fairly decent start for race five, lining up well for the gun only to have event leader and multiple world champion Tom Gillard, with crew Andy Thompson, shoot out over us like a rocket. We bore off for clear wind and for a few minutes at least had a good view of Tom's technique - hiking aggressively and dynamically in any puffs to power past adjacent boats before settling into loose covering control of the main competition. Gillard is a multiple world champion and arguably a favourite for this year’s Worlds although the Swiss and Czech teams could well prevail due to their lake sailing experience. This race gave us our best result, keeping left on the first beat put us in good position at the top mark and we held our place for the race to finish 7th. Race six was for us a bit of a disaster. To keep manners on the fleet a U flag was flying for the off. I opted to start somewhat down the line where there was more room but a classic situation emerged whereby a single boat to weather of us seemed to me well forward of the line so I held back to avoid an OCS at all costs. This was a fatal mistake as they had judged the line perfectly and were away in the clear at the gun. We were overrun and found ourselves in poor air and chopped up sea for the entire beat. We fought hard and tried various options but never really got back into any kind of decent position. With the clock running down to the 3.30 pm cut-off the race officer took the pragmatic decision to get a last race in despite a slightly skewed course favouring a long port tack to the weather mark. This saw us line up for a pin end start only for the breeze to head further preventing us and those around us from crossing the line. Luckily, we managed to tack onto port and slip through a gap into clear air. We settled into the long and favoured port tack and concentrated on boat speed, helped by a lee-bow tide effect. We arrived at the weather mark in good shape and managed to hold onto most of our advantage around the course to finish in 14th.

Tom Gillard with crew Andy ThompsonTom Gillard with crew Andy Thompson Photo: William Stacey

When the dust settled and the scores were counted, we finished 16th overall in the 34-boat fleet and managed to get the 2nd silver fleet prize for the event so no complaints from this North-South Fireball team sailing together for the first time. The team of Russell and Ali Cormack who took the top silver prize on equal points to us deserved every bit of their prize as they managed to pull off a second in the same race which was our worst. We salute them! Unsurprisingly North Sails' Tom Gillard with Andy Thompson won the event but they didn't have things entirely their own way as Peter Gray and Simon Foskett posted some great results including two wins on the last day to come second overall. The young and fast-improving P&B team of Isaac Marsh and Ollie Davenport posted a win, a second and two thirds to come third overall. In summary, the UK Nationals is always a brilliant event and this was no exception, worth every bit of the long trek across the UK to take part.

The Brightlingsea Fireball fleet on a tight reach Photo: William StaceyThe Brightlingsea Fireball fleet on a tight reach Photo: William Stacey

DMYC regatta

Next up on the Irish Fireball circuit is the DMYC regatta this coming weekend and the Ulster Championship the following weekend. This year's Ulsters is being staged just North of the Liffey as the class looks forward to returning to Sutton Dinghy Club for the first time in many years. The Fireball class loan boat is now booked for the Sutton event but available to a responsible team for the Leinster Championship in Blessington SC in July. Interested teams should contact class chairman Neil Cramer or secretary Frank Miller.

Fireball Worlds on Lough Derg

The International Fireball World Championship takes place from August 21st - 27th at Lough Derg YC in Dromineer with Con Murphy as PRO. The event is supported by Tipperary County Council and also by Carrickcraft, who are offering sailors special rates for cruiser hire during and after the championship. The Worlds are preceded by the Irish National Championships on August 18th and 19th which doubles as the warm-up event. Currently, 55 boats are signed up for the worlds and with a cheap entry cut-off of the end of June, that number is expected to reach 60 plus. The class are encouraging inactive Fireball sailors to pass on their boats to new teams and the class website has seen many boats change hands in recent weeks. The countdown to the Worlds in Dromineer is ticking but it's not yet too late to get hold of a Fireball and join the fray…

Link to final results here

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Sixteen Fireballs travelled to Dromineer last weekend to take advantage of a special pre-worlds coaching session at Lough Derg Yacht Club. The programme, organised by the Irish Fireball Association was delivered by top dinghy coach Thomas Chaix.

Many travelled down on the Friday and the weekend kicked off in the local Whiskey Still bar where sailors enjoyed the best catch-up since the start of the pandemic. Saturday saw a beautiful sunny day on the lake but alas very light winds.

pre-worlds coaching session at Lough Derg Yacht Club

The morning was far from wasted however as multiple rigging advice sessions took place around the dinghy park with generous advice and help given by the more experienced Fireballers to the several new members of the class. With a World Championship at LDYC this August the class is enjoying a boost as sailors from around the island seek out Fireballs to enter the fray.

New faces in the dinghy park included Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty, Immy Hauer and Hugo Mikka, youth team Ella O’Callaghan and Oscar George from LDYC, Andrés Gonzalez and Ana Grande from Killaloe, and flying in from the Netherlands Jane Butler with her “old” 420 crew Jenny Andreasson. Hugo’s renovation work on his newly acquired Duvoisin was especially admired by all.

Fireball pre-worlds coaching session at Lough Derg Yacht Club

When a light breeze showed signs of filling in coach Thomas Chaix briefed the sailors on light air techniques, especially boat handling with minimal use of the rudder and maximum use of sails and body weight within the rules around the start-line.

Once afloat the sailors went through multiple starting practice followed by a few short windward-leeward races. Helping out in a second RIB were ex-Fireball volunteers from Killaloe Philip Despard and Stefany Gorski. The debrief ashore analysed the issues and opportunities in the light airs, in particular anticipating where the next shift was coming from – it was relatively easy to see the breeze pattern approaches on the flat water. Thomas talked too about the “runway” position on the line and putting yourself into a position to accelerate to the gun. The discussion also around the legal niceties of establishing an overlap, and defending your space from “robbers”!

Fireball pre-worlds coaching session at Lough Derg Yacht Club

With no useful breeze filling in after late afternoon the fleet returned to boat tweaking and prepping before a terrific barbeque organised by class treasurer Marie Barry with much help from BBQ prepper Stephen Oram and very many others.

If the light airs of the day were somewhat frustrating on the water the stunning setting of the lake views from the club balcony made up for a lot on Saturday evening with great food and great company.

Sunday dawned with the promise of better wind and sure enough by the time of the briefing a very decent breeze had set in across the lake. Out on the water more starting practice took place on variously biased lines. Another exercise with downwind starts was very interesting – a running start led to the entire fleet arriving in a bunch at the leeward mark, creating a very realistic big-fleet scenario where multiple gains and losses occur at leeward marks. The bottom line – no pun intended – is that a boat which anticipates a bunched-up mess ahead and slows down for a clean rounding often comes out ahead.

Fireball pre-worlds coaching session at Lough Derg Yacht Club

The message being that it’s the exit from the mark which counts and sailors need to think ahead and anticipate how they will position to exit the mark cleanly inside the opposition. After many of these exercises the fleet returned ashore for a debrief and lunch before re-launching for a three-race series to finish off the weekend.

Heading out into the building breeze in the stunning setting of the lake it was easy to appreciate what a fantastic setting Dromineer is for sailing. By now the winds were 12-15 knots with occasional sharper gusts.

Thomas set Olympic-triangle type courses and three terrific races were had in champagne sailing conditions. Race one was won by Noel Butler and Stephen Oram, with Josh Porter/Cara McDowell, and Jane Butler and Jenny on their heels, followed by Ed Og Butler sailing with Ismail Inan. In race two Frank Miller/Ed Butler snr led to the windward but on the second reach got into a luffing match with Butler/Oram which took them both well off the lead and allowed Ed Og to ultimately take the win. Race three was won by Ed Og, followed home by his sister Jane with Butler/Oram in third. By winning two races Ed Og took the series on tiebreaker from Butler/Oram.

Fireball pre-worlds coaching session at Lough Derg Yacht Club

Fun prizes were presented in the dinghy park afterwards as the fleet packed up for home. An interesting and very useful technique used by Thomas at the event was to post multiple videos of the various exercises, positions and sail shapes on the class WhatsApp group along with running commentary. This supplemented or took the place of debriefs and allow participants to analyse their performance and handling at their leisure.

Asking participants afterwards about their key takeaways from the weekend was interesting. “Closing out the Robber Boats on the start-line”; “Land of Opportunity – slow down and get a good leeward mark rounding”; “importance of risk management in unstable wind”; “starting transits, getting an idea how the land looks against the pin instead of a single object transit; “On the lake find pressure first, then figure out shifts”.

Newcomers really appreciated the help with boat set-up and advice in the dinghy park which was a hive of cooperative activity. Overall this was an absolutely fantastic coaching weekend. It was a mark of Thomas’s professionalism that he got so much done on the light air day and the class really appreciated his quite advanced advice on some tricky topics. The stunning setting of the club never fails to impress and the class and club are really looking forward to hosting the Worlds in August sponsored by Carrickcraft and Tipperary County Council. With 52 boats already registered and a closing date in June this is now looking like a great 60 boat plus World Championship.

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Things are hotting up for the Fireball class in Ireland. As their World Championship in Lough Derg YC this August 21st-26th draws nearer entries have already broken the 50 boat barrier and indications are that this will be a 60 boat plus fleet.

The local class has been very busy all winter with organisation and has welcomed sponsorship from Carrickcraft and Tipperary County Council.

The class has literally got the lead out to make this event work as nine Irish boats took the opportunity last weekend to get their boats officially re-weighed to make sure that they are down to the minimum hull weight of 76.4kg. The international class in 2015 agreed that the overall hull weight could be reduced by 3kg. This decision was based on the fact that modern building techniques allow the Fireball to be lighter and stiffer than ever.

Fireballs on Lough Derg

Most boats built in the last 25 years in FRP have had lead added to bring the overall hull weight up to 79.4kg. The re-weighing event took place after a two-week drying out process in a giant shed in Kildare, overseen by Irish measurers Owen Sinnott and Eddie Ferris. At the World Championship, the measurement process will be overseen by International Measurer Chris Henderson from the UK.

Encouraging youth sailors

As well as supporting the event measurement process Fireball International has initiated a grant scheme to encourage youth sailors to take part in the Worlds.

The Irish class has also organised a professional coaching weekend at LDYC on May 7th and 8th with top dinghy coach Thomas Chaix.

This event is open to all Fireballers and the idea is to get everyone up to speed and to allow competitors test the conditions at the Worlds venue. And in recent weeks the buy and sell section of the Irish Fireball website has been busy with affordable boats selling almost as soon as they go on the market. The big advantage of older boats made from FRP (foam reinforced plastic) is that they remain fully competitive for very many years, probably up to thirty years in fact, once they are maintained.

A fully competitive older FRP Fireball typically sells for around 2.5k with boats needing a bit of TLC selling for less. With the Worlds on the horizon, a number of sailors from other classes have acquired Fireballs, in particular sailors wishing to graduate from 420s and GP14s. Advice of what to look out for when buying a Fireball is on the Irish Fireball Association website which has had a major redesign by webmaster Stephen Oram. The class also has two loan boats and one of these is available now to a responsible team for events leading up to, but not including the Worlds. For details contact the class hon. secretary at [email protected]

Internationally there is big interest in the upcoming World Championship with sailors so far coming from Australia, South Africa, Canada, the Czech Republic, France and Switzerland, as well as a big contingent from the UK and from the local fleet. Special fares for the event are available from Irish Ferries. Amongst the entrants are at least two former World Champions, Tom Gillard from the UK and Swiss sailor Rudi Moser.

There are other top level sailors entered well capable of pulling off a win at the event, not least Heather and Chris McFarlane of Australia and local top dogs Barry McCartin and Conor Kinsella. Noel Butler and Stephen Oram have dominated the domestic fleet for several years and will be working to get back to top form after a pandemic diversion into RS Aeros. Dinghy coach Thomas Chaix has himself acquired a Fireball and signed up for the event with Chris Bateman and that team are expected to hit the ground running. Josh Porter and Cara McDowell will be real contenders in their completely refurbished Winder Fireball.

And nobody could rule out the newbies coming from a 420 background, especially if conditions are light, given that the set-up and technique for both boats is so similar.

Besides the May coaching weekend, the class has regional events lined up at Sutton, Blessington and Killaloe and plans to compete in the main Dun Laoghaire club regattas throughout the summer. On the back of a promised return to racing out in Dublin Bay eight Fireballs have so far have signed up for the DBSC summer series. All in all, this is going to be a busy summer for Fireballs.

For more information on the class go to fireball-ireland.com/ and for Worlds information go to ldyc.ie

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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