At the end of every season there is always speculation about who will be buying new boats and what new combinations will be sailing together the following season. The advent of a World Championships heightens that speculation and with the Fireball Worlds scheduled for June 2011 in Sligo, the Irish fleet were the beneficiaries of this fevered activity writes Cormac Bradley.
At the close of the 2010 season the word was that there would be at least one new boat coming into Ireland for 2011. Ironically, the speculation about these individuals' plans has not been resolved because they are not partcipants in the Dun Laoghaire Frostbite Series, coming as they do from the northern side of the Liffey.
Then the word was out of first one and then two new boats, both coming to Dun Laoghaire. Both have now arrived to Stephen Oram and Kenny Rumball respectively. Kenny's boat is still in dry storage (as advised as recently as last Sunday, 1oth April), but Stephen's boat has already taken to the water. Both boats will have numbers around the 15060 mark, as I have seen a photo of 15057 at the Dinghy Exhibition in London in March.
Both boats will be sailed by new combinations. Stephen Oram teamed up with Noel Butler for the Frostbite Series which they won, despite significant on the water competition from Rumball and others. However, it seems the partnership will extend into the 2011 summer season and the Worlds in June. Seamus Moore announced his (premature) retirement from Fireballs after the Barbados Worlds to go running on a serious basis and among his achievements was completing the New York marathon. However, by the time of the 2010 Fireball Nationals, in Baltimore, he was teamed up with Kenny Rumball to finish 2nd overall and they saw out the season in Dunmore East and the Munsters Championships, which they won.
In addition to being very competitive in the Frostbites, the pair were going afloat early on Sunday mornings to get more time on the water. Thus it would appear that they are an "item" for the Sligo Worlds.
Therefore, as the eve of the 2011 regatta season approaches, these two are at the leading edge of the domestic fleet. There are other more established partnerships that will also contest Sligo, Owen Laverty & Ed Butler (Snr), Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly, Andy Boyle & Brian Flahive among others but none of these have been able to consistently knock Butler/Oram or Rumball/Moore off the winning path.
Over the winter, the most successful Irish Fireballer internationally, outside the aforementioned, in recent times, Francis Rowan, has been conspicuous by his absence. Francis, sailing with red-hot talent from the UK, Tom Gillard (2010 European Champion), was placed third at the 2009 Fireball Europeans in La Rochelle, winning one race, and was placed inside the top ten at the Worlds the following week, again winning a race. To date there isn't a whisper of Francis' 2011 plans.
The domestic season kicked off last weekend, 9/10th April, with Silver Fleet training in Killaloe, organised by Neil Colin. This weekend coming (15/16th April) we have another training weekend with Adam Bowers at the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Adam is the perennial coach to the British Cadet Class and has coached Olympic aspirants in the 470 Class. He is based in Weymouth, the venue for the 2012 Olympic Regatta which gives his proteges a distinct advantage in the 2012 qualification process. This will be Adam's fourth visit to these shores for training Irish Fireballers and last year's format of coaching at an active regatta, the Leinsters in Howth, was enormously successful. The first regatta of the season will follow shortly therefater, the Leinsters, hosted by Carlingford Sailing Club on the southern shores of Carlingford Lough on 7/8 May. Ex-Fireball Chairman, Ian O'Gorman is the organiser of the event in one of the country's most picturesque locations within very easy driving distance of the greater Dubln area.
Thera are no regattas planned in advance of the Worlds but there will be a reconnaisance in Sligo over the weekend of 21/22 May where we will be joined by Tim Rush of North Sails. This is a revised plan that brings together what was going to be a training weekend by Tim in Dun Laoghaire and a separate visit to Sligo. The absence of regattas is to afford people time for their own individual plans for getting up to speed for Sligo. In a separate assessment of Irish chances at the Sligo Worlds, Noel Butler speculated that two Irish combinations could get into the top 20 in Sligo. At this stage, Butler/Oram and Rumball/Moore would appear to be the leading candidates for those two slots, but the other Irish combinations will be doing their best to upset that particular "applecart" but in a friendly way!