An initial review of the commitments and promises to contest the Fireball Nationals, hosted by Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, over the weekend of 26 – 28 August, conducted last Tuesday night after DBSC racing suggests that a fleet in the mid-thirties is possible.
Of course this means that all those people who have had recent contact with Neil Colin about sailing the event will have to deliver on their promises to be there.
In a year when our sailing programme has had to accommodate a two-week Worlds in Sligo, the prospect of a 30+ fleet is very exciting.
Nine races are programmed for the 3 days and Neil Colin, who is wearing two hats – DMYC representative and Fireball Committee member – appears to have all the organisational boxes ticked. The keelboat fraternity also has an event over the same weekend in Dublin Bay – the Cruiser Challenge.
In the Gold fleet there will as always be a queue of teams looking for the podium places. The three regattas sailed thus far this season have each had different winners – Graeme Grant & Francis Rowan in Carlingford, Noel Butler & Stephen Oram in Dun Laoghaire and Simon McGrotty & Ruari Grimes in Ballyholme. However, there are other combinations who have also featured in the 1-2-3 with Barry McCartin/Conor Kinsella getting onto the podium in two of these regattas, Kenny Rumball & Seamus Moore coming good in Belfast Lough, Francis Rowan & Conor taking the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, Diana Kissane taking a podium place in Dun Laoghaire as well as Andy Boyle.
In Belfast Lough Messrs Bracken & O'Hara were starting to show a return to the sort of form that made them regular occupiers of podium places in the recent past. Louis Smyth has also been showing a good turn of form as well. Frank Miller/Grattan Donnelly took a race win in Belfast Lough and have shown on Tuesday nights in DBSC racing that when they get the "bit between their teeth" they can be just as competitive as anyone.
The Silver fleet racing has also been very good this year and with new combinations coming into the Class as a consequence of the Worlds, there should be good competition in Dun Laoghaire for these combinations. The two Bens – Malone and Scallan showed their mettle in Sligo with the former also taking the Silver fleet prize in Carlingford. Cearbhall Daly & Martina Michels took over that mantle at the Dun Laoghaire event, while Hannah Showell & Margaret Casey won in Ballyholme. Marie Barry has featured strongly in this year's Silver fleet and will be breaking in a new helm for the Nationals! Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire have upped their game considerably since they embarked on the Silver Fleet training in Killaloe and Dun Laoghaire in 2010, even going so far as to upgrade their boat to make themselves even more competitive. We have also seen some new talent coming into this fleet since the Worlds – new owners of Kenny Rumball's 14962 - who have confirmed their intention to sail the Nationals.
The challenge to those we have been missing this year is to see how they match up to these new combinations. For a variety of reasons, personal and work-related a number of people have been conspicuous by their absence for the circuit this year and that is understandable. The idea behind a Dublin Bay Nationals this year was to improve the accessibility and cost of the Nationals in a year when most people were expected to spend time in Sligo.
The initial assessment of the entry last Tuesday night would appear to suggest that decision has been vindicated.