#vdlr2013– The Irish Fireball fleet faces into seven days of intense racing with the advent of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and their Nationals on successive weekends. In a year when numbers at regattas have been under pressure, there is a (relatively) healthy entry of 10 boats for the biennial regatta in Dun Laoghaire which had its first hosting in 2005. The Irish Fireball class has been ever-present at the regatta and in times past we have used the Saturday and Sunday racing as one of our own regattas. This year, the event is an "extra" on our regatta schedule, and we have managed to get enough boats to warrant our own start. For those who are unfamiliar with the Dun Laoghaire event it provides racing for everything from Class 0 IRC to the locally designed Waterwags who race inside the harbour. A visit to the website this morning indicates that the entry is close to 400 boats. The picture above shows a portion of the Dun Laoghaire amphitheatre, with the Fireballs racing alongside the other dinghies classes in the area to the right of the harbour – the Salthill Course.
A ten race programme has been scheduled with two races down for Thursday afternoon, with a 15:25 kick-off, followed by a three-race programme for both Friday and Saturday, with two races to close on Sunday. Race Officer for the Salthill Course is Harry Gallagher, National Race Officer, who is one of the Fireball Class' favoured Race Officers. Harry has been Race Officer for two of our recent Nationals, both in Westport and is the regular Race Officer for the dinghies at the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.
Four days after the close of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, the Fireball fleet will reassemble a little bit further up the coast, to the north of Dun Laoghaire, in Skerries, hosts of the 2000 Fireball Europeans. The Skerries club has long been a base for the Fireball fleet but like everywhere, the numbers of the fleet have ebbed and flowed over the years. In recent years they had a very active fleet of five to six Fireballs, with the McGrottys and O'Tooles the names most synonymous with the Class. Numbers are on the low side at present, but the Class has adopted the policy of taking Fireball regattas to venues where the fleet is established.
Skerries provides very easy access to the Dun Laoghaire based fleet and they have been a very welcoming club whenever we have sailed there – most often with the Fireball Leinster Provincial Championships. Access from Northern Ireland is also easy with the travel time from Belfast of the order of 2hrs, or slightly less.
A nine race series is scheduled for the Nationals with racing due to start at 12 noon on the Friday afternoon. Race times thereafter will be determined by the weather conditions.
An 'educated guess" is that our Race Officer might be Liam Dineen, another National Race Officer with whom the Class is very familiar. Like Harry Gallagher, Liam is sensitive to the needs of the competitor and runs his racing accordingly.
Defending Champions Noel Butler & Stephen Oram will doubtless be there and I am aware of at least one combination that we haven't seen this year so far getting together for the event. This combination could well give the defending champions a run for their money but assuming that the regulars we have seen this season are all present, there should be good racing. Names that immediately come to mind to challenge Butler & Oram are Kenny Rumball & Dave Moran, Connor & James Clancy. Based on our recent Ulsters, the likes of Gavin Doyle and Dave Sweeney and Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly have the capacity to upset the established order. And on home waters, it would be churlish to ignore the aspirations of Team McGrotty – Niall certainly and Simon, if studies allow!
While we are all enjoying great weather here on Ireland's east coast (like much of the UK), a victim of the sunshine has been the wind. XCWeather is forecasting a range of 2-9knots from a variety of directions for the duration of the Dun Laoghaire event
Thus a busy period for the Fireball fleet, theoretically 19 races in six and a half days of racing (Volvo Dun Laoghaire Thursday is a half day!).