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World Championship Fireball Winning Crew Coaches at Dun Laoghaire

14th April 2014
World Championship Fireball Winning Crew Coaches at Dun Laoghaire

#2013 Fireball World Championship winning crew Simon Potts fulfilled the coach's role at what has now become the herald of the domestic Irish Fireball scene – the season opening coaching weekend. Potts, who won the Worlds in Slovenia crewing for Tom Gillard, was very modest when asked how he won the Worlds – "I have been practising for nearly 20 years" he said.

The weekend opened with an attendance of 22 people in one of the classroom of the Irish National Sailing School on the West Pier of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. This year's event was the beneficiary of financial support from the national sailing authority, the Irish sailing Association, who at this year's Workshop and AGM in early March were anxious to convey the idea that (limited) money would be available for coaching initiatives.

The weekend was a combination of classroom sessions and on the water coaching and assessment with the focus being on tight 3-sail reaching on Saturday morning. An afternoon session on the water had to be abandoned when the wind did the complete opposite of what it was forecast to do – it grew in strength!

This afforded Simon the opportunity to do a boat on boat assessment of spinnaker set-ups in particular, given the objective of the morning session on the water. The first boat scrutinised, which the crew though was reasonably well set-up, was found to be in trouble on a number of different issues – spinnaker pole controls, pole position relative to forestay, spinnaker sheet lengths, poorly operating ends of spinnaker pole, and spinnaker halyard. It was quite a revelation for the crew!

Other boats required more attention, especially those that are in the hands of new Fireballers of which there were two boats' worth. It was an insightful session and an indication of the level of detail that a crew operating at this level of success gives to boat set up. Simon stressed that these are checks that should be undertaken at the start of each day's racing with due attention to the wind conditions expected on the water.

The ethos he was getting across was the need to start preparation for racing, in the dinghy park, not just in the time before the start, on the water.

Another revelation was the declaration that the centreboard of the boats he sails regularly come out of the centreboard case on a regular basis (as frequently as every month) for cleaning, and polishing to make them, work as easily as possible in the box. So, while the afternoon was not spent on the water, it was a very pro-active session in the dinghy park.

Sunday saw the focus move to upwind and downwind manoeuvres, gybing and tacking on a Windward – Leeward course. As the day progressed the wind got up in strength and became even more blustery. Even the very competent (and youthful) crews were having the odd swim. In the afternoon we had the four-race- no discard Porsche Cup and in one of these short duration races, a severe squall knocked over all the "young turks" as they approached or departed the weather mark.

At the debrief, we got the "Potts buzzwords" – Committed and Determined. These join the Irish Fireball lexicon to sit with a certain individual's WUMPETA to describe the urgency that competitive Fireball sailing demands in certain situations.

This may have been the first weekend-long coaching session that Simon has given, but he certainly impressed his audience with his knowledge, his style of coaching, and his interest level – even to the extent of getting into a Fireball to coach one particular combination in the heavier stuff yesterday morning.

The Irish Fireball Class' thanks are due to Simon for a great weekend of tuition, to Kenny and Mrs Rumball (Kenny's Mum) for the use of their facilities at the Irish National Sailing School and their matching hospitality, to the ISA for their funding support and to Neil Colin who did the organising for the event and hosted Simon at his home.

Published in Fireball
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At A Glance – Fireball Dinghy Specs

Crew 2 (single trapeze)
LOA 16 ft 2 in (4.93 m)
Beam 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m)
Hull weight 175 lb (79 kg)
Mast height 22.3 ft (6.8 m)
Mainsail area 108 sq ft (10.0 m2).
Jib / Genoa area 35 sq ft (3.3 m2).
Spinnaker area 140 sq ft (13 m2).

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