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Fireball Training Session with Ger Owens

18th April 2016
470 sailor Ger Owens prepares to gybe at a Fireball training demo at the DMYC 470 sailor Ger Owens prepares to gybe at a Fireball training demo at the DMYC Photo: Frank Miller

Last weekend saw ten boats and some 25 Fireball participants join the ISA supported training session with former Olympic 470 sailor Ger Owens at the DMYC. Ger had a hard act to follow as previous Fireball training sessions had been led by Fireball World champions including Adam Bowers, Simon Potts and Richard Wagstaff. That said he rose magnificently to the occasion and his brilliantly self-depreciating and quite funny delivery charmed and informed the fleet. Ger’s main message to the sailors was that while boat and crew techniques were certainly important and worth perfecting through training the biggest gains were to be had through intelligent tactics and strategy. Something as simple as always keeping the main opposition in a large fleet under your boom would ensure high average results, offer occasional race wins and improve the chances of a very good result over a series. While that advice might seem blindingly obvious how many of us sail off to the corner of a course seeking miracles, time after time, only to find ourselves well down the fleet at the finish?

Having delivered some big truths, in a very steady and digestible patter of advice, Ger sent the fleet afloat for a fitness test with 50 “loopies” round a fixed mark, in both directions, whilst swapping hands throughout. This was followed by short circuit training with a single mark, beats, bear-aways, hoist on reach, drop downwind, gybe, reach, drop, beat again, all in the shortest possible distance. Ger then set quick short upwind races to put the “under the boom” principle into practice, and downwind legs to test kite hoist, gybes and drops under pressure. These exercises are designed like gym sessions to improve fitness, technique and ultimately train the right “muscle memory” to kick in under pressure while racing. Emphasis is placed on going out for short, sharp training sessions for just one hour, a bit like a gym session.

Many other topics followed over the two day session, too many to list here, with a constant stream of tips and advice. This allowed all participants to get something out of the sessions, from the most experienced and seasoned campaigners to new Fireballers. Commenting on the sessions one of the top helms Noel Butler felt there was plenty to learn from an Olympic sailor who had campaigned a boat with similar performance to the Fireball, with useful and simple drills to perfect techniques. He enjoyed the affable, positive, and engaging presentation style. New Fireballer Tim Crowe thought Saturday in particular (when the winds were a brisk north westerly) was a great day on the water with engaging exercises. Sunday saw lighter winds for a time and for the hour or so when the wind died completely the combined ingenuity of trainer and class saw the group invent a device comprising a pole, mobile phone and go-pro camera to trawl the harbour at low tide in a search for a spinnaker pole lost overboard on Saturday. While that exercise was unsuccessful the weekend overall was a huge success and whetted the appetite for events on the horizon. The first regional event of the season sees the class visit RNIYC for their Ulster championships in just 4 weeks. And for anyone interested in getting involved in one of Ireland’s most exciting dinghies the class is keen to attract more newcomers and will be running introductory sessions in the boats over some weekends in May and June at the DMYC.

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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