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Fireballs Find Out About Vagaries of Forecasting

2nd February 2017
Noel Butler & Stephen Oram lead the DMY Fireball Frostbites Noel Butler & Stephen Oram lead the DMY Fireball Frostbites

In the build-up to last weekend’s Fireball racing at the DMYC Frostbites, the forecast from Thursday on XCWeather suggested it might not be possible to get a race in, but by early Sunday morning the forecast was down to 12 – 18 knots from the SE writes Cormac Bradley. The Windfinder app and the Met Eireann Sea Area Forecast were showing a similar story of about 12-15 knots. The one thing they all agreed on was that the direction would be from a South-Easterly direction.

On arriving at the boat park the situation on the water was anything but what was forecast and it was damp and chilly to boot! Out on the race course it was another story again but surprisingly warmer than it had been on shore. Marginal trapezing conditions were had at the start of the two-race afternoon, but the wind strength eased as the day grew later and only the bottom reach of the trapezoid course was offering any action in this department by the second race.

An oversize blanket would have covered all seven Fireballs at the start of the first race as they cloistered themselves off the aft quarter of the committee boat. Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) very soon made a claim to having the best start as they pulled ahead of the fleet and went to the left-hand side of the course.  This proved to be the critical manoeuvre of the first race as they were never headed though Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) pushed them close. Another boat to work the left-hand side was Frank Miller & Ed Butler (14713) and they too were rewarded with a good position in the early pecking order. In contrast, Alistair Court & Cormac Bradley (14706) bailed out of the cluster and went right. It proved to be one of the few times when a right hand sortie didn’t pay. They approached the weather mark up the starboard lay-line in close proximity to the lead two boats, but before they could reach the mark two other boats put themselves into the gap, Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) and Miller & Butler. The leg from 1 to 2 was a broad spinnaker leg and yet again there was a decision to be made at 2, whether to gybe or not. Maybe because he was always in clear air on this leg, Colin always seemed to get it right and in most instances he didn’t gybe until he was almost inside the harbour mouth.

On the subsequent beats of the five-lap race, there were a number of approaches as to how it should be sailed. None involved going to the corners of the course but rather going a reasonable distance to one side or other without going out on a limb! Butler & Oram kept Colin & Casey on their toes, but despite getting close, the lead pair always had a handful of boat lengths between them and their chaser.

Where the place changing went on was between 3rd and 5th. Having learned their lesson from the first beat, Court & Bradley decided on a more conservative approach to the beats and with some close quarter spinnaker got to third place at the penultimate rounding of Mark 4, having had a close fight with the pink ladies and Miller & Butler. Up the last beat, they went left with McKenna & O’Keeffe hitting a BIG right! It was the first time in the afternoon that a BIG right paid and it allowed them to reclaim 3rd place on the water and a few boat-lengths of comfort relative to Court & Bradley who had been chased up the left-hand side by Miller & Butler. In the lighter breeze, the heavier all male combination couldn’t catch the ladies. 

The course was tweaked for the second race by a shift to port. Again the fleet was cloistered at the committee boat end of the line but this time Colin & Casey were too early, being a half-boat length clear of the start line before the starting signal went. This caused them to go right after they rounded the committee boat end of the line to restart. The rest of the fleet went left initially before working rightwards further up the beat. The delayed start didn’t have an adverse effect of Colin & Casey as they rounded the weather mark in first place and for the second race of the day they were not headed thereafter. However, at the first weather mark, while Colin had his mitts on 1st, the rest of the fleet could again have been covered by an oversize blanket as they rounded. This time there were new players at the front in the form of Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854), while the seventh boat in the fleet, Owen Laverty & James Clancy (14807) were also in the mix. Another “average beat” for Court & Bradley saw them with lots to do in 7th place. Despite the tweaking of the course, the same decision at Mark 2 was in play and again there was a “mixed bag” approach, Colin predominantly favouring sailing on to the harbour mouth before gybing to get round 3.

Close quarter skirmishes were the order of the day for the middle and back of the fleet and by Mark 4, Court had relieved himself of last place. Up the next beat the middle of the fleet condensed and Butler, Laverty, McKenna and Court were soon enjoying spinnaker leg shenanigans on the leg between 3 and 4.

Power & Barry in the meantime were quietly doing their own thing a slight distance apart and soon found themselves in 2nd place. A sparkling final beat by the ladies saw them round the last weather mark in a solid 2nd place behind Colin & Casey, but also ahead of Butler & Oram.  They held onto their position, though it got close at the end to record a fabulous 2nd place. Court also worked hard on the final lap to move into fourth place with Laverty & Clancy in 5th.

Considering the long-term forecast, the immediate forecast and the assessment of the wind in the dinghy park a great afternoon of racing was had by all, with no-one dropping too far off the pace in either race. Colin claimed he hadn’t won a Frostbite race for a while, so with two in one day he and his crew were in great form. Ditto Marie & Cariosa who worked hard and well to secure the 2nd.   

DMYC Frostbites 2016/17: Series 2 08/01 15/01 29/01 Tot.
R1 R2 R3 R4
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 NYC 3 1 2 3 9
2 Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keefe 14691 RStGYC 2 3 3 6 14
3 Frank Miller & Ed Butler 14713 DMYC 4 4 7 5 20
Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 5 13 1 1 20
5 Conor & James Clancy 14807 RStGYC 13 2 5 7 27
Cariosa Power & Marie Barry 14854 NYC 6 13 6 2 27
7 Alistair Court & Cormac Bradley 14706 DMYC 13 13 4 4 34
8 Louis Smyth & Joe O’Reilly 15007 Coal Harb. 1 13 13 13 40
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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