The second Fireball coaching session of the season took place in the stunning surroundings of Killaloe Sailing Club at Lough Derg on last Thursday and Friday evenings. Aimed primarily at the enthusiastic and growing silver fleet at KSC Frank Miller coached some 12 sailors in 6 boats on the optimum techniques for handling one of the most competitive yet manageable dinghies sailed on this island. The first evening was a bit of a baptism of fire for the local fleet who found winds touching 16 knots somewhat daunting. Despite a few capsizes with shouted advice and careful rescue cover the local fleet grew in confidence and eventually began to believe Miller's assertion that the boat, if properly set up, is capable of being sailed safely in 25 knots and more. The debrief ashore was indeed brief, primarily a group slagging for straying too far from the core exercise area. Further advice was absorbed over quiet pints in the local Pipers pub..
The following evening saw medium conditions fade to light which gave the fleet time and opportunity to practice hoisting, gybing and dropping their kites on a windward/leeward course. The lighter conditions allowed Miller to help the teams fine tune their sailing skills with an emphasis on boat trim and perfecting the sequence of actions needed for simple and effective spinnaker handling. Great things are sometimes achieved in baby steps and this nascent Fireball fleet may point the way forward for the next generation of Fireballers. The most recent success of Fireballs in Killaloe is down to the energy of Steffany Gorski who with Philip Despard has built upon the ongoing dedication of Jim Ryan and others. Their campaign to grow the local fleet is greatly helped by the incredible value now of Fireballs. One classic boat recently changed hands for 350 euros while good "white" Winder boats can be had for as little as 2,000 euros. One of the participating boats in the coaching sessions was the class-owned Winder composite Fireball currently on loan to Domnick O’Sullivan and Kieran Ruane, two big boat sailors who are quickly learning how much more fun Fireballs are than big boat sailing. The loan boat will be available again at the end of the summer, perhaps to a team who want to take on the DMYC frostbites next winter.
Besides teaching the obvious techniques common to all dinghies the participants learned how to quickly tune the Fireball on land and water to depower and power up the boat so that sailing it is comfortable and easy in a huge range of conditions. While the range of controls can look daunting at first one of the key differences between the Fireball and many other dinghies is how very manageable it is when set up properly. Miller demonstrated the initial set-up to get optimum pre-bend and then explained the various controls and showed how effective they are. He also emphasised how important it is to get everything working properly on the boat so that sailors can get on with enjoying their sailing. This is especially true of the older boats which might need more TLC but with care are still extremely competitive. By the time of the final debrief in the Pipers pub, the sailors were tired but happy and enthused for the season ahead. The next Fireball event is the National Championships at Skerries SC on 8th, 9th and 10th June being run in tandem with the Wayfarer class – all welcome! Other upcoming events include a one-day open event at Greystones on Sat 23rd June, the Worlds (and pre-worlds) in Carnac, France from 22nd-31st August, the “Ulsters” in Lough Derg YC on September 8th& 9th and the (postponed from last weekend) Munsters in Killaloe at a date to be confirmed.