An Irish team of four boats departs these shores today for the French Fireball Nationals and Fireball Worlds in Carnac, north-west France writes Cormac Bradley. The combined regatta, with the French Nationals acting as a warm-up for those who want to familiarise themselves with the venue, begins on the 22nd of August (Wednesday) and runs through to the Friday of the following week, the 31st.
Three of the Irish entries will sail the French Nationals which boats a 68-boat entry with eight countries represented – Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Kenya, South Africa and Switzerland. Names to watch out for in this fleet will be current World Champion Helm, Tom Gillard, sailing with Geoff Edwards (GBR 15127), current UK National Champions, Ian Dobson & Richard Wagstaff (GBR 15141), the Australian couple Heather Macfarlane & Chris Payne (AUS 15152) who finished 2nd in the recent UK Nationals, the Swiss combination, Claude Mermod & Reudi Moser (SUI 14799), the 2016 European Champions, David Hall & Paul Constable (GBR 15122) and the Czech combination Pavel Winkler & Jaroslav Verner (CZE 15110). If conditions suit them, Derian and Andy Scott (GBR 14941) will also be in the frame. After taking a break from sailing Fireballs, due to a knee operation and other bigger boat distractions, Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella (IRL 15114) got back into Fireballs in 2018 to sail the regatta circuit and will have ambitions to do well in France.
As recently as Saturday past, they were out sailing in Dublin Bay as a preamble to the French Nationals.
After the shake-down of a French Nationals, the focus will turn to the Worlds which have attracted an entry of 101 boats and another country entry in the form of a solitary Italian boat. The Worlds has also attracted a much bigger GBR contingent of boats with the likes of Immediate Past Commodore Steve Chesney, sailing with Angus Cummings (GBR 15150) and another former FI Commodore, Russell Thorne, teaming up with Kevin Hope (GBR 15133) joining the fray.
Current Commodore Christina Haerdi-Landerer will sail with Cedric Landerer (SUI 14859) in the Worlds, while another former Commodore, Joe Jospe of Canada will make his near-annual trek across the Atlantic with regular crew, Tom Egli (CAN 15024), but they will sail both events. Rear Commodore Africa, David Laing of South Africa, will also sail both events with Mark Dee (RSA 14877).
While this scribe is not “au-fait” with the strength of the French Fireball fleet, the fact that this regatta is in home water must surely guarantee that French combinations will be vying for top ten places.
Of the remaining Irish entries, Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691), Frank Miller & Ed Butler (14713) and Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938), none are “first-timers” to international Fireball regattas so they will be looking to get into the upper echelons of both fleets.
The Irish contingent will also be starting the “awareness campaign” for the 2020 Fireball Worlds which will be hosted by Howth Yacht Club and members of Howth’s organising committee will also be in Carnac to observe proceedings. While it won’t be a hard-sell just yet, in respect of the preceding Worlds in Montreal next year, there is a requirement for the host country in two years’ time to do a soft sell at the Worlds. Of the eight Irish Fireballers sailing in France, four are on the national committee; Neil Cramer (Chairman), Frank Miller (Secretary), Hermine O’Keeffe (Dun Laoghaire Class Captain) and Louise McKenna (Committee Member).