The renamed or rescheduled Fireball Munsters, cancelled earlier in the year at Killaloe Sailing Club, were reconvened this past weekend at one of the Irish fleet’s favourite locations, Lough Derg Yacht Club. This was our second visit in as many years and as ever the hospitality was at its best with scones and tea/coffee available on the Saturday morning, an excellent meal on the Saturday night, with commensurate bar service and a Race Management Team led by Commodore John Leech that had a relatively easy day on Saturday but a much more stressful one on the Sunday.
Held in tandem with the Mirror Southerns, the event attracted an entry of 14 boats made up principally of the fleet from Killaloe. This was the primary objective of the Irish Class Association – to encourage the KSC fleet to get themselves to another venue in order that they could sample an “away regatta” that their enthusiasm level at KSC warranted. In this regard a huge thank-you and acknowledgement has to go to Stefany Gorski and Philip Despard who delivered on promises made to get the Killaloe fleet to Dromineer. Jim Ryan also helped significantly with getting boats derigged for the road trip and re-rigged at the Lough Derg end. Eight boats made the trip with one of these claiming KSC and LDYC duality and with Skerries, Sligo, Wexford and Dun Laoghaire entries a 14-boat entry was assembled.
The Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis Club took the form of Daniel & Harry Thompson sailing Ed Butler’s 14990. Daniel sailed the Fireball Nationals in Skerries earlier in the season so obviously enjoyed himself enough to come back with his brother. While many of the KSC entries are new to Fireballs, it was great to see one of their more senior combinations, Jim Ryan and David Tanner (14584) back in the competitive saddle!
Racing on Saturday was on an Olympic course with the Mirrors having a triangle set up inside an outer triangle for the Fireballs. Thus each fleet had their own windward, gybe and leeward marks which minimised even further the interaction of the two fleets. The Fireballs had first start in a breeze that oscillated to a significant degree in strength on a race area immediately in front of and slightly to the left looking out from the clubhouse.
First blood went to Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938), sailing out of Skerries and fresh back for the Fireball Worlds in Carnac, France. Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) finished second, with the young men from Wexford third. KSC took a well-deserved 4th place with Jim & David, while behind them the pecking order was Jon Evans & Aidan Caulfield (14748). This was to be their worst results as they were never outside the top three thereafter. Indeed after winning the second race, they led the third until the Skerries combination stepped up a gear to take the final race of the day. The KSC fleet competed manfully with seven of their number finishing the first race and 6 finishing each of the latter two. Another KSC crew, Brian Keana, sailing with Neil Colin (14775) enjoyed a third place in the middle race.
While the conditions weren’t extreme, the halt to sailing was welcomed by all. A definite 1-2-3 was in place with McGrotty & Cramer on 4pts, Evans & Caulfield on 8pts and Miller & Donnelly on 11pts. Thereafter the scores were the Thompsons on 12pts, the all-lady team of Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) on 15pts and Colin & Keana on 17pts. Philip Despard & Stefany Groski led the KSC contingent in 7th place.
Sunday morning saw a changed “lake-scape” with white horses in the area in the middle of the race area in front of the clubhouse and flags flying as stiff as boards. After taking some individual soundings, Race Officer John Leech conducted a short briefing to advise the assembled fleet of his synopsis of the weather and the likely conditions crews would encounter in the new race area that the wind direction warranted. His recommendation being that those who had struggled the day before might want to consider their options. Consequently, a reduced fleet took to the water (from both fleets), but those who did go out enjoyed exhilarating conditions, even under white-sail reaching.
The “Skerries Scorchers” consolidated their lead at the front of the fleet with another two race wins while Miller & Donnelly and Evans & Caulfield shared the seconds and thirds. Despard & Gorski really acquitted themselves well by scoring a fifth in the final race, while Louise & Hermine also sailed well in the prevailing conditions to score two race finishes with a 5th and a 6th. Race Officer had problems with anchoring marks in very substantial depths of water which combined with the strong breeze made for some interesting interpretations of the course by the fleets. Still, everyone who came ashore attested to the exciting conditions.
The Thompson brothers also acquitted themselves well on both days in the very contrasting conditions.
The Classic Trophy was won by Jack Pinson & Anne Gleeson, while the Silver Fleet was won by the Thompson brothers.
All in all this was a very enjoyable weekend which achieved its dual purpose of completing a Munsters and getting the KSC fleet to a new venue. Thanks are due to all those KSC Fireballers who “put their toes in the water” at an away venue. We hope you enjoyed the weekend (the smiles suggested they had).