Thirteen Fireballs gathered at Killaloe SC for the Fireball Munster Championships at the weekend. Initial indications were for a very wet and windy weekend but happily the fleet was rewarded with excellent sailing conditions on both days. While extremely wet most of the rain fell during the evenings and local hostel accommodation meant that nobody got too wet over the weekend. There was the small issue of a rugby match on the Saturday morning and commodore Sue Concannon hosted the entire fleet to breakfast at her home to watch the game.
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Screams and moans permeated the stunning landscape overlooking the lake. Once racing got underway Noel Butler and Stephen Oram dominated proceedings with three race wins from four races.
The top Fireballer pair didn't have things entirely their own way however and frequently had to fight their way to the front in the shifty conditions, with others often making it to the top mark ahead. Winds were decent with full trapezing unwind but with big variations in pressure and direction over the course. On day one the right side of the course was frequently paying dividends with better pressure and a useful wind bend. Those challenging the leaders were mainly the young Thompson brothers Daniel and Harry who continue to improve their pace, Frank Miller and Ed Butler recently returned from the Canadian Worlds, Josh Porter with new crew Cara McDowell, and Louise McKenna with Hermine O'Keeffe in their new boat who were always fast and consistent. Miller and Butler seemed to find good speed and often managed to judge the shifts and pressure zones well to stay near the front.
The pair put in a good start in race four, port tacked the fleet and took the gun. An unfortunate capsize in race three gave them an early discard, an over-reaction to a last-minute mark challenge attempt by the Thompsons. Canny veterans Neil Colin and Margaret Casey didn't find their usual pace at the event, despite a very good result in the recent FF15 Worlds, this being their first Fireball outing since the DMYC Frostbites. By close of business on day one saw Butler/Oram leading, the young Thompsons in a solid 2nd position overall with three seconds and a fourth, and Miller/Butler in third.
Saturday night was busy socially with grazing centred around superb sourdough bread and spreads at the hostel thanks to sponsorship from the Brezel Bakery whose ceo William Despard was sailing with his brother Philip in the event.
The agm took place immediately after snacking and then racers repaired to the local Pipers hostelry for an excellent dinner. Post dinner entertainment and drinks continued at the hostel well past midnight. Day two dawned with sodden conditions which happily dried up in time for racing. While winds were lighter North-Westerly they were a little more consistent and steadier than day one. Miller and Butler put their stamp on race five and took another gun, leaving overall places somewhat open. They led to the charge to the first mark in the final race also but were overtaken on the first reach when the lighter Thompsons made the best of a following gust to break through.
The young pair held onto their lead, extending it in the clear air and now somewhat lighter conditions. Noel Butler with Stephen Oram continued snapping at the heels of Miller/Butler and finally got through them on a shift near the top mark. The Thompsons took the final gun of the day, consolidating their second place overall and beating Miller/Butler into third position overall by three points. Butler/Oram won the event on seven points with three race wins and three second places before discards. The silver fleet was won by Owen Sinnott, a veteran Fireballer returning to the fray in the run up to the #Howth2020 Worlds, with SID sailor Paul Ter Horst on the wire. Second in silver were Dave Coleman and Glen Fischer. Local top dogs Jim Ryan and David Tanner won #Howth2020 hats as best local team and the classic trophy was won by Brian Keane with Ivan Coughlan.
PRO was Geoff O’Donoghue who with his team of volunteers ran everything smoothly with exemplary race turnarounds. At the AGM much talk surrounded the forthcoming World Championships at Howth YC in August 2020. With the upcoming worlds there is much excitement and signs of the fleet growing again – a combination of young sailors and veterans re-joining the fray.
One issue discussed was the shortage of boats for sale or for charter. The fleet is blessed and cursed with devotees who have “temporarily” hung up their dinghy boots but held onto their boats. Now is the time to see these boats put back into action and the fleet have plans to mobilise the many excellent “dormant” boats around the country. Anyone wishing to “free a Fireball” for sale, charter or loan should contact class secretary Frank Miller at [email protected] Next business for the fleet is the extremely popular DMYC Frostbite series which kicks off on the first Sunday in November. The class expects to grow last year’s entry of eleven boats in the fast and furious winter series – all are welcome. To use the #Howth2020 motto, see you there…