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Repeat Winners Retain Irish Fireball Dinghy Title…But They Had to Work for It!

10th August 2020
Irish Fireball Champions 2020 Noel Butler (left) & Stephen Oram Irish Fireball Champions 2020 Noel Butler (left) & Stephen Oram

At a time when the Irish Fireball fleet should have been in Howth, welcoming Fireballers from all over the World to the 2020 Fireball World Championships, a 13-boat fleet was contesting what we think is the first National Championship to be hosted in a Covid-ravaged summer calendar. When the Worlds and Nationals in Howth were cancelled due to COVID, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club offered to host the event and principal regatta organiser, Neil Colin, secured sponsorship from Helly-Hansen.

The headline for this report could have come from any number of sources, “Fireball women to the fore” with reference to the three race wins achieved by our all-lady crews, “Tight racing for Fireball Nationals” despite the points tally on the final score, “Challenging conditions for race management and competitors” reflecting the dearth of healthy wind, or “DMYC step up to the plate to host Fireball Nationals”.

Second Overall  Louise McKenna & Hermine O'KeeffeSecond Overall Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keeffe

What is most important, however, is that I am able to bring to you a report on a regatta that a few short weeks ago might have been deemed impossible such is the impact of the health crisis. Instead, due to the specific efforts of DMYC and the Irish Fireball Class Association in our case and Irish Sailing who have engaged with the relevant bodies in this crisis to get people back out on the water across the country, there is a regatta report to be written.

Third Overall - Daniel & Harry ThompsonThird Overall - Daniel & Harry Thompson

Six different clubs were represented in the fleet, with DMYC claiming the biggest representation at 5, the National Yacht Club, the Royal St George Yacht Club and Sailing in Dublin 2 each and Wexford Harbour Boat and Tennis Club and Lough Ree Yacht Club one each.

Irish Fireball Championships - Silver Fleet Winners, Clodagh Nash & Glen FisherSilver Fleet Winners, Clodagh Nash & Glen Fisher

That’s who were present and at a dinner on Saturday night we worked out that there could have been at least another five boats sailing which weren’t due to a series of personal circumstances.

Classic Fireball Winners Colm Breen (left) & Cormac Power Breen with DMYC Commodore Frank GuilfoyleClassic Fireball Winners Colm Breen (left) & Cormac Power Breen with DMYC Commodore Frank Guilfoyle

In addition to the Fireball stalwarts, we had Ben Graf and Alexander Farrell representing Lough Ree Yacht Club in Frank Miller’s “Blind Squirrel” 14713. These two young men have been campaigning a 420 and showed us that the step up to Fireballs isn’t that severe in the conditions that we “enjoyed” over the weekend. The two SID boats were Colm Breen & Cormac Power Breen and Nick Miller & Cearbhall Daly, respectively while Paul Ter Horst and Pavlo Tishkin made their Fireball regatta debut in the recently acquired 14790. And carrying on from last year, Clodagh Nash had Glen Fisher crewing in 14691.

Irish Fireball Championships 2020 Prizegiving MC Neil Colin with Margaret CaseyIrish Fireball Championships 2020 Prizegiving MC Neil Colin with Margaret Casey

Proceedings got under late on Friday afternoon in pleasant conditions even if the wind was a little on the sparse side – a subsequent feature of the entire weekend. Defending champions Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) stamped their mark on proceedings with a comfortable win in Race 1 but a tighter win in Race 2. An early indication that this wasn’t going to be a fun regatta for the “420 boys” was confirmed when they took two second places with the third places being shared by Neil Colin & Cormac Bradley (14775) and Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706). However, a bit like the first round of the USPGA the day before, there was a log jam of boats in third place after two races all counting 9 points – included in the cluster were Colin & Bradley, Court & Syme, Daniel & Harry Thompson (15156, 5&4), Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (15016, 4&5). At the other end of the fleet, Nash, Ter Horst & Breen were covered by 2 pts.

Regatta organiser, Neil Colin arranged for socially-distanced refreshments to be available after racing where post-mortems were undertaken – but all in good spirit – no pun intended.

The fleet reconvened at 09:30 on Saturday in glorious sunshine but again the wind was conspicuous by its absence. With DBSC racing scheduled and the SB20s also racing in Dublin Bay, Race Officer Suzanne McGarry and her team took the fleet off towards the west to make sure that all of the fleets on the Bay had their “own turf”. Butler & Oram took another win in Race 3, followed home by Graf & Farrell – Was this going to be the pattern for the rest of the regatta? The Thompsons clearly decided that it wasn’t because they started their assault on the title with a third place, followed home by Frank Miller & Ed Butler (14990). McKenna & O’Keeffe counted a 5th place.

However, in Race 4, the applecart was overturned and shortly after the start the leading two boats appeared to be in very close company at the back end of the fleet – surely the “fun and games” wasn’t going to start this early! Butler later conceded that he had had a poor start and it was just coincidence that Graf was in the same vicinity. In persistently light and challenging conditions, the finishing order was; the Thompson brothers, McKenna & O’Keeffe, Court & Syme, with Graf & Farrell 4th, Miller & Butler 5th and Butler & Oram back in 6th, a most unusual result for them – it would become one of their two discards. An early halt to the racing saw the fleet ashore by 16:00 as the fickle wind was getting just too fickle!
With five races down the situation was unusually tight at the top of the leader-board, Butler & Oram (7.0) led by 1 from Graf & Farrell, with the Thompsons a further 3pts adrift but only one ahead of McKenna & O’Keeffe who had a six-point cushion on Court & Syme. Nash & Fisher led the Silver fleet by a one-point margin over Breen & Power-Breen who had a point less than Ter Horst & Tishkin.

Post-mortems followed in glorious sunshine (suitably distanced) and a significant number of the fleet then relocated to dinner in the National Yacht Club.

The forecast for Sunday didn’t promise any more wind and a lot less sunshine. And just as the horse-racing fraternity have a “Ladies Day” at the big meetings, so the Fireball fleet had their own version of a Ladies Day when first Louise & Hermine and then Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854) scored race wins. Louise and Hermine won their race in pressured circumstances as the racing at the front of the fleet was tight, but Power & Barry romped home with a “Butler-esque” lead – they got further away from the fleet the longer the race went on! It was a fantastic fillip for the four women and the regatta in general even if Butler, Thompson and Graf might not have shared their joy on the water (in regatta terms).

Butler & Oram scored a second place behind McKenna & O’Keeffe in Race 6 but they were unable to drop their spinnaker completely at the last leeward mark of the Windward-Leeward course. Further investigation, on the water, found that the spinnaker halyard had shredded within the mast, but some very clever manipulation of the main halyard allowed them to get back into racing format with an operational spinnaker halyard. It was a close call! The Thompsons took third in Race 6 and followed up with a 4th in Race 7. Graf & Farrell had a bigger problem in Race 6, scoring a DSQ for going through the start/finish line while the blue flag was flying. They then scored a 6th in the seventh race and these two scores were to be their discards. McKenna added a fifth place to her first place from Race 6 in Race 7 and impressively, considering the pre-race drama, Butler & Oram scored a third in Race 7. Court & Syme had a “purple patch” race in Race 7 to finish 2nd, their regatta high point.

In Race 8, Butler & Oram closed their account in the same way they had opened it – with a win. Behind them the finishing order was the Thompsons, McKenna & O’Keeffe, Owen Sinnott & Grattan Donnelly (14865) – a great result for them – and Graf & Alexander.

As I hope this report confirms, the winners didn’t have the regatta all their own way, even if they had a 7pt margin at the end. Noel Butler acknowledged as much at the prize-giving and the fact that we had four different race winners is a testimony to the competitiveness of the regatta. For the two all-women crews to take three race wins was very encouraging and livened up the competition for everyone. Racing in the Gold Fleet was tighter than the numbers will reflect and some well established Fireballers struggled to keep big numbers off their score cards – no names, no pack drills. The fact that the younger combinations of Daniel & Harry Thompson and Ben Graf & Alexander Farrell enjoyed individual race successes, if not race wins, then certainly podium places, was also good for the regatta.

In the Silver fleet, the final finishing order was Nash & Fisher, Breen & Power Breen, Ter Horst & Tishkin and Miller & Daly.

In addition to the perpetual prizes for 1,2,3 Overall, 1st Silver and 1st Classic, Helly-Hansen provided sponsor prizes which were the subject of a raffle open to the competitors and Race Management team alike. The prize-giving was conducted by DMYC Vice Commodore Neil Colin with assistance from Margaret Casey.

Irish Fireball Championships 2020 Race Officer Suzanne McGarry with her present from the Irish Fireball Class AssociationIrish Fireball Championships 2020 Race Officer Suzanne McGarry with her present from the Irish Fireball Class Association

Irish Fireball Championships 2020 Race Officer Suzanne McGarry with her present from the Irish Fireball Class Association

A special word goes to Suzanne McGarry and her race management team who worked very hard to provide eight of the nine scheduled races. While the sun-gods might have shone on them, particularly on Saturday, the wind gods were less generous. At the prize-giving, due thanks were recorded to Suzanne, her team and the organising team of DMYC. Club Commodore Frank Guilfoyle presented the prizes and closed out the proceedings by thanking the competitors, the race management team and his own DMYC team for their collective efforts in making the regatta happen. Frank Miller, representing the Irish Fireball Class, thanked the club and Suzanne McGarry was presented with a variation on the usual gift from the Class Association.

HELLY-HANSEN IRISH FIREBALL NATIONALS

DUN LAOGHAIRE MOTOR YACHT CLUB; 7 – 9 AUGUST 2020

 

Sail No.

Crew

Club

R1

R2

R3

R4

R5

R6

R7

R8

Nett

1

15061

Noel Butler & Stephen Oram

NYC

1

1

1

6

4

2

3

1

9

2

15016

Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe

RStGYC

4

5

5

2

1

1

5

3

16

3

15156

Daniel & Harry Thompson

WHBTC

5

4

3

1

3

3

4

2

16

4

14713

Ben Graf & Alexander Farrell

LRYC

2

2

2

4

2

14

6

5

17

5

14706

Alistair Court & Gordon Syme

DMYC

6

3

8

3

6

7

2

9

27

10

14691

Clodagh Nash & Glen Fisher

RStGYC

9

12

10

10

13

9

10

10

58

11

15058*

Colm Breen & Cormac Power Breen

SID

11

10

13

11

10

11

11

11

64

Published in Fireball, DMYC
Cormac Bradley

About The Author

Cormac Bradley

Email The Author

Dublin Bay Fireballer Cormac Bradley was appointed Rear Commodore of the International Fireball Class in 2017. He is a regular dinghy and one design correspondent on Afloat.ie

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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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