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Fireballers Enjoy Expert Online Training with Barry McCartin

10th March 2021
The agenda for Barry McCartin's coaching session
The agenda for Barry McCartin's coaching session

With no Frostbite dinghy racing to distract us over the winter, everyone is yearning to get their feet wet in a Fireball so understandably there was a healthy audience for an online training session last Thursday night. The coaching was provided by Barry McCartin who is a recognised RYA and Irish Sailing Coach of twelve years' standing. In that time, he has coached Toppers, Lasers and 420s. A competitive sailor in his own right, he has enjoyed success in Fireballs at National and European level and has sailed a number of Worlds in the class in recent years. He also campaigns in the RS class and team races as well. An audience of 48 people were in "virtual attendance" on the Zoom platform, with three attendees from the UK, including UK Fireball Association Chair, Derian Scott, a very good friend to the Irish Fireball Fleet.

To paraphrase a well-known chat show host, "there was something in the audience for everyone"! Barry started his presentation by challenging everyone to say what the critical factors are in campaigning a double-handed boat like the Fireball. Some of the obvious suggestions were - teamwork, willingness to learn, communication, commitment, time which are all very relevant, but he added that is was important that you do it for FUN. As he stated, all the others require an effort, or planning, but they are of limited value if there is no fun to be had from the sailing/racing.

An audience of 48 people were in "virtual attendance" on the Zoom platformAn audience of 48 people were in "virtual attendance" on the Zoom platform for the coaching session

In the current climate, Barry made the point that there is no reason not to be getting ready for the season ahead. In this regard, he recommended that exercises that can be done at home should mirror the movements that you are likely to execute in the boat. The emphasis should be on getting the CORE strengthened and advised that the purchase of a resistance band, gym ball or dumbbells would help in this regard. Mimicking movements in the boat with suitable exercises at home will mean that you are fitter and less likely to be struggling after a heavy session on the water.

Look after your boat and it will look after youLook after your boat and it will look after you

Murphy's Law – just when you need it, it will fail

With no racing taking place, for those who have their boats at home, this presents a great opportunity to check systems, give attention to foils and hulls, check halyards and sheets – if a sheet or halyard is showing any sign of wear and tear, no matter how minor, the advice was to replace it – otherwise, it will be subject to Murphy's Law – just when you need it, it will fail.

In terms of preparing for a major event where long hours can be spent on the water, the advice was to get your body attuned to an increase in fluids a couple of weeks ahead of the event so that when the regatta comes round and the intake of fluids is increased, your system is already accustomed to processing the increased fluid intake. With regard to nutrition, the advice was to have a good meal 3hrs ahead of the start of the day's proceedings – that way the energy benefit is in the body when it is needed.

Value of GRIB style synoptic charts

Closer to the event/race, the emphasis is on getting a forecast and interpreting what the wind will do over the duration of the event In this respect, Barry said that popular wind forecasting sites that are already well-known may have limited value and advocated that GRIB style synoptic charts have much more value. On the water, this exercise is continued to compare and contrast the forecast with the REALCAST – is the wind doing what it was predicted to do, is it blowing from the predicted direction. This is particularly pertinent when you go to a new venue! Make time to have a few practice beats and runs to get an assessment of what the wind is doing on the course area. This should include a check of spinnaker systems, including a trial tight reach to make sure pole height is correct.

First beat

For the start and first beat, Barry's advice was to make sure that you develop a plan and that you make every effort to put the plan in place. Things to look out for include line bias, are you where you want to be, is there space to leeward that you can use to your advantage. In practice terms, he highlighted the importance of being able to accelerate off the line and referenced the work done by Adam Bowers in previous Fireball training sessions.
For the off-wind legs, he highlighted the importance of good communication, with the crew concentrating on the spinnaker trim and the helm watching the wind conditions.

While Barry suggested that he various topics he had covered could of themselves take a much longer period of time, the practical limitations of an online session meant that he could only touch on a multitude of issues. However, in terms of training, his advice was that training should be used to improve specific aspects of our racing. So, if heavy weather technique is an issue then practice in heavy weather. That means when you go racing, you are going to compete!

In addition to his own material, Barry made use of YouTube videos and footage shot by Adam Bowers.

In all the session lasted over an hour and concluded with questions and answers

Published in Fireball
Cormac Bradley

About The Author

Cormac Bradley

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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

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