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Fireball Coaching with Barry McCartin at DMYC

15th June 2021
Barry McCartin leads a coaching session with the Fireball dinghy class at the DMYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour
Barry McCartin leads a coaching session with the Fireball dinghy class at the DMYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

Eight Fireball teams participated in an intensive coaching session at the DMYC with Barry McCartin at the weekend. The Dun Laoghaire Harbour based coaching was as intensive as training gets with a huge variety of conditions from near calm to 15 knots plus with big waves.

As the day started extremely light and patchy McCartin used the opportunity for some socially distanced whiteboard work outdoors.

To say that he covered a lot of detail would be an understatement, but there was something in this for everyone, from the adult silver fleet sailors to the veterans and the newest but very talented younger sailors graduating up from 420s and Lasers. When the wind settled the fleet got afloat and completed multiple exercises in the light winds which emphasised boat handling with a particular significance placed on using body weight to steer the boat around the course and especially around the marks. McCartin emphasized what we all know but often choose to neglect, that body weight and team balance steers the boat, and excessive rudder movement simply acts as a brake. In a perfect world, we steer boats by crew weight adjustment and the rudder follows.

Fireball Champion Barry McCartin used the opportunity for some socially distanced whiteboard work outdoorsFireball Champion Barry McCartin (above) used the opportunity for some socially distanced whiteboard work outdoors

In a high-performance dinghy like a Fireball, the temptation at the windward mark is to place all the emphasis on getting around the mark quickly and getting the spinnaker up and set, and getting away from surrounding boats as fast as possible. However, this often happens at the expense of smooth roundings when using rudder rather than crew weight therefore slowing or even stalling the boat at a time when there is the greatest opportunity to make gains on the opposition.

To drive this home the fleet was initially made to sail a microscopic windward-leeward course under two sails, then using spinnakers without poles and finally allowing the spinnaker pole. Thus only when the "basics" of body movement steering was appreciated were spinnakers introduced into the mix. When the wind finally kicked in to full strength the fleet headed down in the direction of Dalkey Island to be greeted by a big wind-against-tide sea, necessitating mast raking for the lighter teams and at least one swim. Upwind and downwind exercises resumed with close hand advice on sail trim and achieving optimum sail/crew/settings balance for the conditions.

In short, this translated to keeping the boat dead flat with centreboard somewhat up, outhaul bar tight, jib cars out and sailing for maximum speed to get ideal vmg upwind for the conditions. Downwind it was a case of playing the very impressive waves with some coordinated pumping and careful steering. The sailing day finished off with a number of short triangular races designed to put teams under pressure to set and hold spinnakers at very close reaching angles.

Ashore there was a final debrief outdoors followed up by a series of videos with commentary to the participants via WhatsApp.

This on-the-water day was actually part two of specialist coaching by McCartin who mid-lockdown gave the fleet some intensive and detailed coaching via Zoom.

The training comes at an ideal time for the resurgent Fireball class who look forward to a lively Leinsters in Skerries SC in just three weekends time and who are hopeful for a significant international Fireball event in Ireland in the not too distant future.

Published in Fireball, DMYC
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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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