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Butler & Oram Retain Fireball Ulster Championship Title at Newtownards Sailing Club

23rd August 2021
Noel Butler and Stephen Oram prevailed stretching their lead on the fleet with exceptional speed and coordination
Noel Butler and Stephen Oram prevailed stretching their lead on the fleet with exceptional speed and coordination

Noel Butler and Stephen Oram retained their Fireball Ulster champions title after five races at Newtownards SC at the weekend. The event took place under something of a weather cloud – the forecast for the weekend was not good – but as it turned out the forecast for the top corner of Strangford Lough greatly underestimated the wind for the event. Certainly, when sailors arrived on Friday evening everything was agreeing with the forecasters' plan – enough drizzle and then rain to make the sailors glad they had opted for camper vans and B&B’s rather than tents. But things brightened up on Saturday morning and by the time the fleet was afloat a very respectable eight to ten knots of breeze was becoming established. Race officer Ruan O’Tiarnaigh wasted no time in getting things started with a windward-leeward course and race one was won by Butler/Oram with Josh Porter/Neil Cramer in second and brothers Daniel and Harry Thompson third.

Race two was an Olympic Triangle started in more breeze and the appearance of a distinct chop. Again Butler/Oram prevailed, stretching their lead on the fleet with exceptional speed and coordination around the course, chased by the Thompson brothers and Ed Butler Jnr sailing with Sean Collins. Race three was another Olympic Triangle and the breeze was up a notch or two just before the start. With the exemplary turn-arounds, not everyone raked their rigs and Frank Miller/Ed Butler prioritized their sandwich lunch over rig adjustment, a decision they came to regret. Yet again Butler/Oram sped away from the opposition in a cloud of spray, as the wind increased with gusts of around 18 knots, this time with Butler Jnr/Collins in hot pursuit and Porter/Cramer behind them. Miller and Butler Snr came to a sudden halt on a windy run when they ran into a thicket of seaweed, and capsized while trying to clear the raised and departing rudder. The pair recovered from a turtle to finish the race within the time limit.

Leo Hickey sailing with his father Ciaran Leo Hickey sailing with his father Ciaran

Sunday morning was bright and lovely but with initially no sign of wind. A patient race team went out to test the waters and discovered some breeze offshore and the fleet were summoned. Two windward-leeward races took place in light airs. The first in semi-trapezing conditions at times but the second in very light airs. While Butler/Oram again led the fleet home in race one they were reeled in during race two by Porter/Cramer who made better sense of the tricky and shifty conditions. The downwind legs were especially tricky with the boats split in several directions seeking the best patches of breeze and the optimum angles to keep the kites full. All in all this was another great weekend’s sailing with excellent close competition in a wide range of conditions. Several aspects of the weekend deserve special mention – the generous hospitality of Newtownards SC and its team of volunteers on and off the water; Merideth Grieve who sailed with Michael Cox on the windy day, her first time in a Fireball and her first time on trapeze; the sight of Josh Porter’s stunning restoration of a twenty-something Winder Fireball to like-new perfection in mid-grey with bright orange foils; the food; the selection of craft beers at the bar; the lightning-fast turnarounds of races by Ruan and his team and last and not least the fact that you can never completely trust a forecast.

Josh Porter’s stunning restoration of a twenty-something Winder Fireball to like-new perfection in mid-greyJosh Porter’s stunning restoration of a twenty-something Winder Fireball to like-new perfection in mid-grey

Final results – first overall Butler/Oram; second Porter/Cramer who beat the equal points Thompson brothers into third by winning race five.

Some of the fleet picking their optimum angles on a very light downwind leg...Some of the fleet picking their optimum angles on a very light downwind leg...

The latter were victims to the black flag in race four when they pulled the trigger on the start line a second early. The silver fleet prize was won by Ciaran Hickey and his son Leo. Next up for Fireballs is an ideal opportunity to test the waters at Lough Derg YC, Dromineer, on 18th and 19th September. There will be particular interest in this event, and a scramble to beg, borrow or steal a Fireball, as LDYC host the Fireball Worlds next August.

Noel Butler and Stephen Oram, overall winners Noel Butler and Stephen Oram, overall winners

Josh (2nd) with Silver Fleet winners Ciaran Hickey and son Leo.Josh (2nd) with Silver Fleet winners Ciaran Hickey and son Leo.

The Thomson Bros Daniel and HarryThe Thomson Bros Daniel and Harry

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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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