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Fireball sailors Tom Gillard of England and Andy Thompson of East Antrim Boat Club in Northern Ireland have been crowned World Champions at the 2024 Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia.

The duo sailed a near-perfect regatta, rarely falling outside the top three and winning with a race to spare.

The achievement is a remarkable result and a record for an Irish sailor, as the Antrim man has noe acheived three world dinghy titles. As Afloat reported previously, Thompson won his world title in 2002 when sailing to GP14 victory with the late Richard Estaugh.  He claimed his Fireball gold medal on Lough Derg in 2022 and retained it this week in Geelong.

Gillard said he was proud of the achievement, especially given the fact the British container didn't arrive on time.

Tom Gillard of England (left) and Andy Thompson of East Antrim Boat Club in Northern Ireland celebrate ashore after their fireball Worlds victory in Geelong, Australia Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under SailTom Gillard of England (left) and Andy Thompson of East Antrim Boat Club in Northern Ireland celebrate ashore after their fireball Worlds victory in Geelong, Australia Photos: Alex Dare, Down Under Sail and below by Frank Miller

Tom Gillard of England (left) and Andy Thompson of East Antrim Boat Club in Northern Ireland celebrate ashore after their fireball Worlds victory in Geelong,

“In the build-up to the event, we knew that we weren't going to have our boat, so we had to spend a lot of time working on the boat we borrowed,” he said.

“At pre-worlds we basically did one race a day, found out what was wrong with it, came back in, mended it and made sure it was good for the World Championships.”

His crew, Andy Thompson, said the regatta win was a special one for the pair, considering they had not planned to attend the event initially.

“We shouldn't really be here to be honest because we weren’t in the container to start off with, so we’re really lucky to be here."

Second overall at the 2024 Fireball Worlds, DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under SailSecond overall at the 2024 Fireball Worlds, DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under Sail

Gillard thanked the Australian Fireball Association and the committee members, who worked hard to ensure those left without a boat from overseas were able to sail borrowed Australian boats to get them through the regatta.

In second place was fellow British sailors DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend, who also sailed an extremely consistent regatta, but ended up just short of the regatta leaders in most races.

Third place, and first Australians at the 2024 Fireball Worlds were Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under SailThird place, and first Australians at the 2024 Fireball Worlds were Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under Sail

Third place, and first Australians, were local heroes Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien who hail from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club and had a really good start to their event to set up a successful result.

The Irish Fireball crews in Geelong: Frank Miller and Ed Butler of the DMYC and Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty of SYCThe Irish Fireball crews in Geelong: Frank Miller and Ed Butler of the DMYC and Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty of SYC

The event was incredibly well run by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club with ten races across a mix of conditions that threw up a few challenges for the race committee.

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Fireball duo Tom Gillard from Sheffield and Andy Thompson from East Antrim Boat Club in Northern Ireland will take a seven-point lead into the final two races of the 2024 Fireball Worlds in Geelong tomorrow as they look to be crowned world champions for another time.

The pair have so far sailed a near flawless regatta with an 18th in Race 3, the only result outside the top four.

Sitting in second overall with an outside chance of claiming the title on the last day are Britons DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend on Mondo, who are now dropping a 13th from today.

With a pair of good results tomorrow, the Mondo team could use a sixth as their second discard, shaving some solid points off their scorecard.

In third overall after an 8,1 scorecard today is Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien on Black Pearl, who turned a poor position into a Race 8 win in an extremely shifty final work, keeping them in the hunt.

The 2024 Fireball Worlds in Geelong Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under SailThe 2024 Fireball Worlds in Geelong Photo: Alex Dare, Down Under Sail

Garner said it was a challenging day and that it had set up an exciting battle for the final day.

“In the first race we got caught out a couple of times being a little too confident with what might happen up the track, so then we decided our plan was just sail the higher number and sail towards pressure,” he said.

“We'll have a crack, I think what's fantastic for the regatta and for the class is that it's wide open going into tomorrow, there's a few boats that can still win.

“They're not our conditions (tomorrow) but neither was today and we still came out with a good result so we'll just see what happens.”

There are some great battles being set up for the final day to make up the remainder of the top 10 with a number of teams having great regattas so far and looking for a good final result.

Ben Schulz and Angus Higgins in Riptide are sitting fourth and could sneak onto the podium with a good final day, while David Hall and Paul Constable on Sunsets, Tom Gordon and Jack Fletcher on Cletus, and Ben Knoop and James Belton on Fierce Creature are all in a close fight for the last spot in the top five.

Sophie Jackson, who is sailing with Josh Galland on Zig Zag and currently sits 11th overall, said the racing in this regatta had been incredibly tight.

“I think with the lighter breeze the fleet was a lot more condensed and boats that are sometimes further back made their way up to the front, so there was a lot of congestion coming in around the marks and the fleet was a lot denser,” she said.

“Fireballs sail very similarly to the 470, so it's a really great boat to cross-train in and get that extra racing practice.”

The final day tomorrow is expected to be tricky, which sets up massive opportunities for teams looking to move up the standings, and big risks for those that need to defend their spot.

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The fifth and sixth championship races of the 2024 Fireball Worlds were held on what was supposed to be a lay day, in switchy and gusty southerly winds. The conditions were challenging, with big shifts, big gusts, and some of the headers up to 40 degrees at one point. Even so, the British team of Tom Gillard and Andy Thompson (from East Antrim Boat Club) had another tidy day, scoring 2,1 and putting them four points clear with one discard in play.

Currently tied for second place overall are the local Royal Geelong Yacht Club sailors Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien on Black Pearl, and the British team of DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend on Mondo. Garner and O’Brien’s 5,4 scorecard was enough to keep them in the mix, but Edwards and Townend’s 1,2 made it a top day for the British teams and further reinforced their consistency and experience in the class. 

DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend on Mondo are in the mix after six races sailed at the Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia Photo: Down Under SailDJ Edwards and Vyv Townend on Mondo are in the mix after six races sailed at the Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia Photo: Down Under Sail

The conditions were extremely challenging, and Townend mentioned that they reminded him of his sailing back home in the United Kingdom. There were even some people who capsized on them, he said. But despite the difficulties, the Mondo team managed to salvage a good result in one of the races, after rounding the windward mark in about 15th place. 

Tom Gordon and Jack Fletcher sailing Cletus at the 2024 at the Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia Photo: Down Under SailTom Gordon and Jack Fletcher sailing Cletus at the 2024 at the Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia Photo: Down Under Sail

Ben Schulz and Angus Higgins on Riptide had another consistent day, putting them in fourth overall heading into the final four races of the regatta. Higgins said there were a lot of shifts on the race course and that sailors “had to keep an open mind and just try to think ahead”. 

Ben Schulz and Angus Higgins sailing Riptide are currently in fourth overall  at the Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia Photo: Down Under SailBen Schulz and Angus Higgins sailing Riptide are currently in fourth overall  at the Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia Photo: Down Under Sail

With lighter and more challenging winds forecast for the next two days, consistency from here out will be key for the top two teams of Gillard/Thompson and Garner/O’Brien, who are currently discarding an 18th and 16th respectively. Meanwhile Mondo and Riptide are yet to fall outside the top six, which could play into their hands late in the regatta.

The second discard will be applied after the completion of Race 9. For up-to-date results, please see below.

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The third day of the 2024 Fireball Worlds in Geelong, Australia, has been blown out after a lengthy wait on shore that ultimately ended with a decision to make up the races on tomorrow’s lay day.

Sailors were met with winds of more than 30 knots from the north early in the day, however there was some speculation as to whether it would ease throughout the day and potentially swing to a westerly or southerly direction.

However, it was to no avail, with Principal Race Officer Ross Wilson hoisting the AP over A late in the day and changing the sailing instructions to allow for racing on tomorrow’s lay day.

“We came down here at 10 o'clock this morning with a good northerly gusting up over 30 knots with a steady breeze around about 27 (knots),” he said.

“The breeze didn't abate whatsoever and we made an agreement that if we couldn't get any races in today there'd be two tomorrow.

“There was some real big lumps and big waves and there would have been a lot of boats bowing through that, so AP over A and now we've got the notice posted, there will be two races tomorrow, which was going to be the lay day.”

Tomorrow’s forecast looks to be sailable with 10-15 knot southerlies forecast on the Bureau of Meteorology’s MetEye.

Up-to-date results below.

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The 2024 Fireball Worlds is shaping up to be one for the ages, with a mix of light and heavy conditions on the second day, and the results so far offer no clear premonitions at this early stage.

Even after four races you can throw a blanket over the top 10, with a number of top contenders all getting moments at the very front of the fleet.

Day 1 leaders Brendan Garner and Ben O'Brien on Black Pearl, who began their regatta with two bullets yesterday, managed a second in Race 4 when the breeze was up, however the light winds in Race 3 may have shown a kink in their armour, finishing with a 16th they will hope to discard.

British hopefuls DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend on Mondo, and Tom Gillard and Andy Thompson (from East Antrim Boat Club) on North Sails Allen Bros Robline, have started to flex their muscle and show they belong at the front of the fleet.

With many overseas teams sailing borrowed boats due to logistics challenges in the lead up to the event, some teething issues have created mixed results at times.

“We've done a lot of boat work because the boat that we're sailing has never been on the water before,” Gillard said.

“(The association has) done an amazing job to all get us hire boats because our container's not here, it’s absolutely brilliant for them to sort everything out.

“(Geelong is) absolutely amazing sailing, it’s glamour, I mean the water temperature, the air temperature, it's all perfect.”

Among the top bunch are two more top South Australian teams, with Ben Schulz and Angus Higgins on Riptide sitting second overall with a consistent scorecard, and Tom Gordon and Jack Fletcher on Cletus also sailing very fast after what has been quite some time out of the boat.

While Gillard and Thompson won the second race today, it was light weather specialists Jalina Thompson-Kambas and Nathan Stockley in Stay Tuned that clinched an important race win in the lighter conditions.

The former Australian Champions haven’t had the start they would have liked in the heavier winds, however with more moderate winds forecast for the next few days they could slingshot themselves right back into the mix.

Australian class veteran John Heywood, sailing at this regatta with Daniel George on Renegade, also showed his experience with an 8,2 score for the day keeping him in the hunt.

With the Australian Championships preceding the Worlds, many of the international teams have been able to use some of the days off to enjoy what Geelong and the surf coast has to offer.

“We did actually manage to have a day out in Torquay down the coastline where the surfing is, it was beautiful down there, absolutely stunning,” Gillard said.

There are two more races scheduled for tomorrow, which will be followed by a lay day where sailors can experience some more of the excellent tourism offerings available in the Greater Geelong area.

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Former junior champion Chris Bateman is a top sailor who leads by example and inspiration.

Having decided that the ever-young Fireball is the answer for junior and adult dinghy sailors who don’t want to go down the cheque-book route to racing, he has beavered away re-building the formerly popular and economically attractive class both in practical restoration, and in actively sailing the boat to championship level.

The result has been a favourable and supportive response from Fireball sailors new and “old”, and a genuine re-invigoration of the class spreading outwards from Cork.

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Day three of the December Fireball Frostbite League was held on Saturday, the 23rd, on Monkstown Bay in Cork Harbour in glorious winter sailing conditions.

A beautiful sunrise set the tone for the morning's racing. The bay was awash with golden light as the first of the competitors began to arrive.

The Fireball numbers in Cork alone have risen from 1 last year to 11 boats based in Cork (9 in Monkstown Bay alone) With numbers continuing to blossom, local promoter Chris Bateman says, "The Fireball is one of the fastest, cheapest and stable boats on the market currently, not to mention one of the most accommodating, enthusiastic classes in Europe". Photo: Bob BatemanThe Fireball numbers in Cork alone have risen from 1 last year to 14 boats based in Cork (9 in Monkstown Bay alone) With numbers continuing to blossom, local promoter Chris Bateman says, "the Fireball is one of the fastest, cheapest and stable boats on the market currently, not to mention one of the most accommodating, enthusiastic classes in Europe". Photo: Bob Bateman

Seven Fireballs were due to arrive despite the proximity to Christmas Day. These numbers held true and in no time the Sandquay became filled with the noises of flapping sails and enthusiastic conversation.

Race officer Robbie O’Sullivan, with assistant Rory Fitzpatrick, set a triangle course with anticipation of a twenty-knot westerly wind. A slow tide was running, adding to the tactical element of the day.

The Fireballs launched in good time, some earlier than others to allow time for a dash around the bay. They provided a colourful sight for the onlookers with their bright spinnakers and shiny hulls throwing white clouds of spray.
The new fleet of Fireballs to Cork has brought in great interest to sailing and no doubt they put on a show that morning!

Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob BatemanEwen Barry and Sandy Rimmington competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman

Race one kicked off cleanly, with Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington taking the lead early on.

 Adrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown lead at mark one over Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob BatemanAdrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown lead at mark one over Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman

Two rounds of the triangle course created interesting tactical dilemmas, with large wind shifts and a tide increasing in strength as the morning went on. Ewen and Sandy used their fantastic heavy wind speed and took first place ahead of Adrian Lee, sailing with Glandore’s Tiarnan Brown, who finished second.

Adrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman Adrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman 

Race two began with a slightly altered course. The fleet leaders fought to the finish line with Ewen and Sandy taking first place. Adrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown followed up in second. League newcomers Lola Kohl sailing with crew James Dwyer sailed a great race and finished in third place.

Bella Waterman and Sean O’Herlihy competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob BatemanBella Waterman and Sean O’Herlihy competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman

The wind had dropped down for race three. A clean start, and it was Lola Kohl and James Dwyer who pulled into the lead, fending off a competitive fleet more than halfway up the course. However Ewen and Sandy sailed well, catching a wind shift which brought them back into contention. Adrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown were seen catching a fantastic gust on the left side which boosted them into second place.

Niall McAllister and Peter Hayes at speed competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob BatemanNiall McAllister and Peter Hayes at speed competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman

At the finish line, Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington took first place, completing their hat trick scorecard for the day. In second place was Adrian Lee and Tiarnan Brown who had fought hard all morning. Taking third place was Lola Kohl and James Dwyer.

This concluded Saturday’s Frostbite racing, and with that, the fleet headed ashore.

The final race of the December Fireball Frostbite League is on the 26th of December as part of Monkstown Bay Sailing Club’s St Stephens Day celebrations. The First Gun will be at 2 pm.

The clubhouse will be open after racing, with Christmas-themed food and wine prepared for the competitors.

Chris Bateman and Atlee Kohl competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob BatemanChris Bateman and Atlee Kohl competing in the Fireball Frostbite league at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman

Pre-Christmas Blast at Monkstown Bay Photo Gallery by Bob Bateman

The recent Irish Fireball Association agm was a lively affair as the class discussed two thorny issues and reconfirmed its commitment to younger sailors.

First, the thorny stuff - there was a lively, sometimes heated discussion around the decision not to award the class a place in the Irish Sailing Champions event (formerly known as the Helmsman's). The ultimate decision was not to award the class, which features several highly competitive sailors, a position based on a notional cutoff of having a 20 boat fleet at the National Championship.

The 2023 Nationals had an 18-boat fleet. A parallel issue was the decision to use a virtual National Judge to save the cost of having a National Judge attend in person.

This was fundamentally to save costs and to keep the entry fee for the event at WHSC affordable. Class chairman Neil Cramer explained that having a National Judge attend an event outside Dublin could add approximately 500 euros to the cost of running the event when judges' expenses are factored in.

Irish Fireball Association Chairman Neil CramerIrish Fireball Association Chairman Neil Cramer

Unfortunately, the vast majority of National Judges are based in Dublin or Cork, so travel and subsistence expenses are unavoidable for most regional clubs. Inevitably, this cost has to be passed on to competitors in the form of increased entry fees. From the perspective of the Irish Fireball Association, this is actually anti-sailing and anti-smaller clubs. A clear solution would be financial support from Irish Sailing for National Judges when smaller venues are hosting a national championship. At the AGM, the class reiterated its commitment to youth sailing and agreed to continue its strong subsidy for youth membership and youth entry fees for events.

"increased entry fees are anti-sailing and anti-smaller clubs"

The future of Fireball sailing lies with young sailors and the class will continue to invest in that future. One younger sailor at the agm argued that the class should be better at marketing itself. Chris Bateman, who is a youth development officer on the committee, said that every young sailor he introduces to the boat is amazed at its performance. As a lightweight boat (66.4kg hull) the Fireball has an impressive power to weight ratio and in terms of youth sailing it is actually lighter than a 29er. Chris pointed out that the key selling points should be that the boat is fast, fun and affordable. To prove all of these points, he is running introduction and coaching sessions at Monkstown Bay SC over the winter and into the spring. He has embarked on a mission to rescue and upgrade abandoned Fireballs around the country, building the Cork fleet from almost zero to some dozen boats.

Chris Bateman is a Cork Harbour based Fireball, skiff, catamaran and Laser sailorChris Bateman is a Cork Harbour based Fireball, skiff, catamaran and Laser sailor

The saving grace of an abandoned or neglected Fireball is the hull build quality as boats made by Winder, Duvosin and Weathermark will have a competitive lifespan of well over twenty years. Some of these boats can be picked up for a song, and with re-roping and a bit of cleaning up, they can go head to head with newer boats on any startline. The gold/silver fleet division was also debated at the agm and a draft document was agreed in principle, to be voted on and signed off after a wider poll of sailors.

The guiding principle is to ensure each division is competitive and fair while promoting the top silver sailors into the gold fleet at the end of each season. Events so far nailed down for 2024 include a Nationals at RCYC in tandem with 420s and 29ers, a Leinsters at Skerries, and a Munsters at Monkstown Bay SC. But Fireball sailing doesn't stop for winter, and competitive winter racing is ongoing in the DMYC Frostbites series and at Monkstown. 2024 promises to be another great year for the fleet, with young sailors pushing to the fore and great events at home and abroad.

Speaking of the latter, at least two Irish teams will be competing in the World Championship at Geelong in Australia in February, and there is already big interest in the European Championship on Lake Maggiore in Italy in September.

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On November 11th Saturday last, the Fireball resurgence continued in Cork as a Frostbite league raced on the waters of Monkstown Bay.

With the class continuing to blossom in Cork, Six competing Fireballs arrived for the second day of a four-week series.

Fireballs racing at Monkstown Bay in Cork HarbourFireballs racing at Monkstown Bay in Cork Harbour Photo: Bob Bateman

Light winds were the order of business for the early hours of Saturday morning. Greeted by a glorious sunrise and brisk November air, the competitors, organisers and spectators arrived in droves. As is always the case with this spectacular class, enthusiasm levels were high.

Niall McAllister and crew Killian of Bantry Bay take first place in race three of day one of the Fireball Frostbites Photo: Bob BatemanNiall McAllister and crew Killian of Bantry Bay take first place in race three of day one of the Fireball Frostbites Photo: Bob Bateman

Fireballs of all different colours brightened up the dinghy park as their keen owners tuned rigs and prepared sails for the morning's racing.

Ethel and Olin Bateman currently second overallEthel and Olin Bateman currently second overall at the MBSC Fireball Frostbites Photo: Bob Bateman

With a starting gun scheduled for 10:30am they lost no time in launching. In keeping with the vibrant theme, a brightly painted Currach became the Cork class committee boat. This was set in place and manned for the day by Robbie O’Sullivan.

Conor Kelly and son Conor fighting for second place on Day one in the Fireball dinghy frostbites racing at Monkstown BayConor Kelly and son Conor fighting for second place on Day one in the Fireball dinghy frostbites racing at Monkstown Bay

A light North Easterly Breeze filled in which was just enough to get race one underway.

It was a fantastic sight to see the Fireballs battling it out on the start line, and at the gun, all got away cleanly. Although new to the fleet, Ewan Barry and crew Sandy Rimmington of MBSC quickly established dominance, leading at the first mark. Adrian Lee of Youghal and crew/league organiser Chris Bateman tacked out into the tide, scraping around in second just in front of the dark horse team of Conor Kelly, racing with his son Conor (junior) on the wire.

Ewan Barry and Sandy Rimmington lead mark 1  in the Fireball dinghy frostbites racing at Monkstown Bay Photo: Bob BatemanEwan Barry and Sandy Rimmington lead mark 1  in the Fireball dinghy frostbites racing at Monkstown Bay Photo: Bob Bateman

A strong tide and relatively short course kept the race short and exciting, with many position changes. In the end the race was won by Ewan and Sandy, followed up by Lee and Bateman in second with the Kelly’s taking third.

Fireball racingFireball racing

Race two brought less wind and more tide. The competitors gave no leeway and the fleet remained tight with many position changes. At the first mark, it was Ewan and Sandy around in first place. They ran downwind into a hole of no breeze while the fleet carried down fair wind. They managed to hold on to their lead, and crossed the line two rounds later to take first place. Lee and Bateman followed in second, with the ever-consistent Kelly team in third.

Race three kicked off in a more consistent breeze, and it was the new Fireball team of Brian Jones and Barry O’Connor who rounded the windward mark in first place. They held this until close to the leeward mark, where a strong wind shift favoured Lee and Bateman. A small battle ensued after this major wind shift, allowing Lee and Bateman to take the lead, with Ewan Barry and Sandy Rimmington in second followed by Jones and O’Connor in third.

Race four brought medium winds, allowing the crews to stretch their legs on the trapeze. The Fireballs accelerated into their natural habitat of upwind planing which made for an exciting final race. Ewan and Sandy quickly regained the lead and held it all the way to the finish line, completing their impressive first day in a Fireball. Taking second were Lee and Bateman, followed by the Kelly’s (also new to Fireballs). The fleet chomped at their heels, making their statement before calling it a day.

Rather than go straight home, punctual racing allowed the sailors to go for a sail around the bay in the increasing breeze. Fireballs tore across the water, putting on a show before heading for home.
This will all continue next week for day three of the Fireball series.

With more boats scheduled to arrive, why not join us? The Fireball is one of the fastest, cheapest and stable boats on the market currently, not to mention one of the most accommodating, enthusiastic classes in Europe.

The numbers in Cork alone have risen from 1 last year to 11 boats based in all of Cork right now (9 in Monkstown Bay alone).

If interested in being a part of the Fireball fleet, trying a boat, selling or buying, call Chris on +353 85 7272382.

If you don’t have access to a phone and want to join the Cork Fireball fleet, racing is every Saturday morning, so come down and have a look!

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Such has been the upswing in enthusiasm for Fireball sailing that despite completing the full suite of scheduled events for 2023, there was a significant view that a further event would be well received. Fortunately, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC) took up the short-notice challenge and organised a race team to host the Fireballs on the weekend of 21st & 22nd October.

The forecast in the week beforehand gave a mixed recipe of winds for both the Saturday and the Sunday and while storm Babet hammered the south coast, the sea conditions in Dun Laoghaire on the Thursday and Friday were such that a matchbox wouldn’t have survived never mind a sailing boat. I saw photographs of huge seas crashing off the pier walls that were closer to what one might expect in deep December rather than mid-October.

Sunday morning Fireball action – Team Butler, Ferguson/Chaix, Butler/Oram and Lee/Geraghty Photo: Neil ColinSunday morning Fireball action – Team Butler, Ferguson/Chaix, Butler/Oram and Lee/Geraghty Photo: Neil Colin 

Saturday dawned better looking than expected, with the huge seas gone and a steady breeze from the NNW. At the briefing on Saturday morning, a plan was declared to run three races on the premise that there was a better forecast for the Sunday.

Fleet participants came from Cork – Team Bateman, with three boats – the West with Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty, from Leitrim, north of the Liffey, from Skerries, from Wexford, and of course from Dun Laoghaire itself.

Olin Bateman & Conor Kelly sailing Fireball 14362Olin Bateman & Conor Kelly sailing Fireball 14362 Photo: Cormac Bradley

Three three-lap Olympic-course races were completed on the Saturday in winds that varied in strength from 12 to 18 knots in reasonably flat seas west of the harbour. With a Fireball crew as Race Officer and a Fireball helm setting the windward and leeward marks, the fleet had exhilarating spinnaker reaches on the triangles with some tweaking of the gybe mark after a practice triangle, and good planing conditions on the downwind legs of the sausage.

Top reach Fireball action, Race 3, en route to the gybe mark – Left to right: Team Butler 14969, McGrotty & Cramer 14938, Thompson brothers, Daniel & Harry 15156, Butler & Oram 15061, Bateman & Flynn 14916.Top reach Fireball action, Race 3, en route to the gybe mark – Left to right: Team Butler 14969, McGrotty & Cramer 14938, Thompson brothers, Daniel & Harry 15156, Butler & Oram 15061, Bateman & Flynn 14916 Photo: Neil Colin

Ten of the fourteen boats entered made the first race which got away after a very short postponement. Perennial trophy winners Stephen Oram and Noel Butler (15061) took the first two races with comfortable wins after a tighter first triangle. In the first race they were chased by Adrian Lee & Ossian Geraghty (15017) before spinnaker issues forced them backwards in the pecking order. That opened the door to Team Butler, Ed Óg agus Ed Mór (14969) who came through to finish 2nd, with Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938) 3rd.

In the second race, thirteen of the fourteen boats entered made the start and while we had an OCS, who didn’t go back, a DNS and one RET, the balance of the fleet enjoyed sunny conditions and good breeze. This second race was a tighter affair, but by the end the cream had risen to the top and Oram & Butler took a second bullet. Having sorted out their technical issues, Lee & Geraghty finished second, with the Butlers third, McGrotty & Cramer fourth and Nicola Ferguson & Thomas Chaix (14750) fifth.

These two races ran for approximately 35 minutes each, which was marginally shorter than had been promised/agreed with the fleet and so the weather mark was moved further upwind to lengthen the beat. For the third race, two boats that may have got their time planning for the first two races wrong upturned the pecking order and came home in first and second, relegating the leaders on the water to third place. Brothers Daniel & Harry Thompson (15156) out of Wexford took the bullet in this race and were followed home by Chris Bateman & Conor Flynn (14916) flying the Cork flag.

In the wind conditions of Saturday, the distance between 1st and last boats on the water got stretched and “Whiskey” finishes were used to get the subsequent race started. Again, this had been agreed with the fleet in view of the initial weather conditions, grey, overcast and temperatures probably in single figures. A turnaround time of 15 minutes was achieved after one race between first boat finishing and the warning signal for the subsequent race.

The warning signal for Race 1 was delayed by about three minutes while the race committee checked on tailenders coming out of the harbour, but not seeing any, the postponement flag came down quickly and proceedings got underway. Th weather mark was tweaked for each race and time was saved between races with the RO changing the weather mark while the balance of the committee boat crew finished the race. This meant that while we started three minutes late on the first start, three races were done and dusted by 14:00 and the fleet was ashore by 14:45.

With three races complete, the running order in overall terms was Oram & Butler, 5pts, Butler & Butler, 9pts, McGrotty & Cramer, 12pts, Lee & Geraghty, 14pts and Ferguson & Chaix, 15pts.

As the fleet relaxed in the DMYC clubhouse, the predictions of wind for Sunday started to go skewwhiff with light winds from the West giving way to light winds from the East according to XCWeather. An early evening WhatsApp from Neil Colin (weather & gybe mark) suggested that Met Eireann was also not confident of stable winds.

Sunday morning was bright but breathless both inside the harbour and outside. The committee boat cast off early and sat outside the harbour in mirror-like conditions until a dark line spread over the southern half of the Bay coming from an easterly direction. Four Elliott 5.5s, 100m away from the committee boat starting sailing in this and a decision was taken to race inside the harbour to cancel any tidal effects.
While the breeze moved around enough to prompt adjustment of the weather mark between races, it stayed around the 120°mark for the day and a further three races were sailed in accordance with the Sailing Instructions and a fourth race was then offered to take advantage of the sunshine and light breeze.

Windward-Leewards were the order of the day, each of two laps and the recipe produced much tighter racing on the water. The changed conditions also meant that the younger and lighter combinations could be more competitive and in particular Olin Bateman & Conor Kelly (14362) took advantage to mix it with the more experienced combinations. In one race they rounded the first weather mark inside the top five.

However, the overnight leaders made sure that there were no hiccups on Day 2 by taking another two race wins, before Chris Bateman & Conor Flynn closed out the regatta racing by winning the sixth race with Oram & Butler finishing a discarded sixth. Lee & Geraghty had a good day scoring 2, 3, 4 to leapfrog Team Butler (14) and McGrotty & Cramer (12) into second place overall.

For the freebie seventh race, more than half the fleet took advantage of the now benign conditions to get some more racing in!

Fireball Autumn Regatta – Hosted by DMYC, 21/22 October 2023 resultsFireball Autumn Regatta – Hosted by DMYC, 21/22 October 2023 results

A compact team ran the racing over the two days with four on the committee boat and two ribs laying marks. Accordingly, thanks go to Neil, Keelan and his daughter, Brian, Margaret, Louise, Cariosa and Cormac.
Prizes were awarded by Regatta Organiser Neil Colin in the DMYC post racing.

DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta 2023 Prizegiving Gallery

Stephen Oram & Noel Butler, 1st Overall at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac BradleyStephen Oram & Noel Butler, 1st Overall at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

Adrian Lee & Ossian Geraghty, 2nd Overall at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac BradleyAdrian Lee & Ossian Geraghty, 2nd Overall at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

152354 – Ed Butler (Snr) and Ed Butler (Jnr), 3rd Overall, with Regatta Organiser Neil Colin at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley152354 – Ed Butler (Snr) and Ed Butler (Jnr), 3rd Overall, with Regatta Organiser Neil Colin at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

Nicola Ferguson & Thomas Chaix, 4th Overall at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac BradleyNicola Ferguson & Thomas Chaix, 4th Overall at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

Paul ter Horst & Pat McGoldrick, Winners Silver Fleet at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac BradleyPaul ter Horst & Pat McGoldrick, Winners Silver Fleet at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

Killian Glynn & Niall McAllister, 2nd in Silver Fleet at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac BradleyKillian Glynn & Niall McAllister, 2nd in Silver Fleet at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

Olin Bateman & Conor Kelly, 3rd in Silver Fleet at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac BradleyOlin Bateman & Conor Kelly, 3rd in Silver Fleet at the DMYC Fireball Autumn Regatta at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Cormac Bradley

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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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