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With the normal Fireball scribes for the Frostbite racing in Northern Ireland for the day and in the Caribbean for at least a week, the reporting of the penultimate Sunday of the 2015/16 Frostbite Series fell on Neil Colin.

Neil reports thus;

The ladies in pink stole the show with two wins on a beautiful spring day, in gentle 5 - 8 knot breezes, racing inside the harbour.

The ladies started the first beat of race one with a hard turn to the right hand corner and took a healthy 10 boat lead at mark one, to a rousing cheer from their favourite mark layer, and even a photo opportunity, but by the time they had reached mark 4, the pack were upon them and Noel had stolen their crown. But not so fast, another hard right side put them back in the game and they led for the next 3 laps to take the gun. Meantime the rest of the fleet played snakes and ladders, with only Noel and Stephen maintaining a consistent place.

Between races the fleet encouraged the pink ladies to repeat the performance, adding the pressure……..  and they duly delivered a second race win around a smaller course, with fewer rounds in a dying breeze.  Well done!

The “ladies in pink” are Louise McKenna and Hermine O’Keeffe who during the winter months, at least, can be distinguished by distinctive pink woolly hats. We have yet to establish if the ownership and wearing of a pink hat is a prerequisite for sailing in 14691, Goodness  Gracious, but as Neil’s words above suggest they has a superb day on Sunday past.

There was a great symmetry about the results on this second-last Sunday of the winter season with Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) scoring two seconds, Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) scoring two thirds and Mary Chambers and Brenda McGuire (14865) scoring two fourths.

Seven boats contested the first race of the day and the fleet was reduced to four boats for the second.

With the final Sunday of racing being March 20th, the overall situation is as follows;

DMYC Frostbites 2015/2016; 21 Races sailed, 5 Discards. Total Pts Nett Pts
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram NYC 15061 43 19
2 Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley/Grattan Donnelly DMYC 14713 119 54
3 Alastair Court & Gordon Syme DMYC 14706 134 69
4 Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe RStGYC 14691 136 71
5 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey DMYC 14775 144 79
6 Conor & James Clancy RStGYC 14807 153 88
7 Cariosa Power & Marie Barry NYC 14854 159 94


The prize-giving on Sunday will be at 17:00 if there is racing and at 15:00 if there is no racing.

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There was almost a full turnout of the Fireballs registered for the 2015/16 Frostbites in Dun Laoghaire yesterday when 10 boats assembled on the start line for the first of two trapezoid-course races in sunshine but cool temperatures writes Cormac Bradley. The forecasts for the afternoon were a bit mixed with one site suggesting the N-Westerly would go Northerly and fade while another suggested it would go Southerly and build a little. In the end it was the former forecast that won out.

Two early practice rounds of the course revealed conditions that required trapezing upwind and tight spinnaker legs across the top and bottom of the trapezoid but as the afternoon progressed, the need for trapezing faded though the reaches were still lively.

In Race 1 the fleet had various ideas on how to work the first beat, the Clancy brothers, Conor and James, making a first appearance after a few weeks absence, decided that hitting the East Pier was the way to go with a weather mark just inside the end of the West Pier. The rest of the fleet demurred to varying degrees, preferring to work the middle and left of the course. The majority view was vindicated at the first weather mark with a rounding order of Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061), Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706), Darragh McDonagh & Neil Duke (14434), Neil Colin & John (14775), Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley (14713). Team Clancy were down in 7th in close proximity to Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854), Louise McKenna & Tim (14691), Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) and Peter & Michael Keegan (14676).

By the time the first half of the fleet got to Mark 2, Butler & Oram had pulled out a short lead. At the gybe, Miller gained two places by getting inside McDonagh and Colin and with a faster spinnaker set was able to pull away and to windward of them – time to hunt down Court!

On the second beat, Miller worked the right hand side of the course while Butler and Court worked the middle. By the time they reached the 2nd weather mark, Miller had closed dramatically on Court and they rounded with Miller only just ahead. Butler of course was doing his normal thing of putting distance between himself and the rest of the fleet.  Halfway down the top leg of the trapezoid Miller was able to break the overlap with Court and put a few boat-lengths between the boats. This position was retained to the rounding of Mark 4. Behind them, Chambers had dropped out, Colin too had dropped out after an incident on the water and the chasing boats were now Power/Barry and the Clancy brothers.

Third beat and Butler and Court both go left immediately! As piggy in the middle, Miller goes right – a potentially dangerous ploy, leaving the opposition to do their own thing. As they entered the last stages of the beat Court crosses ahead but a few minutes later when they cross again, Miller has sneaked in front. Miller gets to the weather mark first and holds Court off to Mark 4. On the final beat, Miller is much more circumspect, only taking a short hitch to the right to see what Court will do on rounding 4. When Court tacks, so does Miller and the pair sail in close company up the left hand side of the course, with Miller to windward. Butler is “long gone” sailing his own comfortable race. Behind Court and Miller, both Clancy and Power close but not enough to give the “heebie-jeebies” just yet! Miller tacks first for the port lay-line and gets to the weather mark first ahead of Court who is in a slightly more windward slot.  

The last lap is now a race between the Clancys and Power & Barry with the lighter ladies more than holding their own.  They exchange the lead a few times on the top leg, but on the longer leg between 2 and 3 the ladies get into a more secure position and hold off the brothers to the finish.

The fading and northerly shifting breeze now necessitates a change of course but due to the logistics of the harbour, it is not enough to move the weather mark, the committee boat has to move as well, moving inshore towards the gantry for the HSS.  The weather mark, meantime, is now closer to the end of the East Pier. Three laps are set for this second race and at the start the fleet decides that the pin is the place to be. Miller gets his approach wrong, finds he is too early and gybes out from underneath the fleet and works the right hand side of the course. After a single race, the Clancys are back in the groove and they lead the charge to the weather mark followed by Power & Barry, Neil Colin & John, Butler & Oram and Court & Syme. By the time the fleet clear the weather mark, we are treated to the sight of Butler & Oram doing two sets of turns – one set to absolve themselves from an incident with the Clancys and the second for hitting the mark.

Five boats manage to break away from the fleet – Clancys, Power & Barry, Neil & John, Miller and Bradley and Court & Syme.  Behind this bunch, Chambers & McGuire are well placed and of course everyone was aware that Butler & Oram wouldn’t be hanging around the back for any longer than was necessary! Despite the fact that the wind has gone northwards, the right hand side was not paying as much as one would have thought and the fleet consistently worked the middle and left of the course. Clancy and Power were never threatened though their lead did get shortened as the race progressed. Miller gained places off wind to move into third but upwind he lost out to Butler & Oram who worked their way through the fleet.  These places stay as is until the finish with Court & Syme taking the fifth place on the water.

DMYC Frostbites 2015/16: Series 2; Day 6, 6th March R1 R2
Noel Butler & Stephen Oram NYC 15061 1 3
Conor & James Clancy RStGYC 14807 5 1
Cariosa Power & Marie Barry NYC 14854 4 2
Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley DMYC 14713 2 4
Alistair Court & Gordon Syme DMYC 14706 5 5

After nineteen races and five discards, the overall situation is as follows;

DMYC Frostbites 2015/16
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram NYC 15061 15pts
2 Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley/Grattan Donnelly DMYC 14713 38pts
3 Alistair Court & Gordon Syme DMYC 14706 59pts
Published in Fireball

In a winter where we have lost races to howling gales, yesterday offered the Frostbite Fireballs an easier day on the water with a modest 4 – 7 knots of breeze on according to the weather station inside the harbour writes Cormac Bradley. Air temperature was recorded at 6.7˚ with a wind direction of 88˚. However, for all the brightness of the early part of the afternoon, there was a chill in the air and as the afternoon wore on, a grey sky came in from the south to confirm the time of year. Four laps of a trapezoid course were set by the Race Committee for the first race with the weather mark close to the harbour mouth and towards the end of the East Pier. No.2 was just off the block house on the West Pier, No.3 just off the end of the inner pier to windward of the marina and No.4 close to the entrance to the marina itself. As the start gun for the first race approached, Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) were closest to the pin but it seemed they were slightly early as they gybed out, sailed underneath the fleet in bow to transom formation on the line and went right. This left Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) on the pin and they led the fleet off to the left hand side of the beat. Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) were the first to peel off to follow Butler/Oram and they were then followed by the Keegans (14656), Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691), Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854) and Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706). Miller/Donnelly hogged the left hand side until they were about two-thirds of the way up the beat and then tacked to go across the course. Butler did the reverse and having crossed ahead of Miller tacked onto a parallel course to Miller but to windward.

The boats that had gone left initially seemed to be in better shape but as the leaders approached the weather mark, the boats that were now on the starboard lay-line seemed to be enjoying marginally better breeze. Within this eight-boat fleet, only three were not flying red spinnakers, the aforementioned Court and Syme, all blue, Louis Smyth (15007), white with a blue band and the Keegans, all white. Thus, with the weather mark furthest away from my location, my sense of “Who’s Who” at the weather mark and subsequent reach is subject to correction as it was based on colours of crews’ clothes and hat colours, confirmed only when the boats were halfway down the leg between Marks 2 & 3.

Thus, my assessment of the rounding sequence at the first mark was Butler & Oram (all black Gill gear), McKenna & O’Keeffe (distinctive pink hats), Chambers & McGuire (red & black tops), Power & Barry (blue sleeves, white trapeze belt & white hat), Court & Syme, Smyth, Miller & Donnelly (red hat, red top, grey top) and Keegans. Places didn’t change on the next three legs, a three sail reach from 1 to 2, a broader three-sailer from 2 to 3 and another tight but manageable reach from 3 to 4. On the second beat the leading boats took a short hitch to the right of the course and then went left. Power, Court and Smyth went significant distances to the right hand side before they worked that side of the beat to get to the weather mark. At the second rounding of this mark Butler & Oram had increased their lead by a significant margin and second placed McKenna & O’Keeffe had done the same to the rest of the fleet. Power rounded third but seemed to have a problem, allowing Court to close up on her. At Mark 2, Court gybed immediately and got ahead of the girls and behind him Miller & Donnelly did the same thing to pass out Smyth and Chambers. A lap later both Court and Miller would execute the same gybe, but would lose out to Power & Barry. Miller & Donnelly then lost another place to Smyth. Up the last beat, Butler and McKenna were very comfortably ahead and could effectively sail their own race. Butler wasn’t under threat from McKenna who was well ahead of the chasing pack. Power & Barry, now in third place went hard right on the final beat and it seemed to do them no harm as they rounded in this position at the last weather mark. However, Court and Smyth were not that far behind them.

At Mark 2 Court got inside Power and eked out a short lead over the two ladies. At the rounding of the third and fourth marks the boats were bow to transom with Court just ahead. At Mark 4 Court tacked immediately while Power sailed a short distance on. Problem was, from my vantage point, the committee boat was a lot closer to Mark 4 than the pin was and by virtue of finishing at the committee boat, I think that Power sneaked 3rd place. A stopwatch on the finish showed that Butler/Oram won by 2:05 to McKenna/O’Keefe who had 2:25 on Power/Barry who had seconds on Court/Syme. Smyth took 5th, Chambers 6th, Miller 7th and Keegans 8th. For the second race of the day, the weather mark was moved eastwards so that it was now inside the end of the east pier. Mark 2 was also moved, but 3 and 4 stayed as was. For the start the fleet was congregated from the pin back towards the committee boat. With seconds to go Smyth, slightly to leeward of the rest of the fleet, approached the pin on port tack. With a hail from Court who was leading the on-line procession to the pin on starboard, Smyth was able to tack and squeeze past the pin to go left. Shortly after the start, Butler, McKenna, and Power went right while the balance went left with Smyth to leeward of this group.

At the first weather mark, Court led followed (after closer confirmation of sail numbers) by Miller, McKenna, Butler, Power, Smyth and Chambers. The first three boats were very close and Court was initially caught by the two boats behind him. As the fleet approached Mark 4, the running order was Miller, McKenna, Court, Butler, Chambers, Smyth and Power. Butler and McKenna worked the left hand side of the course on the second beat but Court went right and when they crossed, Court was ahead. McKenna was ahead of Miller and Butler had yet to engage in a crossing to allow me to see where he was. At the second weather mark, the lead had changed hands and the blue spinnaker told me that Court was “Numero Uno”. Butler rounded second followed by McKenna, Miller and Chambers. On the third beat Butler went right, Court went left and Butler led at the first crossing, but at the weather mark it was again a blue spinnaker that broke out first. Butler was in second ahead of McKenna, Miller and Chambers and these places were held until the finish.

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Only four Fireballs risked romantic disharmony by taking part in today’s Frostbite racing in Dun Laoghaire harbour writes Cormac Bradley. Or maybe it was the weather that put people off, because even the organisers were warning about the weather – “rather cold and on the heavy side. Decision to take part entirely up to competitors” was the Facebook message to participants before the racing.
By the time I got to the harbour the four Fireballs were enjoying a good “skite” around the trapezoid course with a five-lapper set for the day. With the wind measured at 14.3 knots with a gust of 21.9 knots out of NNE (22˚) the fleet got round the course quite quickly – so quickly that my late arrival meant that I missed the first half of the race.
By the stage I arrived Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly were in a very comfortable first place, with Alistair Court and Gordon Syme in second. Team Keegan were in third and Louis Smyth was in fourth. None of the boats flew spinnaker on the top and bottom reaches and on the leg between Marks 2 and 3, Louis Smyth was the only one to break out the “duster”!
The weather mark was situated in the middle of the mouth of the harbour, with No.2 a short distance inside the end of the west pier. No. 3 was situated at the entrance to the marina and No.4 just to the west of the gantry for the HSS. This gave the fleet a beat that was the length of the N-S dimension of the harbour and the approach was to sail a long port tack to the starboard layline into the weather mark.

2015/16 Frostbites: Sunday 14th February 2016, Day 4
1 Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly 14713 DMYC
2 Alistair Court & Gordon Syme 14706 DMYC
3 Team Keegan 14676 RStGYC
4 Louis Smyth 15007 Coal Harb.

Frostbites 2015/16 – Series 2 Overall. (Assumes No discard)
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 NYC 1 4 1 1 1 1 DNC 15
2 Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly/Cormac Bradley 14713 DMYC 4 2 3 4 2 3 1 19
3 Conor & James Clancy 14807 RStGYC 2 1 2 2 DNC DNC DNC 32
3 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 3 3 5 3 3 DNC DNC 32

Overall position assumes that DNC = number of individual race entries + 2 and No Discard.

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You’ll have glimpsed the photo gallery and heard the reports of the International Fireball Dinghy Class 50th Anniversary Irish Reunion last Saturday night in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire. Fifty years, by George……Most sailing folk still think of the Fireball as a fresh and unique off-the-wall sailing phenomenon, a crazy European take on the skimming-dish scows of the lakes of America’s mid-West. And we think of these very special racing dinghies as being something as new as tomorrow, ingenious boats for ingenious owners who like to do all sorts of personal tunings and tweaks to their pride-and-joy. So it brings us up short to find them celebrating their Golden Jubilee. W M Nixon gives his own take on the Former Fireball Fanatics.

If you’re from anywhere well outside the bubble which is southeast Dublin, you’ll assume that a group of guys who regularly drink in a place called the Tramyard will be a bunch of winos. But those in the know are well aware that the Tramyard in Dalkey is a more-than-agreeable coffee house where a regular group of morning habituees supping the essence of the sacred bean is a gathering of sailing friends who have been mates since studying in college or whatever they were doing at that exciting time of life, when all things were possible, and just to have an idea was enough to have the energy to implement it and do something with the result.

Melges Class A Scow2

The inspiration for the Fireball design more than fifty years ago came partially from the classic scows of the lakes of mid-western America. This is a Melges Class A Scow.

As this Tramyard crowd have been regularly together for so long, they have not noticed the effects of the passing of the years on each other. So when Derek Jago got to reflecting among them last Autumn that maybe their best sailing years were spent in the Fireball Class, and that it was amazing to think it had been around for fifty years, former Fireball champion Brian Craig immediately suggested that if Derek would organise a post-50th Anniversary Reunion of the Irish Fireball Class past and present, then he – Brian - would see about making the Royal St George Yacht Club available as the venue, for after all it was the George – home club for most of them - which had the biggest Fireball fleet in the great days of the class’s Irish glory.

Derek jago
The party happens – Derek Jago (left) with former Fireballers Howard Knott, Peter Stapleton and Hilary Knott. Photo: Fotosail

Of course, when you do organise something like this, you will know what your own close circle of old friends now look like. But it’s a fascinating exercise in the observation of the aging process to wheel in people you mightn’t have seen in thirty and more years.

In fact, it might have been fraught with a certain risk of non-recognition of faces from the distant past. But the Irish Fireball Class was not only an outstanding success in its peak years, it went on to send out rising stars who were to make their mark in many other areas of sailing. Consequently last Saturday night proved to be a gathering of familiar faces of whom, in some cases, folk were saying: “But I never knew you were ever a Fireball sailor”.

Yet not only were they Fireball sailors once upon a time, but they were very proud of the fact. For in the nicest possible way, the Fireball was and is a bit of a cult thing. She was designed by Peter Milne, who at the time of her creation was working on the drawings for the latest Donald Campbell world water speed record challenger. In the midst of such a hothouse of technology and massive expenditure, it seemed like a breath of fresh air to take a little time out to create a boat which reduced sailing to its absolute essentials, and he did it so well that Peter Milne thereafter never quite matched this one divine inspiration.

And it was truly inspirational. After all, who would have thought that a minimalist boat, with just about zero freeboard and skinny with it, and with her slim hull further reduced in volume by having a cut-off pram bow, who could have thought it would be such a superb sailing machine when she’d a crew who gave total commitment to the concept and realized that the use of the trapeze was what Fireball sailing was all about?

First fireball ireland
The first in Ireland –Roy Dickson’s No 38 making a tentative visit to Dun Laoghaire in September 1962.

Roy Dickson David Lovegrove
Champions – Roy Dickson crewed by David Lovegrove after successfully defending the Fireball Nationals in 1966.

Well, the first in Ireland was Roy Dickson of Kilbarrack and Sutton on the north shores of Dublin Bay, a man who cannot contemplate any boat without thinking about ways of improving it. He’d already been taking several sails on the wild side by building a Jack Holt-designed 16ft Hornet with a sliding seat in the manner of Uffa Fox’s famous sailing canoes, so when the design of the Fireball first appeared in Yachts & Yachting magazine in 1962, it was a eureka moment.

Roy’s first Fireball, no 38, made a tentative appearance across Dublin Bay in Dun Laoghaire at the end of the 1962 season, and next Spring it was revealed that other sailors from the north shore were following in his footsteps. They’d already set up a class association with Peter O’Brien as Chairman and Eddie Kay as Honorary Secretary, and it was expected that up to 20 Fireballs would be racing in Ireland by the end of the 1963 summer.

roy dickson
The founding father – Roy Dickson with his sons Ian (left) and David on Saturday night at the celebration of the Irish Fireball Class. Photo: Fotosail

jan van der puil john lavery
Jan van der Puil (left) with 1995 World Champion John Lavery. Photo: Fotosail

Early days – at an IYA Easter Meeting in Wexford the new Fireballs cut a dash by comparison with the older IDRA 14 and Enterprise in the background. Photo: W M Nixon

anthony oleary
Celebrating the Fireball – Anthony and Sally O’Leary, with Cathy McAleavey and Con Murphy. Photo: Fotosail

It was an extraordinary breakthrough, the memory of it all made even more vibrant by the fact that Roy Dickson himself was there in Dun Laoghaire last Saturday night, his innovative Fireball years recalled as just another chapter in his own fantastic sailing career, which has gone right to the top both inshore and offshore.

The Fireball spoke eloquently to several successive waves of Irish sailors, and in the period between the mid 1960s and the late 1990s, you’d be hard put to say just what was the key year, with an early dose of extreme excitement being the Fireball Worlds at Fenit on Tralee Bay in 1970, John Caig from England being the winner. For although an unmatched high was reached in 1995 when John Lavery and David O’Brien of the National YC won both the Europeans and the Worlds in a mega regatta staged by their home club on Dublin Bay, at other times Adrian and Maeve Bell from the north – they were with Lough Neagh SC at the time - were very much in the international frame, counting many major titles.

Fireballs on an early outing to Sligo, where the Worlds were staged in 2011.

As for staging Fireball World Championships, Ireland has stepped up to the plate four times, with a particularly epic Worlds in Kinsale in 1977 where the Godkin brothers set the pace in the local fleet. Then there was the glorious home win at Dun Laoghaire in 1995. And the most recent Worlds in Ireland were at Sligo in 2011, where the great Gus Henry may have been best known as a stalwart of the GP 14 Class, but he too is a top sailor who savoured the Fireball experience.

At the height of the class’s popularity, nearly three quarters of the boats in Ireland were said to be an own-build, and Roy Dickson was the pace-setter in innovation. It’s said that if Roy turned up at a major international regatta with some completely new but barely perceptible additional feature on his boat, by the next championship you could be reasonably sure that at least half the fleet would have copied him.

But for some years now the class has seen plastic boats in the ascendant, which restrains the innovators. And numbers in Ireland are admittedly no longer so spectacular, for in its top years the truly active Fireball fleet here numbered 70 boats, which for an out-and-out performance dinghy was quite something.

There’s still as little bulk to the boat as possible, but they’re now built in GRP, as seen here with Frank Miller's boat at the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: VDLR

Yet while the fleets are reduced, the memories if anything are stronger than ever. The photos reveal the calibre of the people who were and are involved in Fireball racing in Ireland – it’s a national Who’s Who of sport afloat. And if that weren’t enough, the roll call of those who preceded John Lavery and David O’Brien in the intense battles to win the World Championship is of truly global stature in international sailing.

The first one of all in 1966 was Bob Fisher, no less, crewed by Richard Beales. Then Steve Benjamin of the US was in fine form in the 1970s, as he won in ’76 and then defended successfully at Kinsale in 1977. But in 1978 at Pattaya in Thailand, a new name came centre stage – the one and only Lawrie Smith. Then in 1981 the Worlds winner was future top dinghy designer Phil Morrison, with Fireball mods and tuning worthy of Roy Dickson.

marie barry
Current Irish Fireball Class Chairperson, seen speaking at last Saturday’s party, is Marie J Barry. Photo: Fotosail

In 1994 it was ace sailmaker and multi-champion Ian Pinnell who won the Fireball Worlds, and this set the bar high for John Lavery and David O’Brien in Dublin Bay in 1995. Faced with the challenge, they implemented a rigorous two-year training and competition programme in the countdown to the big one, and it all came out as planned.

As the Fireball Worlds 1995 were staged in September, the rest of the Irish sailing community were well home from holidays and back at the day job, so those driving home from work on the Friday night heard it on the car radio as one of the top stories on the evening sports news. Ireland had won a world title. Better still, it was in sailing too. And it was on the peaktime national news. It was a moment to be recalled and savoured many times in Dun Laoghaire last Saturday night.

We can always use a cover like this – welcome news with David O’Brien and John Lavery from the Sept/Oct 1995 Afloat.

See full Fireball 50th photo gallery by Gareth Craig of Fotosail here

Published in W M Nixon

A unique gathering of Irish Fireballers drawn from five decades brought back memories of a golden age for dinghies when over 200 sailors met at a refurbished Royal St. George Yacht Club last Saturday night in Dun Laoghaire. The evening drew together Fireball interests from all four coasts with plenty of old teams making the trip to Dun Laoghaire for the special event to mark fifty years since the plywood dinghy first arrived in Ireland. 

A Pimms reception kicked off proceedings before a number of speakers recounted stories through five decades of Irish Fireballing that included Fireball world champion John Lavery who took the title in 1995.

Irish Sailing Association President and past Fireball national champion David Lovegrove from Howth gave his take on the two man dinghy class and there was also a big cheer for class pioneer Roy Dickson of Howth Yacht Club.

A trawl of the class archives produced an array of early class photographs dating back to the exciting days of the 1977 World Championships in Kinsale. Early photographs, magazines, memorabilia and cine reel footage depicted the Irish class when fleet numbers touched 70 boats went on display throughout the club documenting one of the biggest ever Irish dinghy classes.

In order that crews could circulate over the course of the evening the team of former Fireballers who organised the evening decided against a sit down dinner and instead planned a stand up buffet evening with pod tables using the entire top level of the clubhouse. 

As well as past sailors there was a healthy representation of current crews including Irish champions Barry McCartin and Conor Kinsella also from the host club. Class Chair Marie Barry spoke about current class plans. 

A Royal Cork Yacht Club contingent included Anthony and Sally O'Leary and Clayton Love minor. Munster representation inlcuded a presentation from Baltimore's Stuart Musgrave.

From the north, Adrian and Maeve Bell from Lough Neagh, who dominated the class in the 1980s also made the trip.

The reunion organisers were Derek Jago, Paul Maguire, Brian Craig and Ciara Dowling who can be contacted by email: [email protected] 


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Despite the modest seascape of the above photograph today's Frostbites in Dun Laoghaire have been cancelled writes Cormac Bradley. The weather station adjacent to where this photo was taken was recording 18 knots of wind with a highest gust of 33 knots from the West.
Elsewhere in the harbour, the keelboats moored between Hell's Gates and DMYC were swinging through 90 degrees when they were hit by squalls on the water.
At various intervals, Dublin Bay has disappeared under rain clouds.
Next Saturday night, the Royal St George Yacht Club hosts a celebration of 50 years of Fireballing in Ireland. The great, the good and a big crowd of over 200 are expected.

Published in Dublin Bay

Fireball sailors are reeling in the years next Saturday (6th February) night when they stage a fifty year reunion of the international class at the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

The 16–foot dinghy class, for so long a mainstay of the small boat scene here, has a list of members and former members that reads like a who's who of Irish sailing.

Organisers have put out a call for memorabilia as the gathering aims to feature people, fleets and activities from five decades.

Over 200 are expected on the night. And it's not too late to join them. There's a last shot out for final bookings but they must be made by tonight. Click here for more.

Any archive material for display on the night can be sent to [email protected]

fireball 1977 lo

Blast from the past – memories of World Championship preparations from 1977

Published in Fireball

A review of Met Eireann’s Sea Area forecast on Saturday might have persuaded those who contest Dun Laoghaire’s Frostbites, that there would be little point in going to the harbour on Sunday afternoon – the forecast was for Force6/7 winds.

In reality, those who were on the water – a fleet of 40-odd boats, 3 GP14s, a Wayfarer, the K1, the Finn, 14 Lasers, 5 RS400s, Laser Vagos, Toppers and eight Fireballs – got two races in, initially in light enough conditions but with more wind developing as the afternoon wore on. The weather station on the harbour was recording 4.7 knots of breeze with a gust of 10.6 knots blowing from a southerly direction (173˚) in a balmy 14.4˚ when I arrived at the harbour. So much for F6 -7!

For the last-starting Fireballs, the majority view was to go left, so all eight boats were on starboard tack heading towards the east pier when the starting signal went. The boat on the pin however tacked quite early and crossed the others and on the basis that they were first at the first weather mark, I am going to credit that tactic to Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691). Indeed, the pecking order at the first mark was very interesting – Louise and Hermine led, followed by Class Chairman Marie Barry crewing for Cariosa Power (14854), followed by Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713), Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865), Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775), Dara McDonagh (14330), Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) and Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706).

At Mk 2 the lead boats sailed on towards the harbour mouth while Neil & Margaret gybed to sail a course towards the centre of the harbour before gybing back again to get around Mk3. I am not sure that they gained anything by that! The pecking order changed dramatically at Mk4 after a tight 3-sailer between Mks 2 & 3, when the fleet concertina-ed into itself. An apparent lack of wind and the presence of other boats at this mark saw a very different order established and manifested even further by the leading two boats getting away. At the second weather mark, Butler & Oram were ahead, followed by Miller & Donnelly, Colin & Casey, Power & Barry and Court & Syme. The lead boat at the first weather mark was now the tail-ender!

The breeze started to get up a little at this stage and the trend now was to sail on at Mk2 before gybing to round Mk3. The leg from 3 to 4 was also getting tighter and on the second lap, Messrs Butler & Oram did an Aussie-drop well before the last mark of the lap. What had been an iffy wind condition turned into a healthier situation so that the crews were now trapezing upwind and the off-wind legs were getting a bit more exciting. For Power and Barry, this resulted in a capsize between 3 and 4 on the third lap which put an end to their race. Butler & Oram built on their led over the latter half of the race to be comfortable winners in the end, followed home by Miller & Donnelly, Colin & Casey, Court & Syme and McKenna & O’Keeffe.

For the second start, in which there were seven boats, again the trend was to go left. Miller & Donnelly were closest to the pin, followed by Court & Syme, but the sense was that Butler & Oram were slightly to windward of both boats. Accordingly, he was the first to go right! All seven boats worked the middle and left and those who were closest to the port lay line seemed to be lifted into the mark. The only boat to be slightly out of kilter with the fleet was McKenna/O’Keeffe who ended up sailing a short distance up the starboard lay line. A more usual pecking order of Butler leading the fleet at the first weather mark was in place with Court and Miller in close company in 2nd and 3rd respectively. McKenna & McDonagh closed out the top five. Legs 1 – 2 and legs 3 – 4 were now much tighter, so much so that some of the lighter combinations two-sailed the top reach. Again, the modus operandi for 3 – 4 was to sail towards the harbour mouth before gybing back to round Mk3.

For the upwind legs, Butler seemed to make a point of taking a short port hitch to the right that then allowed him to apply a loose cover on the boats rounding behind him. Thereafter the process was to work left-wards and tack short of the lay-line to pick up the port tack lift into the weather mark.

Butler, Court and Miller had a comfortable gap on the balance of the fleet and at the last weather mark the time intervals were as follows; Butler (00:00), Court (00:50), Miller (01:13), McKenna (01:58), McDonagh (02:48), Chambers (03:22) and Power (03:55).

2015/16 Frostbites: Series 2 Overall (Assumes no discard) R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Tot
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 NYC 1 4 1 1 1 1 9
2 Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley/Grattan Donnellyu 14713 DMYC 4 2 3 4 2 3 20
3 Conor & James Clancy 14807 RStGYC 2 1 2 2 10 9 26
4 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 3 3 5 3 3 9 26
5 Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keefe 14691 RStGYC 5 5 6 5 5 4 30
Published in Fireball
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Reading XCWeather’s predictions for Sunday afternoon’s Fireball Frostbite racing, one might have expected to be under pressure from the conditions that were being forecast – at 15:00 the projected wind strength was 16 knots with gusts of 23 knots from a SSE direction writes Cormac Bradley. As I type this report, Windfinder is suggesting the same thing for 15:00, but it certainly didn’t feel that way.

With a weather mark inside the HSS gantry, though slightly to the east of it and a short top reach, the Race Committee set a 4-lap trapezoid for the afternoon’s entertainment and a declaration that two races would be sailed.

In a fleet that boasted a Wayfarer, two GP 14s, a Solo, a K1, a Finn, an IDRA 14, RS 200s, RS400s, Lasers, Laser Radials, a Topper, Laser Vagos and a RS Venture, 9 Fireballs answered the race committee’s call.

The first start line was difficult to cross on starboard tack and those who had chosen to go to the pin found themselves in trouble! Lurking to leeward of the start line on port tack with about 20 seconds to go were Messrs Butler & Oram, obviously intent on starting on the pin on port. However, they found the door shut and had to conform with the starboard tack approach to the start line behind Messrs Miller & Bradley who could cross the line ahead of Team Clancy and Colin & Casey who in their quest for the pin found themselves unable to cross the line. After a short hitch to the left, both Butler & Miller went right to the middle of the harbour,  with Team Clancy having being obliged to do the same thing earlier when their pin end start was thwarted. Though he was to leeward of Miller, Butler had better boat speed and was able to eke out a lead ahead of Miller to tack onto starboard and clear him.

At the first weather mark, Clancy and Butler converged with Butler closest to the mark. There was a difference of opinion on the water as to who had right of way at the mark and the mark got “kissed” as a consequence. Rounding in third place, Bradley asked if either boat would be doing turns, to which there was a stony silence.

Behind Miller & Bradley, Cariosa Power & Marie Power (14854) were being pushed by another all-lady combination, Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) while the final ladies combination, Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) weren’t far behind that. A decision on whether to gybe, or not, at Mark 3 was critical to the next leg. Butler sailed on while the two chasing boats did gybe. This allowed Butler & Oram to open a further gap on Team Clancy and leave them in a comfortable position for the remainder of the race. Miller didn’t close on Clancy by any significant distance, and this was as close as the 2nd placed boat came to being overtaken.  On laps 2 & 3 Power & Barry closed and overtook Miller and Bradley, being able to sail that bit faster on the off-wind legs. However, in the gusts the heavier male combination were able to hold them off, but by Mark 3 for the 3rd time, the ladies had got ahead and some cleverness was needed to haul them in. After Mark 3 Miller went high, with a view to powering over Power and while that was partially achieved, both boats went above the straight line course to Mark 4. Though he was effectively sailing by the lee, Miller was inside boat and overlapped at Mark 4 and was able to force the ladies to take the long way round the mark.

On the fourth beat, they went their separate ways, Power going left, Miller right. When they crossed again, Miller had pulled out some distance on the other boat and a good hoist at the last weather mark allowed him to extend that lead even further. Power held on to 4th and fifth went to Neil Colin and Margaret Casey which represented significant progress considering they had to duck the pin at the start.

Before the start of the next race there was a sense that the increase in wind strength predicted by the web-based XCWeather was starting to happen. However, it flattered to deceive and while there was a bit more wind it wasn’t that severe. The pin end was moved for the second start and that made the line a bit more negotiable with the usual suspects at the pin – Butler, Clancy, Miller and Colin. Miller stayed left longest while Butler went right after Clancy. Colin worked the middle of the course and by the first weather mark, the running order was Butler, Clancy, Miller and Colin with the latter two being in close company. This meant that Miller had to keep an eye on what was happening behind him, at least on the off-wind legs. The script was fairly mundane for the balance of the race – Butler wasn’t really challenged by Clancy, who wasn’t challenged by Miller, but Miller was very aware of Colin. For the second lap there was no change, but on the third and final beat, Bradley, having to tack backwards with Miller’s set-up, found a trapeze line in the wrong place halfway through the tack and fluffed the tack. This allowed Colin to edge ahead on the beat so that by the time they reached the weather mark for the last time, Colin & Casey were ahead a couple of boat-lengths. Colin led to the last mark where Miller was convinced he had water on the other boat. Colin was determined not to give way and as there was no contact between the boats, all that Miller could feel was aggrieved. Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe “came into the equation” on the short hitch to the finish such was the skewness of the line relative to mark 4, but Miller held on to take fourth.

Frostbites 2015/16, Series 2, Day 2 R1 R2
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 NYC 1 1
2 Conor & James Clancy 14807 RStGYC 2 2
3 Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley 14713 DMYC 3 4
4 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 5 3
5 Cariosa Power & Marie Barry 14854 NYC 4 6
6 Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe 14691 RStGYC 6 5

In the race for the Frostbite Mugs, the first pair was won by the Keegans (14676) while the second set went to Dave Coleman & Glenn Fisher (14407).

2015/16 Frostbites, Dun Laoghaire, 2nd Series* R1 R2 R3 R4
Conor & James Clancy 14807 RStGYC 2 1 1 1
Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 NYC 1 4 2 2
Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley 14713 DMYC 4 2 3 4
Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 3 3 5 3
Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe 14691 RStGYC 5 5 6 5

* Subject to confirmation.

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Page 10 of 37

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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