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Gul 2018 RYA Dinghy Show 728x90

Gul Fireball Europeans & Nationals - Runners and Riders (British)

by Matt Burge 18 Jul 2017 09:00 BST 18-25 August 2017

It's time for another big Fireball event! With 75 boats already entered from 8 different countries and the event taking place in Lyme Regis during the height of summer, it's difficult to see this event being anything other than unmissable.

Great to see Gul kindly offering headline sponsorship for the event. I put my Gul sailing kit through some heavy external and internal insults every year and it always stands up to it with flying colours! Equally excited to see Otter Brewery sponsoring the beer, their high-quality products will no doubt add to the woes of my sailing kit.

The Fireball continues to attract many of the UK's top amateur sailors and this year is no exception. Overseas fleets also continue to grow and are headed up by the current European champions Claude Mermod & Ruedi Moser from Switzerland, who will be in Lyme to defend their title. This should all make for another close and hard fought championship.

So, who will prevail on Lyme Bay? Let's look at some of the British hopefuls....

Tom Gillard & Geoff Edwards

Tom and his usual crew Richard Anderton have become the dominant force over recent years, winning all the major championships they have attended. However, Richard is taking a year off to study the Old Testament and recover from a knee injury. Geoff has stepped in this year and open meeting performances would suggest no loss of boat speed. Seemingly to compensate for Richard's lack of hair Tom & Geoff are both sporting great big bushy beards this season, giving them an almost Amish look. Overall, Team Beard must be one of the hot favourites for the win.

STRENGTHS: Big breeze. Tom's massive wolf tattoo.
WEAKNESSES: Probably getting bored of winning by now.

Christian Birrell & Vyv Townend

These two Yuppies have found quite a lot of time between their "working lunches" and "business golfing days" to do quite a lot of sailing and practice. They've even developed a novel mainsheet traveller system which although ugly and inciting riot amongst the traditionalists, appears to be giving them an edge in certain conditions. It's a shame they've cheated by sailing more than everyone else, but this boat also has a strong chance of victory.

STRENGTHS: Vyvo's ability to eat Phal curries and ten pints of HSB most nights of a championship.
WEAKNESSES: Rules observance historically, but I am assured a new leaf has been turned. No doubt the yellow flag will be the judge of that...!

Dave Wade & Ben McGrane

The A team has re-united and despite having not yet been seen out in a Fireball this year, automatically qualify as one of the main contenders this year. As the breeze builds the marvel of Dave's spaghetti arms is unleashed, as is the boat speed, onlookers will be able to spot their boat in big breeze as the only one holding a kite on a tight reach.

STRENGTHS: Ben. Speedy P&B sails.

Ian Dobson & Richard Wagstaff

As one of the UK's top boat builders, the fleet are keen to see Wagger's latest Dave Hall creation which he is busy building for this year's championship. No doubt it will be fast, especially in the capable hands of Ian Dobson, but whether anybody will be able to understand these two extreme Northerners when they get talking is another issue entirely.

STRENGTHS: Boat repairs (Waggers), Triathlons (Dobson).

Matt Burge & Dan Schieber

Yours truly has enlisted an uber-efficient German in the front of his boat this year. Dan's organised, slick and highly functional approach to sailing should complement the boat's Harken fit-out perfectly. Could be a small issue with the arrival of my first baby, due on the final day of racing...!

STRENGTHS: Light airs. Vorsprung Durch Technik.
WEAKNESSES: Lack of practice. Lack of weight. Booze.

Kev (Spunky) Hope & Russell Thorne

Spunky will be tough to beat in the bar with his "sailor's gallon" and will certainly have eyes on winning the coveted European Social Championship. Naturally this is the main event everybody has been training for in bars and pubs across the country, and the only result that truly matters.

STRENGTHS: Consistently plugging steady results. Russell's roar.
WEAKNESSES: Hatred of doing the runs first!

Derian Scott & Andy Scott

One of the top female sailors in the country in my opinion. Derian, very ably assisted by husband Andy, has been thrashing around in the top few for many years. They often win a race at major championships and it would be a shame to see that pattern broken.

STRENGTHS: Nice sensible people, a rare find in the class.
WEAKNESSES: None I can think of.

Christine Slater & The Wallet (Graham Slater)

The people's champions. The Wallet's moustache has greyed further under the iron-fisted rule of daughter Christine and there will be many sleepless nights to come for this poor old man, fearing the consequences of any boat handling errors which will probably occur. We just hope the Wallet is carrying enough money to pay her off each evening, if not the class have put together an emergency fund for his safety.

STRENGTHS: Christine's uncompromising control over The Wallet. A fearsome yard drinker.
WEAKNESSES: I'm too scared to mention any.

Vince Horey & Bob Gardiner

The class idiots are back once again. At 70 years old Vince continues to surprise the class with his antics, and will Lyme Regis be treated to a naked Bob at some point? On the water, anything from a 1st to a last place are possible, and both results will probably be seen during the week.

STRENGTHS: Vince has seen it all before.
WEAKNESSES: He still hasn't learnt from those experiences.

The Twins (Anthony & James Willcocks)

This fly weight pairing is the marvel of the fleet, flat wiring as soon as the minimum wind strength for racing is achieved. They almost won a race at last year's National Championships and will be looking to take any light wind bullets if they can just start the right side of the line this time!

STRENGTHS: 6 knots and under.
WEAKNESSES: Any small zephyr above 6 knots.

Dave Winder & Jonathan Edwards CNE (Ben Rayner)

The purveyor of fine boats has enlisted the help of triple jump gold medallist and world record holder Jonathon Edwards CBE on the wire. They will be hoping that Ben's skills will give them the jump on the fleet this year.

STRENGTHS: Their battleship grey racing machine, which may be fitted with artillery.
WEAKNESSES: Ben's refusal to jump or sail on Sundays.

??? & Steve Chesney

There's more chance of seeing an elephant swimming in Lyme Bay than Steve Chesney winning the title, but that chance appears to have diminished further given he's entered without a helm. Being an international athlete Steve will have no doubt spent the winter physically preparing for his single-handed assault on the championship, but the paramedics have been specially arranged and are in place should this plan falter.

STRENGTHS: Straight line sailing, once everything is finally in place and settled from the previous manoeuvre.
WEAKNESSES: Gentleman's accidents.

Dave Hall & Paul Constable

The longest sailing partnership in Fireball history, like the old rustic coffee table in the metaphorical lounge of the class; battered, stained, slightly twisted, but still standing. Regular as Chesney's bowel movements this pair will no doubt slot into the top ten overall.

STRENGTHS: Dave's ability to remain calm in all circumstances...
WEAKNESSES: ...except when floating objects pass his feet in the changing room showers.

Sorry if I've missed anyone out, although you may be pleased with this. If you own a Fireball and still haven't entered, take some time to recognise your mistake then do the right thing.

See you all in Lyme!

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