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Fireball Munster Championship at Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club

by Cormac Bradley on 16 Oct 14 October 2017

The Irish Fireball regatta season came to an end with a four-race Munster Championships in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday. The irony of course is that Dun Laoghaire isn't in Munster at all, of course, but the Association is cutting its cloth according to its numbers and an offer from the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club to host the event was readily accepted. With an expectation of low numbers, the regatta organisation structure was minimised to two ribs and 3 people and the course configuration was reduced to a windward-leeward option.

Race Officer, Cormac Bradley, ably assisted by Alistair Court and Charles Dunn, was tasked with getting four races in and watching the weather forecast during the week before, the challenge would be to get them in before the weather closed in. While XCWeather was suggesting that the base wind strength would be of the order of 12 – 15 knots, the gusts were projected to start off at 20 knots and grow to 27 knots as the day wore on. At the briefing the six-boat fleet were made aware of the forecast, the impending gustiness of the day and the programme to get 4 races in and to get off the water before the weather got "hooligan"... and this was not due to the impending blast of Ophelia!

The saving grace on the day was that the wind direction was SSW meaning that the sailing area was in flat water. The sailing area was to the west of Dun Laoghaire harbour and with the slimmed down organisation the start, finish and gate of the windward-leeward course were coincident. This meant that the windward mark could be moved relative to the other two fixed points of the course.

Contrary to the weather forecast, only the first race was a blustery affair that generated a few capsizes, but none of the capsizes I witnessed were due to wind strength, so maybe only one was due to wind strength and that happened before the start. As the day wore on the wind eased, the sun came out and "full-on trapezing" upwind gave way to sitting on the windward deck. Race lengths were of the order of 30 – 40 minutes and 3 or 4 laps, with race times and laps increasing as it became apparent that the projected wind conditions were not going to materialise.

Proceedings on the water were dominated by the usual suspects – Messrs Butler and Oram (15061, NYC) – but they didn't have everything their own way. Class Chairman Neil Cramer, crewing for Niall McGrotty (14938, Skerries Sailing Club) led Race 2 until the last leeward mark before they were passed before the last weather mark. Indeed, at one stage they had dropped back to third on the water, with Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775, DMYC) getting into second. However, the ultimate measure of success is the sequence across the finish line and in this regard Butler and Oram reigned supreme with four wins.

The competition for second and third was a tighter affair between McGrotty/Cramer and Colin/Casey and went the way of the former combination by way of a more favourable ratio of second places on the water, 3:1. It might even have been a bigger margin if the Skerries combination hadn't capsized in Race 3 when they were in a strong second place – they finished sixth.

For the balance of the fleet – Frank Miller & Peter Doherty (14713, DMYC), Mick Creighton & Marie Barry (14854, NYC) and Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keeffe (14691, RStGYC), the "pink ladies", it was a case of sharing the lesser places and two of the three had race capsizes that cost each of them.

Overall Results:

PosHelm & CrewSail NoClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1Noel Butler & Stephen Oram15061National Yacht Club11113
2Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer14938Skerries Sailing Club22626
3Neil Colin & Margaret Casey14775Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club33238
4Frank Miller & Peter Doherty 14713Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club843411
5Mick Creighton & Marie Barry14854National Yacht Club465514
6Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keeffe14691Royal St. George Yacht Club854615

For 15061 this completes a season "Grand Slam" of all the Provincial titles, the Nationals and the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Series. While Stephen was absent for the Nationals, Noel helmed the boats to each of these titles.

After the racing, prize-giving and post-mortems the Class held its AGM in the DMYC clubhouse.

In his Chairman's address Neil Cramer highlighted the fact that although Noel & Stephen had dominated the top spot on the podium there had been a wide spread of combinations filling the lowers steps of the podium. His report also reflected the various formats the regattas of the season had taken – a three-day, nine race Nationals at Lough Derg with SODs, Mirrors and Squibs as part of their Harvest Regatta, a two-day six race Leinsters co-sailed with the Skerries Club Regatta, a one-day four race Open at Greystones, a two-day six race Ulsters in Ballyholme with the 420s and today's one-day four race Munsters. The Mirrors in particular have expressed an interest in teaming up again with a view to getting their members a taste of Fireballing and a provisional arrangement to do that in Mullingar is on the agenda.

The turnout for the DBSC Tuesday Series was less than last year but was still healthy and the competition ran for the entire season. A number of the dinghy classes are anxious to get some weekend racing organised under the burgee of DBSC in 2018 and it appears the best way to achieve this objective is to nominate specific Saturdays on which this will happen.

In terms of the committee structure, there was a resignation and a slight shuffling of the seats around the table – Neil Cramer remains as Class Chairman, Frank Miller takes on the Secretary portfolio and Marie Barry that of Treasurer. Other committee members are staying on. Neil thanked all those who had served in 2017 and thanked them for their continued support.

An update on the affairs of Fireball International as discussed at the Europeans in Lyme Regis in August was tabled and the meeting was advised that we are in election mode. Current FI Commodore Steve Chesney is not seeking re-election and his successor is likely to be a lady Fireballer from Switzerland. Further discussions revolved around a motion by the UK Association that the class be able to use twin spinnaker poles and it prompted a lively discussion in the DMYC as well.

Given the numbers we have had on the water this season, the meeting closed out with a soul-searching discussion on how we get our numbers back to a respectable level. Some of the issues to be discussed were:

  • The need to get younger people interested in the class.
  • Diluting the perception that the Fireball can only be competitive if it is brand new.
  • Undoing the perception that it is an overly expensive class to get in to.
  • Marketing the flexibility of the crew combinations that can sail the boat competitively.
  • Sharing venues with other classes to showcase the class
  • Putting energy and training into club fleets that aren't travelling to get them onto their own water.
The meeting was particularly encouraged that a couple had come up from Killaloe for the meeting and were able to report that two Spanish guys had joined their fleet and were keen to get a Fireball presence going again.

The day closed with a gathering of the fleet in the Purty Kitchen, a hostelry around the corner from the DMYC for dinner.

The Frostbite Series starts on the first Sunday of November and this year we will be part of the fast PY Fleet. The expectation is that we will have 6-7 boats contesting the event.

The Class Dinner takes place on November 25th in the National Yacht Club.

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