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Diary and thoughts of a youth boat at the Fireball Europeans in Lyme Regis

by Toby Hamer and Torie Morley 24 Sep 2017 18:06 BST 18-25 August 2017
A fully international mark rounding, when you realise different countries seem to interpret the rules differently! © Pauline Rook

The Fireball class continues to thrive and attracts sailors of all ages. Despite strong competition from 'youth' classes, the proportion of the Fireball fleet represented by younger people is increasing. The class is working hard to build on this welcome trend and in 2016 created a new UK Fireball Association Committee role, Youth Co-ordinator, to promote the class to youngsters.

Building on the initial work of the first appointee, Sophie Holden, the current Youth Co-ordinator is Sophia Benson who is one of the dozen or so youngsters who are members of the flourishing Hayling Island Fireball fleet. One of her first tasks was to promote a competition for the best 'youth' report of the recently completed combined European and UK National Championships hosted by Lyme Regis Sailing Club.

The winners of the competition, that was backed by UK Global and Pinnell & Bax, were Toby Hamer and Torie Morley who earned a £250 Pinnell & Bax voucher for their effort. Congratulations Toby and Torie!

The Fireball Europeans: The diary and thoughts of a youth boat competing in Lyme Regis 2017

In the midst of reading about other favourite classes struggling at this year's nationals, we turned up to Lyme Regis in the blazing sun to a fleet of over 80 boats representing countries from around the world, not just Europe!

Now looking back to our event preparation, well we can be honest there was very little. Having not sailed since Easter and only done two open meetings this year, we were entering with open minds.

The atmosphere of entering a boat park full of avid sailors tinkering with their beloved boats is electric and quick to transmit; soon we were tinkering away, seeking the perfect set up.

I find sailing friends fantastic, you can go for months without seeing them or even talking to them, but when you rock up in the boat park, friends from all around the country and world come to chat to you, tell stories and jokes. Just because you don't see them the rest of the time, doesn't make them not friends, it just makes it more special when you do see them and is one of the reasons why we all travel across the country to be together.

We have a small group of committed youth sailors in the class, which is always surprising to some who look at the huge youth classes and wonder where they all go. From my experience even though I loved sailing, after all the squad racing, I was almost sailed out and took a season off. Then the itch came to get back into racing. Getting into adult classes is hard though, by then you are usually at university and fending for yourself. To buy a £4000 boat, pay boat park fees and £300 entry fees as well as travel and accommodation, it is so hard to warrant.

This year we have not bought new sails, we have just about put a few new bits of string on the boat and paid the entry. But we love the sailing so we are willing to work and scrimp to get us out on the water. For this even it meant living in a van in the public car park, £3 a day parking, what's not to like? Its hard to dry kit but if you have two sets then they can get mildly dry.

Other ways to save is cooking for yourself, we still go to all the socials but hold off on the event food.

Talking of socials, this was one of the best parts of this event, with a fantastic Mr fireball game show to an interesting class debate.

On the water the racing was tricky during this event, sometimes not to my taste and our strengths. The weather meant for some frustration in the boatpark, two days of no wind and a painful decision from the race committee: to not sail on the day we had the best wind, due to fears of breaking waves making boat recovery dangerous. Those who stayed at the club watched the day pass, looking at prime fireball conditions and no breaking waves! For us this enforced lay day did not involve much laying around, the busy life of youth sailors meant we used the day to continue moving house. I drove to Ludlow in Shropshire to finish off moving our possessions while Torie spent the day unpacking.

There were times in this week where everyone found themselves in a poor position and didn't you know it! The light winds meant if you were anywhere past mid fleet the boat could never power up and clean air did not exist. At these points we really asked ourselves why we were there spending so much time and money when it just was not fun. Then wham, you smash the next gate start, get a whiff of clean air and open water ahead of you. The boat lifts off and its easy, yes you are fighting for positions but not dogging it out over standing the laylines by 200m because there is no wind and chop everywhere beneath this.

A mixed bag of results, the good ones makes you realise you really can sail and strive to do the same again. We pulled through to regain Tories title of 1st female crew, a fair achievement in a challenging physical job role. Her message to those twin pole heralds is: Practice more, be quicker, just do it. When we see our kite pop and fill faster than those around us, the argument females struggle with a conventional pole is questioned.

Sailing relies on the weather, it can really make or break an event. Some events like the Pwllheli worlds have the perfect weather window meaning memories and stories for years to some. In this Europeans we held frustrations on the water and with the race committee, however the friends, location and few good races mean we will go home looking forward to next years worlds in Carnac.

With the Frenchies promise of sun, big waves and breeze, how could we stay away?

Toby Hamer and Torie Morley
23 Years old
GBR 14804

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