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Irish Fireball National Championship at Howth Yacht Club

by Frank Miller 22 Jul 15:16 BST 19-21 July 2019

Noel Butler and Stephen Oram (National Yacht Club) are the 2019 Irish Fireball National Champions after nine races at Howth Yacht Club. The pair scored seven first places discarding a third and a fourth to take the title in style in a three-day event which featured a good variety of sailing conditions.

The event started with light and patchy winds on Friday progressing to decent, if shifty, breezes on Saturday and to full on wind by Sunday. Second place was won by Niall McGrotty and Neil Cramer (Skerries Sailing Club) who sailed consistently well and counted a string of second and third places in their scores to consolidate their second overall. Third were the up and coming youth team brothers Daniel and Harry Thompson from Wexford Tennis & Boat Club who were noticeably fast on the water. Just one point behind was veteran Mick Creighton with crew Hermine O'Keeffe who showed he hadn't forgotten any tricks.

A race win for Mick might prompt a more permanent return to the class! Winners of the silver fleet prize were Cariosa Power and Marie Barry (NYC) and the Classic Boat Trophy was taken home by Nick Miller and Cearball Daly of Sailing In Dublin in the class loan boat. The theme of youth and experience was a feature of the event, with veterans and new teams both jumping into the fray in the run up to the #Howth2020 World Championships in August next year. Thus, we had Robin Nash (15) helming with her father Glen on the wire, the youthful Thompson brothers (17 and 14 respectively), and young bloods Josh Porter and helm Conor Twohig from Newtownards. Besides Mick Creighton, Eddie Ferris also made a welcome return to action with another veteran Francis Rowan on the wire. Also returning was Owen Sinnott with Paul ter Horst crewing.

International Race Officer for next year's Worlds, David Lovegrove agreed to take on PRO duties for this Nationals and he and his team ran things like clockwork, seamlessly getting in three races on a difficult and patchy first day and moving marks quickly and efficiently to keep courses square throughout the weekend. David is actually a veteran Fireballer himself and his name crops up on several key trophies including the National Championships of 1967.

Friday's painful memories of patchy shifty airs were wiped away with perfect conditions on Saturday in breezes between 10 and 18 knots and Sunday presented the most exciting conditions with full on 20 knot breezes at times and very exciting planing conditions both upwind and down.

Another feature of the event was a coaching day on Saturday run by Barry McCartin. After helping people with optimum rig set up for the conditions Barry videoed the racing, gave tips between races and gave a debrief after racing which provided much food for thought for the Irish teams competing in these same waters for next year's Worlds.

Among the challenges on the Saturday was judging which side to take on the beat, how far to go towards shore to pick up sometimes better offshore winds and the odd wind bend and even a slightly hooked tide in the sweep of the bay.

Although everyone had their ups and downs there was no disputing Noel and Stephen's dominance over the nine races. With a little more speed and height on the beats and carving high angles down the runs the pair remained in control for most races with just the odd breakthrough by Niall and Neil and Mick and Hermine snatching the top spots. There were signs however that the young pairings in particular were improving rapidly and may present a challenge by the time the Worlds land in Howth next year. After an exciting and brilliantly run event it's an event everyone is relishing.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9Pts
1st15061Noel ButlerStephan OramNational YC1‑41111‑3117
2nd14938Niall Mc GrottyNeil CramerSkerriesSC212‑833‑63519
3rd15156Daniel ThompsonHarry ThompsonWHBTC4‑642255‑7224
4th15016Mick CreightonHermine O'KeefeRoyal St.George YC33534‑71‑6625
5th14748John EvansAidan CaulfieldSligo‑8‑8368242732
6th14775Micheal EnnisGrattan DonnellyDun Laoghaire Motor YC‑656564‑74434
7th14990Frank MillerEd ButlerRoyal St.George YC77‑87562‑9337
8th14695A.Lee C.TwohigJosh PorterNewtonards SC‑92747‑885841
9th14854Carlosa PowerMarie BarryNational YC59‑10991098(DNC)59
10th14865Owen SinnottPaul ter HorstSkerriesSC1011910111110(RAF)(DNC)72
11th14633Edward FerrisFrancis RowanHYC111011(DNS)10911(RAF)DNC76
12th14691Clodagh NashGlen FisherRoyal St.George YC(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNCDNC1212DNFDNC94
13th14330Nick MillerCearball DalySailin in Dublin(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC121313RAFDNC94

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