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Rooster 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Fireballs, 35 Knots and My First Hoist

by Joshua Manning 2 Mar 09:56 GMT
Paul Cullen and Joshua Manning at Abersoch Dinghy Week 2022 © ASC

In May of 2022 I was asked by Paul Cullen, who sails in numerous dinghy classes, to crew in his Fireball for Abersoch Dinghy Week. I was a little nervous about sailing such a high-performance boat, but welcomed the challenge.

I arrived, but we were unable to practice on the Saturday, and on the Sunday it was gusting 35 knots. Still, we ventured onto the racecourse with only two boats starting. The first beat was pretty nerve racking, but the boat planed through the gusts, with the main ragging and it was an amazing feeling when the boat accelerated.

After rounding the windward mark, and being a little bit all over the place I managed to get off the wire. Paul suggested we put the spinnaker up, I was nervous but knew that Paul's ability would get us down the first reach. When the kite was set and flying, which was surprisingly easy, I realised the sheer excitement as I jumped out onto the trapeze and the boat took off.

Within 30 seconds at the first reach, I realised that I had a new love, the Fireball is such an amazing class, the build, the design and this sheer fun factor of this boat I cannot put into words.

The Fireball is an extremely important class that has been around for years and from my experience I would like to advise any youths leaving junior classes to progress into sailing a Fireball to build their experience for future years and to keep true to sailing as a form of release.

It appears that it is an extremely competitive class with some extremely well-known sailors. We all develop but we will always want freedom and that's what sailing is.

Fireballs are great boats and may be considered as an alternative to 470s, 420s and numerous other classes.

Going to the Olympics was a massive dream of mine, and is a dream for most youths, in any sport. In sailing it can feel like a loss when you leave the youth classes into a life outside sailing. Sailing is much more than medals in Olympics, it is a free and adventurous pursuit which unites you with yourself and the people you sail with.

Sailing is a high class, extreme sport, but is one of the rarest, purest sports which requires a basic skill set which is widely transferable between classes.

After sailing with Paul with his experience, I realise that the Fireball was the route that I really wished to take. Paul found me a boat and spent hours doing gelcoat repairs and polishing it. I picked it up in September and have been sailing with my helm, and loving every moment. I believe anyone trying the Fireball will experience the same excitement I felt.

I urge anyone to try a Fireball and see if you have the same enjoyment as me.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Paul for giving me one of the most sensational sails of my life and developing my love for sailing.

I'm looking forwards to doing the Fireball open circuit and meeting the rest of the friendly, approachable fleet.

A line from Paul Cullen: "I was given Josh's name by a friend, when I was looking for a crew for Abersoch. Josh did an amazing job considering the conditions and stepped into the boat and loved every moment. He's clearly a great sailor and it was an absolute pleasure to sail with him."

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