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Fireball Leinster Championship at Skerries Sailing Club

by Frank Miller 26 Jun 22:41 BST 24-25 June 2023
3rd place Tiernan and Chris, with club officers at the Fireball Leinster Championships prize-giving at Skerries © Frank Miller

Ed Óg Butler and Sean Collins are the new Fireball Leinster champions after five races in often exciting conditions at Skerries SC last weekend.

Racing took place over Saturday and Sunday as part of the Skerries annual two-day regatta, incorporating both the Fireball Leinsters and the E-boat National Championship. Skerries SC as a club and as a venue never disappoints and over the two days a full Smorgasbord of conditions were served up. Earlier in the week the forecast for the weekend looked ominous but by the weekend more reasonable winds were on the agenda, especially for the Saturday.

Once the wind settled race officer Liam Dineen and his team set an excellent Olympic Triangle type course for race one, and in fact the race committee and mark layers managed to set that course, favoured by Fireballs and most of the other classes, for the entire weekend despite several challenging wind shifts. The first of those shifts took place during race one when the SSE wind shifted easterly. Conditions for race one was medium winds with an incoming tide tempering the urge to go out to sea in search of better pressure. Those who came out on top were the boats that judged this best, and it frequently did pay to head out - but not always! Ed Óg & Sean Collins made best sense of the shifts and the zones of pressure, though they were chased hard by Josh Porter & Cara McDowell, and by Chris Bateman sailing with Tiernan Brown in Tiernan's boat.

For race two, in fresher breeze, the pattern was repeated but in race three Chris and Tiernan found their groove and took the gun with Butler 2nd and Porter & McDowell 5th. Frank Miller sailing with Ed Butler Snr led to the weather mark in that race but couldn't hold off the top teams and ended up 3rd. It should be said that although the breeze was solid there were remarkable sudden vacuums to contend with, typically just ahead of a shift. Top class race management meant that the marks were tweaked accordingly and the course remained fair. Many sailors were caught out by the sudden holes and shifts and those who stayed on high alert were rewarded.

Conditions for race two and three were especially enjoyable for their fast and exciting reaching angles but it was race four which really go the adrenalin flowing. The race team, consulting with competitors, decided to go for the fourth race because the forecast for Sunday was decidedly iffy. Conditions were excellent, the temperatures stayed high and there were no signs of exhaustion so the fleet rocketed off the start-line in a lot more breeze with everyone on heavy settings. This race was to prove the pinnacle of the weekend, incredibly exciting reaches and waves to play with downwind. Ed Óg & Sean again prevailed with Josh & Cara 2nd and Chris & Tiernan 3rd only due to some gear failure. Anyone who has seen Chris sail in a breeze knows that he is frequently unbeatable in strong wind. Once ashore sailors enjoyed some great catering, two very busy bars and an idyllic après-sail atmosphere.

Sunday delivered pretty much exactly what the forecasts suggested. Boats were launched in light conditions with a little drizzle and the AP was flown for nearly an hour as the race officer waited patiently for the direction to settle. This it did in a Southerly direction and a race was got under way in light to medium winds. Unsurprisingly there were challenges around the course including those sudden holes and shifts. One such shift saw leading boats sailing the second reach as a very light air beat to leeward while those chasing got a nice spinnaker angle to bring them back into contention.

Josh & Cara excel in these conditions and they took the win with Ed Óg & Sean 2nd and Chris &Tiernan 3rd. The wind died completely after race five and after a respectable wait N over A was flown and the competitors headed back for shore.

The drama wasn't entirely over though as the wind filled again with boats on the slipway and towards the end of boat pack-up a massive squall with large hailstones swept through the forecourt knocking over chairs and sending everyone scurrying for shelter. The wind indicator on the club roof recorded speeds of over 35 knots in the squall so the decision by the race team to call it a day was inspired.

When the maths was done Ed Óg and Sean emerged on top, followed by Josh and Cara and just one point behind Chris and Tiernan. Frank Miller & Ed Snr lead the veterans beating locals Niall McGrotty and Neil Cramer by just two points. Young David Evans & William Draper won the silver trophy with an excellent and fearless display throughout, often putting the senior fleet under pressure.

Once again, the eleven Fireballs which made it to the event were treated to really excellent sailing. While some regulars were missing due to injuries and family commitments. A notable feature of the fleet which turned out was its youth and the appearance of many young faces including Jack McNaughten & Mark Greer, Cormac Breen sailing with his father Colm and Rory Rafter sailing with Thomas Schoemaecker.

Next up for Fireballs is the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta which has sixteen Fireballs already entered and the Fireball Munster Championship at Killaloe SC on 22nd & 23rd July which promises to be a great event.

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