FIREBALL ULSTER CHAMPIONSHIPS AT BALLYHOLME YACHT CLUB (17/18 May 2014)
Post date: May 21, 2014 2:1:45 PM
Barry McCartin and Conor Kinsella (RStGYC) became the new Ulster Fireball champions in a thrilling final day of racing at Ballyholme YC. The first regional Fireball event of the season saw fourteen entries and some really great sailing conditions at an extremely friendly club noted for it’s support of dinghy and small boat racing. The winning team scored three first places on day two of the event to catapult into victory overall. On Saturday night after the first three races of the six race series Noel Butler and Stephen Oram (DMYC) had a narrow lead over Kenny Rumball and Scott Flanagan. McCartin/Kinsella languished down the score card after suffering a snapped kicker and a broken main halyard. Overnight assistance from Kenny Rumball saw their boat back into tip-top shape.Day one saw fantastic if challenging conditions with strong winds and even stronger gusts combined with a disturbed sea state making smooth upwind progress tricky. To add to the test there were big shifts and even the odd flat patch in the offshore breeze. The compensation came in the offwind legs. Race officer Robin Gray set superb sharp reaching angles resulting in some very fast and some very exciting sailing. On day one Butler/Oram and Rumball/Flanagan showed exceptional boat-speed pulling away from the rest of the fleet for what often looked like a private duel of speed and tactics.A bit further back Conor Clancy and Jim Devlin scored two thirds and a sixth, McCartin/Kinsella posted a 4, 3, DNF while Niall McGrotty and Neil Cramer were a very steady 5,4,5. Further back there was close racing throughout the fleet. Frank Miller/Grattan Donnelly battled with Jon Evans/Aidan Caulfield and Michael Ennis/Marie Barry on almost even points troughout the event. Positions mid-fleet shifted like snakes and ladders, often due to unforced errors and the occasional swim.
The intention to go for four races on day one was stymied by a significant wind shift during race two and a bit of a delay resetting the course in a breeze which took time to settle into a steady direction. That delay combined with some signs of tiredness and some swimming meant the fleet headed for shore after race three. That tiredness led to a bit less support at the bar than is normal at Fireball events but a super meal at the club had the fleet eating together and risking the odd pint. A few heroes were seen in a local nightclub much later but many had an early night resting body and soul.
Sunday looked breezy from ashore but by the time the course was set conditions though still lively were distinctly steadier and the water a lot flatter. At this point any reasonable gambler would have put their money on Butler/Oram or Rumball/Flanagan.
Race officer Robin Gray was true to his word and started race one on time catching out a couple of boats who launched late and almost catching out McCartin/Kinsella who made the start with just seconds to spare. The pair stayed level with leaders up the course and on the reaches and broke away with a useful gust as they rounded into the run, consolidated by gybing onto starboard and into more pressure two thirds the way down. They held this lead to take the bullet.
In race five McCartin/Kinsella went right on the first beat to lead at the windward mark. They held on with Rumball/Flanagan snapping at their heels and broke away with a gybe set into more pressure which gave them the distance to hold Rumball/Flanagan off for the win. In the final race the pair had a bad start and arrived at the windward mark in about 6th but used the gusts on the reaches to close into third behind Butler/Oram and Rumball/Flanagan. They stayed close on the beat to the two boats ahead and played the shifts, managing to get left of the leaders and ahead on shifts and then concentrated on holding off Butler/Oram. That pair suffered a snapped spinnaker sheet on one reach but managed a fast repair and sailed on with a shorter sheet.
McCartin/Kinsella’s victory in the final race put them on an even score of ten points with Butler/Oram and Rumball/Flanagan but the three wins gave them the edge for overall victory in what was a thrilling event. The silver fleet prize was won by Mary Chambers and Brenda Maguire who displayed solid sailing in often tricky conditions. The event marked a great start to the Fireball summer season, with a bigger turnout anticipated at the Fireball Open event in Clontarf on June 14th/15th.