Good weather, good course and good turnout and ……….good workout!

Post date: Mar 10, 2014 4:38:46 PM

The Irish Fireball Fleet mustered 13 boats for the Frostbite racing in Dun Laoghaire Harbour yesterday, Sunday 9th March. They were rewarded with a day of weather that was contrary to the BBC Weather forecast on Saturday night which suggested we would be sailing in rain. The afternoon stayed dry, we had good winds and the Race Management Team set a great trapezoidal course that was about as big as you can get inside the harbour.With the Committee Boat anchored off the West Pier, the weather mark was to the East of the HSS terminal and about 50m off the East Pier. Mark 2 was inside the end of the East Pier while Mark 3 was just off the end of the West Pier and Mark 4 split the distance between the Committee Boat and the West Pier wall. Two races were set of 4 and 3-laps duration respectively.

This correspondent took an early swim on the way out to the race course, courtesy of a windward roll and it alerted us to the fact that while the air temperature was pleasant, the water temperature still has a long way to go to be comfortable.

In the first race the two boats at the pin end were too early and had to come back, but one of those persisted with the left side of the course to emerge in the top four at the first weather mark. Frank Miller and Grattan Donnelly (14713) also worked the left hand side but from a more central position on the start line. Off the start line the fleet was split eight to five with the smaller group taking a hitch to the right initially. Conor Clancy & Paul Devlin (14807) were one of the five and the right side worked for them as they rounded the weather mark second, behind the perennial pacesetters in this Series, Messrs Rumball & Moran (15058) who I think were in the group of eight who worked the middle and left of the course. Thus, the rounding sequence at Mark 1 was Rumball & Moran, Clancy & Devlin, Miller & Donnelly, Smyth & Bradley (15007) who had worked the left hand side from the pin. Thereafter there was a short gap before the vanguard of the fleet rounded with Noel Butler & Frank Cleere (15061) and Mick Creighton & Glenn Fisher (14740) leading the charge.

On face value this was a most unusual position for Butler, made even more unusual by the fact that he was late for the start. Afterwards it turned out that getting to the start at all was quite an achievement! Noel’s crew, Stephen Oram, normally has the boat rigged by the time Noel comes ashore from racing big boats on Sunday morning. Yesterday he came ashore to a text message that Stephen was unwell as Noel didn’t have his phone with him in the morning. Scrambling for a crew at 13:30 for a 14:09 start he was able to get Frank who had sailed with him in the morning but hadn’t got a wet suit, a drysuit, a trapeze belt or a buoyancy aid. The latter two were quickly acquired and wearing only the gear he had from big boat racing, they made the Fireball start. It then turned out that he hadn’t sailed a symmetric spinnaker boat before.

Rumball & Clancy pulled away from the other two boats and on the second lap of the course, Butler and Cleere leap-frogged Smyth & Bradley to go into fourth before they also passed Miller and Donnelly. Miller and Smyth then enjoyed a two-horse-two-lap race in very close company where ultimately the penultimate spinnaker hoist gave Smyth enough of an edge to get ahead of Miller and hold out to fourth place with Miller in fifth. As the race progressed the temptation to go hard left receded with most boats taking a short hitch to the right from Mark 4 before indulging in a long starboard tack trip up the middle of the course. The breeze got up for the last two laps to provide full trapezing conditions upwind. A tactical decision was required at Mark 2, gybe immediately or sail on towards the mouth of the harbour before gybing back again. Increasingly it became a 50:50 call with no obvious advantage appearing to accrue either way.

The second race was reduced to 3 laps and between the races the wind strength fluctuated before settling down to give the crews another workout. The start was very competitive with the fleet bunched towards the committee boat end. The “same suspects” were to the fore at the first weather mark – Rumball, Clancy, Miller, Smyth, Butler, Creighton but they were joined by Luke Malcolm & Shane Diviney (14790) and instead of there being a gap in the rounding sequence the boats were much closer. Rumball, Clancy and Malcolm again got away leaving Miller, Butler & Smyth racing against each other but also keeping an eye on Creighton who was “lurking with intent”. Smyth was managing to stay ahead of the other two but a fluffed spinnaker drop on Mark 4 the first time allowed Miller to close onto Smyth’s transom, with Butler only a short distance behind. Miller rounded the weather mark for the 2nd time ahead, but a quicker hoist by Bradley (aided by the spinnaker pole having being swopped to windward on the boom) and a slightly slower hoist by Donnelly allowed Smyth to poke his bow in front. However, an RS in the wrong place at Mark 2, blocking an early gybe by Smyth, allowed both Miller and Butler to get ahead by taking the early gybe option.

On the last lap, Miller conceded 4th to Butler, who despite his “apprentice crew” was still sailing very fast upwind and doing the same off wind.

I don’t think that Rumball & Moran were ever out of the lead during the two races while Clancy & Devlin also enjoyed a good day on the water with two second places. Work commitments have kept Clancy off the water in recent weeks so he has dropped down the overall pecking order.

Alistair Court (14706) also blooded a new crew yesterday, his middle daughter, Catherine.

The day’s Frostbite Mugs went to Mick Creighton and Glenn Miller for the first race and Louise McKenna and Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) for the second race. Creighton had indicated that the sight of the sun had persuaded him to go racing………he got an additional reward!