Irish Fireball Nationals –Wrap up report.

Post date: Aug 15, 2016 8:13:57 AM

Sunday’s forecast for the Irish Fireball Nationals was always less than encouraging and so it proved when the complete absence of wind brought the curtain down on the 2016 edition of the regatta. Race Officer Richard Kissane and Howth Vice Commodore, Emmett Dalton went out to the race area to see if there was any sense of wind developing but to no avail. A straw poll of the participants agreed that hanging around until the cut-off for racing, 15:30, wasn’t an attractive option either so an early halt to proceedings was called with a lunch-time prize-giving.

The 2016 National Champions are Noel Butler & Stephen Oram of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, sailing IRL 15061. They won four of the seven races, setting out their stall with two race wins in Friday’s heavy weather session of 20 knots +, but in Saturday’s more variable conditions they managed to stay ahead of their closest competition in all but one of the day’s four races, the last race of the day. This gave them a five point cushion, after discard, over second place and what Noel suggested was his sixth National title. Stephen may not have quite that number but together they are a potent combination that makes every few mistakes on the water when it matters most.

In second place were the Clancy brothers from the Royal St George Yacht Club with a score of 11pts after discard, sailing 14807. They too began the regatta in fine style with two second places but were unfortunate to have rudder damage in the third race of Friday, recording a DNF. Their scores thereafter were 2, 2, 4, and 3. With the exception of Race 7, however, they were unable to break out from the supervision of Butler & Oram and that’s why they finished 2nd – a position most of us would be envious of.

The regatta was significant in that for the first time in a while there were race winners from outside the traditional pool. Even more significant is that we had an all-lady team winning a race at the Nationals and this boosted them into 3rd place overall. Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) from the Royal St George Yacht Club persevered on the heavy weather last day of the Worlds at Pwllheli last year when a large proportion of that fleet retired. In stood them in good stead on Friday in Howth when they recorded a 7, 6, 4. To this they added a 3, 5, 1 and 2! Louise & Hermine have been sailing well on Tuesday nights and this result is a vindication of the time they have spent on the water together.

Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938) of Skerries were the winners of the last race on the breezy first day when there were only four finishers.

The last race winners came in the form of Frank Miller and Grattan Donnelly (14713) of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. By their own admission they were a little fortunate in that the race leader misinterpreted the flag flying at the last leeward mark of the shortened seventh race – going for another beat when the F-flag flying meant they were to sail directly to the finish at the committee boat. Another boat ahead of them on the water had not responded to an OCS signal at the start.

Son and father combination, David and Michael Keegan (14676), of the Royal St George Yacht Club won the Silver fleet prize after a couple of seasons absence from the regatta scene and Eoin Clarke & Tim McAuley (14244) and the sole representative from Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club took the Classic prize.

For the second year, the Nationals entry level was lower than we would all have preferred. One entry withdrew as the helm was feeling unwell, but there were a number of absentees that might normally be present. This absence of numbers has created a challenge for the class that has yet to be properly answered.

Howth Yacht Club’s Commodore and Vice Commodore, Berchman Gannon and Emmett Dalton respectively presided over the prize-giving and thanked the class for bringing the event to Howth. Berchman said they were delighted to have hosted the event even though the numbers were a few less than they might have expected. Due thanks were given to Emmett Dalton for organising the event and to Race Officer Richard Kissane and his team who had race managed seven races in contrasting and challenging conditions between days 1 & 2.

The regatta scene now moves on to Killaloe, on the weekend of September 10/11th, while the Tuesday night series in Dublin Bay still has a few fixtures to be fulfilled.