Light wind session in the rain!

Post date: Jun 05, 2014 7:57:21 AM

The Irish Fireball fleet had a “soggy session” on the water last night, Tuesday 3rd June, with rain dominating the pre-race period and early part of the race and a fading breeze the feature of the race itself.Despite the grey skies, there was a healthy presence of Fireballs on the start line – 7 boats. Again the weather data was at odds with what was on the water with a forecast of SW, a record of SSE from the harbour weather website and an actual wind on the water that started at 255˚ and then swung westwards.

A four lap windward leeward was set for the Fireballs who had first start. Initially the weather mark also had a spreader mark but that had gone AWOL by the second rounding. With an ebb tide that was nearly three hours old at the race start the question of which way to avoid the foul tide en route to the weather mark, tucked under the lee of the east pier, was the uppermost thought in the seven boats.

Six of the seven boats decided to go inshore initially, the exceptions being Louise McKenna & Joe O’Reilly (14691) who tacked at the committee boat end of the line and sailed westwards initially on port tack. The rest of the fleet were distributed along the line and headed inshore on starboard tack. Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) were at the pin which turned out to be the place not to be, Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) were at the committee boat end, which was the place to be and they led the fleet around the first weather mark. Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) were the next boat down the line from Butler and they too looked in good shape as they rounded the weather mark in second place. Louis Smyth & Cormac Bradley (15007) looked to be in a bit of trouble but benefitted when Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854) had to “duck” McKenna on starboard tack. This caused them to drop to leeward of Smyth. McKenna’s decision to go right paid off as she rounded the weather mark third followed closely by Smyth. Miller and Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) rounded behind Power.

A shift in the wind direction and better breeze meant that those who were on the left hand side of the run were in a better position to gain from the switch. Having said that, Colin & Casey who had gone low were still in good shape at the rounding of the leeward mark! With the limit mark of the starting line still in position, the embargo on crossing the start/finish line during the race meant that this was now an obstacle on the course. Those who went high and left were able to power reach down to the committee boat and bear off towards the leeward mark. Butler, McKenna, Smyth, Power, Miller and Chambers took this route – Colin was the exception going to the opposite end of the start/finish line obstruction.

On the second beat the start line was still “at large” and (at least) one boat passed between committee boat and pin. Butler and McKenna tacked to avoid it and Smyth went outside the pin. Having rounded behind McKenna at the leeward mark, Smyth overtook her en route to the 2nd weather mark to slot into 3rd place behind Butler and Colin. These three boats retained their positions down the 2ndoff-wind leg, but at the leeward mark Colin tacked immediately while both Butler and Smyth took a hitch to the west (or RHS) of the beat. At this stage the wind was starting to ease and swing slightly further westwards – not enough to make it a fetch to the weather mark but enough to allow a modest easing of sheets which had the added benefit of allowing progress to be maintained over what was a slightly lumpy sea. Colin’s immediate tack didn’t pay off and Smyth was able to sail over the top of him, albeit from a position of probably sixty metres upwind. Smyth also closed significantly on Butler, but on the third rounding of the weather mark – sans spreader mark – Butler & Oram got distance again. Colin lost further places to McKenna & O’Reilly and Power & Barry and found himself in the company of Miller & Donnelly at the weather mark. Going down the off-wind leg, Butler and Smyth were “comfortable” but Power and McKenna were keeping very close quarters in the overall context of the race.

A shortened course was signalled at the 3rd leeward mark and again Smyth seemed to close the gap on the water to Butler but it must have been an optical illusion because Butler’s winning margin time-wise was over 1½ minutes.

McKenna rounded the leeward mark ahead of Power and appeared to be applying the appropriate cover to her close rival, but as the pair approached the finish line, it became increasingly apparent that Power had sailed out from “underneath” McKenna in the quest to get to the finish line next. And so it proved for although she appeared to be to leeward of McKenna, Power had enough speed (and it appears distance) to tack below her rival, cross her and claim third place on the night.

Due to the fading breeze and a tide that was still ebbing, most of the Fireball fleet were towed home. Noel & Stephen’s reward for winning by such a comfortable margin is that they got to sail most of the way home – at least to the harbour mouth!

In overall terms Noel Butler and Stephen Oram (5pts) are very comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, but only 3 points cover the next three boats – Cariosa Power and Marie Barry (13pts), Neil Colin and Margaret Casey (15pts) and Louis Smyth and Cormac Bradley (16pts).

In 10 days’ time the Fireball fleet will convene in Clontarf for the Open Championships and Classic Fireball Regatta, 14/15th June with a six race programme. Fireballers resident in Ireland who read this report are encouraged to make a serious effort to get to this event which has been planned to coincide with other festivities in Clontarf over that weekend – the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. Of course readers from further afield are also most welcome!