National Championship 2013 - Skerries SC

Post date: Jul 24, 2013 8:33:58 PM

As evidenced by the results (see Results section), the 2013 Irish Fireball Nationals was a tight affair with clusters of boats fighting it out right throughout the fleet. The competition between Kenny Rumball and Noel Butler and their respective crews was inevitable, this is a title that Rumball has wanted for a few years and as one would expect, Butler wasn’t going to let it go easily. Between the two host club boats there is a family rivalry, father and son Niall and Simon McGrotty used to sail as crew and helm until Simon got his own boat. Niall held the upper hand on Friday evening and Saturday evening, but son Simon had the better last day to overtaken his father in the rankings.

Conor Clancy, and Gavin Doyle and their respective crews were also in the mix at the front end of the fleet and one of them would quite randomly influence the outcome of the regatta. But further down the order there were other “one on ones” going on! On the Friday evening, only 1pt separated positions 8, 9 and 10 and on Saturday evening only 1pt separated 7 and 8, 9 and 10 were tied on points and 12 and 13 were also tied on points and vying for the Silver fleet title.

There are signs of the middle section of the fleet closing on the upper end of the fleet but whether this was due in part to the smaller size of the fleet or due to a genuine improvement will be a subject of conjecture. Certainly in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta of the previous weekend, albeit with another small fleet, the evidence supports the latter theory.

Trying to work out the right way to go on the Skerries racetrack was a constant source of conjecture. The diversity of thought was such that on the first race of the regatta, and probably in others as well, the two home club boats favoured different sides of the beat, Niall McGrotty going hard left, Simon going hard right. On the Saturday, Messrs Butler & Oram, normally so tidy around the race course in terms of upwind legs, admitted to overstanding the weather mark – more than once! It generated the most unusual site of them “back in the van”, with the leaders well ahead. Of course, their regatta pedigree got them out of gaol and back to the podium places, but a very unusual 8th place finish, later discarded, is testimony as to how even the fast guys can get it wrong.

On the Sunday morning, in the freshest breeze of the regatta, Alan Henry & Louis Smyth went hard left when the rest of the fleet went inshore and right. Being off shore must have meant more wind because they rounded the weather mark in 1st and 3rd respectively, with only Kenny Rumball bucking the trend by rounding 2nd.

Most of the racing was run during the ebbing cycle of the tide which meant there was a run of tide heading southwards, in conflict with the onshore breeze, mostly out of the eastern quarter – not a “head-on” conflict but enough to throw up a lumpy sea. Thus staying offshore on the down wind legs of the sausage in the Olympic courses should not have been rewarding, but the reality was that with the bigger seas there was much more to work with in terms of downwind surfing.

Friday’s racing was easily the lightest in terms of wind strength. It was the sort of day where smooth tacking was critical, wending one’s way through the waves equally critical. There was some very marginal trapezing but this was definitely the minority activity. Some of the races wins on Friday were by very comfortable margins but the main body of the fleet was quite compact.

Rumball & Kinsella won the day with a 3,1,1, but only led by a margin of a point from McGrotty & Cramer, with Clancy & Devlin third. Butler & Oram were almost in unchartered territory in fourth place overall, 8pts off the pace.

Saturday was a sparkling day with wind and sea to work with. Some of the surfing sequences were superb with the boats driving through a succession of waves spewing white water to either side. Butler and Oram stamped their authority on the day with a 1,4,1,1, sequence to take a 3pt lead over Rumball and David Moran, with McGrotty & Cramer in third a further 3pts adrift.

Sunday morning arrived greyer and cooler than any of the previous days of July. The debate onshore was what to wear, so quickly unaccustomed we were to the absence of sunshine. The breeze came back with a vengeance, one helm speculating post the event that it was getting up to 18 knots during the first race of the day. Rumball took Race 8 with Butler second! Was there going to be a late change in the pecking order? There was – as Rumball took 2nd in the 9th Race to Butler’s 4th, Clancy getting in between them to force the regatta into a count-back. Rumball & Moran, with input from Kinsella were the new Champions.

Race management for the event was provided by Liam Dineen and Kieran Brannigan, both National Race Officers. Liam “crocked” his back a few weeks before the event and his Friday duty took its toll. Kieran stepped in for the remaining two days. A combination of Olympic and Windward-Leeward courses were used over the three days and the time between races was kept to a minimum – indeed on a few occasions boats were caught out by the speed of turnaround. Sailing Secretary for Skerries Sailing Club, John Cook provided an excellent results service with the day’s results posted very soon after the day’s racing. Hospitality was of the usual Skerries standard.

The turnout of 15 boats was dominated by Dun Laoghaire boats of which there were ten. Skerries provided two boats, East Down Yacht Club (N.I.) provided two boats and Jon Evans sailed under the burgee of Sligo Yacht Club. It is the smallest Nationals for quite a few years and has probably resulted from a number of reasons – work commitments (at least 2 (specific instances)), other sailing commitments (potentially 2 – to double-handed keel-boat racing), holidays (at least 2), parties overseas (at least 1), other dinghy campaigns (maybe 2). Additionally, clubs that would have provided one or two boats in times past, especially for a Dublin-based regatta, are going through re-building phases and their members don’t seem ready to travel just yet. This is not meant as a criticism but rather an attempt to explain why this event has seen such a small attendance. The other factor must be people’s changed circumstances which we can do little about until there is an upswing.

Two ex-Fireballers, who are in temporary retirement mode (we hope), visited the venue over the weekend. A third Fireballer was helping out on rescue!

On the positive side, we had two boats from East Down Yacht Club on Strangford Lough, three people came down from Belfast (or thereabouts) for the regatta, one person flew in from London to do the event and we had a debutant Fireball from Howth.

The Class made a conscious decision to take events to clubs that supported Fireballs and venues that were within easy reach of the main Dun Laoghaire stronghold of the Class. Granted two major events on successive weekends, Volvo Dun Laoghaire and Nationals, is unusual but it is an attempt to take advantage of what is available on the calendar.

Fifteen boats thoroughly enjoyed great conditions at Skerries this weekend. Not all of them will have achieved their competitive ambitions but we all had a great three days……….come and join us!