Penultimate Sunday – Another two races

Post date: Mar 23, 2015 2:13:15 PM

The second last Sunday of the 2014/15 Frostbite Series saw a modest turnout of 5 Fireballs who were treated to two races in sunshine conditions, good breeze and an air temperature that rose as the afternoon went on, breaking in to double figures (12.5˚) by 16:30 as the fleet made its way homewards. At the start of the afternoon the wind direction was 148˚ with a base wind strength of 9.6 knots and a gust of 14.5 knots recorded. By 16:30, the wind direction had gone to 304˚, with a wind strength of 4.1 knots and a gust of 9.4 knots.

The Fireballs were given a separate weather mark which was located to the east of the HSS gantry, a No. 2 which was located close to the weather station on the East Pier, a No.3 that was in line with the harbour mouth and a No. 4 that was just inshore from the Block House on the West Pier.

Of the five Fireballs starting, 4 were at the committee boat end on starboard with Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) at the pin end on port. Miller and three of the others worked the right hand side of the bottom of the course while Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) went the opposite direction, appeared to get a significant lift when they tacked onto port and led at the weather mark for their reward. Behind them the running order was Butler & Oram (15061), Miller & Donnelly, Kenneth Rumball & Ed Butler (15058) and Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691).

1 – 2 looked to be a broad spinnaker leg and Rumball overtook Miller on this leg. Ahead, Butler closed on Colin and the first two went past Mark 2 without gybing, leaving it to 10 – 12 boats lengths past the mark. Before they got to mark 3 Butler has assumed the lead.

On the second beat the lead two went right initially before Colin broke left again. Butler stayed on, possibly deciding, even at this early stage, to keep company with Rumball. By the second weather mark, Butler had extended his lead over Colin and Rumball was still back in 3rd. For the off wind legs of lap 2 these places stayed as was with leg 3 – 4 starting off as a tight spinnaker reach but broadening as the leg wore on. Rumball started to close in on Colin at this stage.

On the third beat the lead two kept each other company again but Rumball did his own thing, getting close enough to Colin to require the latter to hail starboard as they crossed tacks towards the end of the beat. Rumball obliged with a tack but was able to get clear of Colin to tack again and round behind Butler in second place. That was the last of the “skirmishes” in this race, with the finishing order being Butler, Rumball and Colin.

For the second race of the day, the course was “flipped” with marks now being rounded to starboard. The separate weather mark was taken out of the water and the old No.2 was lifted and moved into the body of the harbour to become the new weather mark. The new No.2 was dropped just to the west of the HSS gantry, No. 3 stayed as was and No. 4 was modified to reflect the revised configuration.

Watching the PY start, two Finns conveniently went separate ways up the beat before the Fireballs were called to order. The Finn working the RHS looked to be very comfortable relative to his contemporary on the opposite side of the harbour, but amazingly they rounded transom to bow with the “RHS-er” only just ahead.

All the Fireballs assembled at the pin end, reading, from right to left, as they set off on starboard tack, the order was Miller, Colin, Rumball, Butler, McKenna. McKenna was the first to bail right, followed slightly later by Miller who, coming from a slightly leeward position, ended up dipping both Butler and Rumball. McKenna was then able to hail Miller as the five stayed in a close group up the beat. Colin was first to show, crossing the other four on starboard, with Rumball ahead of Butler as the three sailed up the starboard lay-line.

Colin’s spinnaker hoist saw him fall off to leeward slightly which opened the door for Rumball to go through his weather and take a minimal lead at Mark 2. Further back, Miller was playing dodgems with someone as he took a double pirouette in the vicinity of Mark 2. The gybes that might have taken place at Mk. 2 were delayed and the leg from 3 to 4 was now a very tight reach.

On the next beat, Rumball and Colin sailed to the harbour wall before Rumball abandoned that course to come back into the middle of the harbour – possibly to keep an eye on Butler. Despite his 720˚ penalty turn Miller was able to close the gap on McKenna sufficiently to have to dip her when the met two-thirds of the way up the beat.

The order at the weather mark was Rumball, Colin, Butler, Miller, McKenna with the latter two in very close company. At Mark 2, Rumball gybed, whereas the next two sailed on. Rumball then gybed to shadow them. Butler stalled but recovered to put pressure on Colin, closing to within touching distance of Colin’s transom at Mark 3. McKenna had by this stage got ahead of Miller. By Mark 4, Butler was able to round in second place and both he and Colin sailed to the harbour wall. McKenna and Miller tack earlier than the boats they were chasing and when they approached the latter stages of the beat, McKenna was able to force Colin into a tack as they took their positions “stage left” on the starboard layline.

At this weather mark the order is now – Rumball, Butler, McKenna, Colin, Miller. But the “fat lady hasn’t sung yet”. The leg from 2 to 3 is now getting tricky – the wind is dying, there are flat spots on the water and there is lots of traffic, RSs with assymetric spinnakers, IDRAs with spinnakers and Lasers and negotiating these is as challenging as the actual wind conditions. Rumball enters the “cauldron” and gets stuck in the lee of other boats allowing Butler to close onto his transom. However, Rumball gets away again.

Up the last beat, these two indulge in a covering/tacking duel and while they may have been distracted by each other, the others aren’t able to close significantly. But there is another logjam to be negotiated between 2 and 3 and another challenge to be addressed at Mk. 3.

At 3 for the last time, Rumball has Butler on his transom again. He has the inside berth, but with other boats around (PY Class again), the boats come out of the gybe with Butler in the windward berth and Rumball seemingly struggling for boat speed. Another wind switch sees spinnakers dropped and before they get to 4, Rumball puts in two tacks to get around. He rounds in the lead, but it is very close at the finish and it is only after the race that I can confirm that Rumball took the win!

Meanwhile McKenna and Colin play out a similar game at Mk 3, but Colin seems to do enough to get ahead. But the finishing signals for them are so close (even from where I was) that again I have to consult with Colin to find out who won between them. He can’t tell me and it is only on viewing the final results that I can record that McKenna took third place.

Next Sunday, 29th March sees the final round of racing with the Frostbite Prize-giving to follow in the DMYC Clubhouse afterwards.

For the Fireballs it will pre-empt a hiatus of racing until the last weekend of April when our summer season opening training session is scheduled. Again, a well-known Fireballer with World and European titles to his name is expected to be confirmed imminently for this weekend.