Ten Fireballs in the sunshine!

Post date: Mar 07, 2016 11:32:28 AM

There was almost a full turnout of the Fireballs registered for the 2015/16 Frostbites in Dun Laoghaire yesterday when 10 boats assembled on the start line for the first of two trapezoid-course races in sunshine but cool temperatures. The forecasts for the afternoon were a bit mixed with one site suggesting the N-Westerly would go Northerly and fade while another suggested it would go Southerly and build a little. In the end it was the former forecast that won out. Two early practice rounds of the course revealed conditions that required trapezing upwind and tight spinnaker legs across the top and bottom of the trapezoid but as the afternoon progressed, the need for trapezing faded though the reaches were still lively.

In Race 1 the fleet had various ideas on how to work the first beat, the Clancy brothers, Conor and James, making a first appearance after a few weeks absence, decided that hitting the East Pier was the way to go with a weather mark just inside the end of the West Pier. The rest of the fleet demurred to varying degrees, preferring to work the middle and left of the course. The majority view was vindicated at the first weather mark with a rounding order of Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061), Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706), Darragh McDonagh & Neil Duke (14434), Neil Colin & John (14775), Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley (14713). Team Clancy were down in 7th in close proximity to Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854), Louise McKenna & Tim (14691), Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) and Peter & Michael Keegan (14676).

By the time the first half of the fleet got to Mark 2, Butler & Oram had pulled out a short lead. At the gybe, Miller gained two places by getting inside McDonagh and Colin and with a faster spinnaker set was able to pull away and to windward of them – time to hunt down Court!

On the second beat, Miller worked the right hand side of the course while Butler and Court worked the middle. By the time they reached the 2nd weather mark, Miller had closed dramatically on Court and they rounded with Miller only just ahead. Butler of course was doing his normal thing of putting distance between himself and the rest of the fleet. Halfway down the top leg of the trapezoid Miller was able to break the overlap with Court and put a few boat-lengths between the boats. This position was retained to the rounding of Mark 4. Behind them, Chambers had dropped out, Colin too had dropped out after an incident on the water and the chasing boats were now Power/Barry and the Clancy brothers.

Third beat and Butler and Court both go left immediately! As piggy in the middle, Miller goes right – a potentially dangerous ploy, leaving the opposition to do their own thing. As they entered the last stages of the beat Court crosses ahead but a few minutes later when they cross again, Miller has sneaked in front. Miller gets to the weather mark first and holds Court off to Mark 4. On the final beat, Miller is much more circumspect, only taking a short hitch to the right to see what Court will do on rounding 4. When Court tacks, so does Miller and the pair sail in close company up the left hand side of the course, with Miller to windward. Butler is “long gone” sailing his own comfortable race. Behind Court and Miller, both Clancy and Power close but not enough to give the “heebie-jeebies” just yet! Miller tacks first for the port lay-line and gets to the weather mark first ahead of Court who is in a slightly more windward slot.

The last lap is now a race between the Clancys and Power & Barry with the lighter ladies more than holding their own. They exchange the lead a few times on the top leg, but on the longer leg between 2 and 3 the ladies get into a more secure position and hold off the brothers to the finish.

The fading and northerly shifting breeze now necessitates a change of course but due to the logistics of the harbour, it is not enough to move the weather mark, the committee boat has to move as well, moving inshore towards the gantry for the HSS. The weather mark, meantime, is now closer to the end of the East Pier. Three laps are set for this second race and at the start the fleet decides that the pin is the place to be. Miller gets his approach wrong, finds he is too early and gybes out from underneath the fleet and works the right hand side of the course. After a single race, the Clancys are back in the groove and they lead the charge to the weather mark followed by Power & Barry, Neil Colin & John, Butler & Oram and Court & Syme. By the time the fleet clear the weather mark, we are treated to the sight of Butler & Oram doing two sets of turns – one set to absolve themselves from an incident with the Clancys and the second for hitting the mark.

Five boats manage to break away from the fleet – Clancys, Power & Barry, Neil & John, Miller and Bradley and Court & Syme. Behind this bunch, Chambers & McGuire are well placed and of course everyone was aware that Butler & Oram wouldn’t be hanging around the back for any longer than was necessary! Despite the fact that the wind has gone northwards, the right hand side was not paying as much as one would have thought and the fleet consistently worked the middle and left of the course. Clancy and Power were never threatened though their lead did get shortened as the race progressed. Miller gained places off wind to move into third but upwind he lost out to Butler & Oram who worked their way through the fleet. These places stay as is until the finish with Court & Syme taking the fifth place on the water.

After nineteen races and five discards, the overall situation is as follows;