Ulster Championship Report

Post date: Jun 18, 2013 11:7:39 AM

The Irish Fireball scene moved away from the Tuesday evening and Saturday afternoon racing in Dublin Bay to the scenic venue of Carlingford Lough Yacht Club in the South-East corner of Northern Ireland. The club, which currently enjoys RYA Volvo Champion Club status was founded in 1958 but has been based at its current site since the early 1960s. The home fleet has varied over the years with GP14s, Flying Fifteens, Scorpions and Lasers being promoted at different stages but currently the fleet is made up of Lasers, Laser Radials and Laser 2000s with a few others joining in. They have a long tradition of hosting provincial and national championships and this year alone have hosted the Laser Ulster Championships, the IDRA Northern Championships and, this weekend past, the Fireball Ulsters. Speculation during the week leading up to the regatta was on two counts – the weather and the likely turnout of boats. XCWeather was suggesting earlier in the week that there would be lots of wind on Saturday, 16/16 knots gusting up to 30+ on Saturday, but almost nothing on Sunday. However, by Friday morning, that forecast had been modified to suggest that there would be a more equitable spread of wind between the two days. The Sea Area forecast from Met Eireann on Friday evening was SW Force 3 - 5, increasing 6 - 7 before moderating back to 3 – 5. The weekend got off to an inauspicious start with very strong wind and driving rain on the Friday evening. This combination persuaded some of those who had intended to camp to revise their plans in favour of a B&B and by all reports the level of hospitality received vindicated their decision.

After a turnout of only ten boats at the first event of the year, there were concerns about the numbers for this weekend, especially when the host club advised on the Thursday that a single entry had been received electronically.

In the end we had all sorts of wind, rain and sunshine with better wind on the Sunday, and a fleet of 15 boats.

Club Commodore and Race Officer for the weekend, Phillip O’Connor, greeted the fleet at the briefing on Saturday morning with the news that with the wind having an element of westerly in it the conditions would be difficult – he wasn’t wrong.

The on the water proceedings got underway with an 11:25 Warning signal and a first lap of an Olympic course that was led all the way round by Louis Smyth and Cormac Bradley (15007). This was to be their moment in the limelight as the rest of their regatta wasn’t quite to this standard. At the first leeward mark, Noel Butler and Stephen Oram (15061) executed a manoeuvre straight out of the Adam’s Bowers coaching manual, with huge amounts of “wumpeta” to gazzump Smyth/Bradley and secure the windward slot for the next beat. Thereafter, Butler/Oram were never headed. Conor & James Clancy (150**) who had been 2nd for most of the first lap, but lost ground going into the leeward mark, took second back again before they too were overtaken, first by Diana Kissane & Conor Kinsella (14820) and then by Kenny Rumball & David Moran.

A heavy rain shower and stronger breeze dominated the period before the second start got underway. This left the weather mark out of position for the first beat but the varied wind conditions were exposed even further when the first reach turned into a run with people gybing as soon as 100m from the weather mark. The whole course got out of kilter with respect to the wind and ultimately a shortened course was signaled, but the incorrect procedure for shortening was used and in a subsequent Request for Redress for this mistake, the race was thrown out.

The third race of the day was a more appropriate affair and while the wind wasn’t quite what we would have wanted, at least the points of sailing and the legs of the Olympic course were in tandem with each other. The reaches on the triangle were particularly good as the breeze filled in to give all the crews a good work out. Kenny Rumball & David Moran led this race from start to finish and were chased all the way round by Butler/Oram. The star performance however, came from Frank Miller and Grattan Donnelly (14713) who secured a podium place finish with a 3rd. Team Clancy also showed consistency to rack up another 4th place, while Neil Colin and Margaret Casey (14775) enjoyed their high point of the regatta with a fifth. The last race was sailed in sunshine and as the fleet returned to shore the sense that summer had arrived was manifested with a post-mortem on the day’s proceedings in shirtsleeves on the club patio.

Phillip O’Connor introduced another element of multi-tasking to his portfolio when he cooked our dinner on a barbeque – steak and fish – ably aided by a small team of ladies, led by his wife Siobhan, who provided ample salads and a dessert of warm apple pie and ice-cream. Post supper, the barman took over the role of key-player!

At 7:15 on the Sunday morning, Carlingford Lough was a mirror. However, as the day progressed the mirror started to disappear and pockets of breeze formed on the Lough. The problem was that by the scheduled start time the only flag flying was a postponement flag, at the club flagpole, with the fleet still ashore. Very soon thereafter however, we did get on the water to sail three races in breeze that came from the direction of the normal sea-breeze for these parts, even if the heat wasn’t quite there.

The “duopoly” of Messrs Butler or Rumball winning regatta races was broken in the first race of the morning when Gavin Doyle & Dave Sweeney (14953) won. Sailing in an area where the incoming tide would have been expected to be at its strongest, conventional wisdom would have been to go left. Doyle & Sweeney went hard right every time, with Doyle claiming afterwards that the breeze was more “user-friendly” that side of the course. Sail right until the header hits, then come into the weather mark on the starboard lay-line. This tactic kept him to the front of the fleet, though the victory was secured late on, possibly as late as the hitch from the leeward mark to the finish. Butler/Oram, and Rumball/Moran, like others, had gone left and at the first weather mark they had lots to do to get back into their more accustomed places at the head of the fleet. Rumball, bemused by the throwing out of the 2nd race the day before, was keeping a watching brief on his adversary. Rumball would have been comforted to put Team Clancy between himself and Butler on the finish line to provide a finishing order of Doyle, Rumball, Clancy, Butler, Kissane. Jon Evans and Aidan Caulfield (14748) had been tweaking their boat before the day’s proceedings and were rewarded with a 6th place in this race. Jon had driven from Sligo on Ireland’s west coast for the regatta and had taken four hours to do so, encountering on the way the security arrangements for this week’s G8 summit in Fermanagh.

Races 5 & 6 went to Butler & Oram, clearly anxious to make sure that their 4th place didn’t prompt a suggestion that they weren’t able to close out the regatta. They dominated Race 4 to win by a very comfortable margin with Rumball/Moran trailing in their wake. Rumball/Moran secured two 2nd places and Kissane/Kinsella kept the symmetry going by securing two 3rd places to effectively close out the regatta in overall terms.

The wind for Races 5&6 improved as the “sea-breeze” got itself established. The approach to the upwind leg again showed quite a bit of diversity as the right hand side was still paying off, though maybe not quite as much as had been the case. By the latter stages of the last race, the more correct side was the left. Niall McGrotty & Neil Creamer (14938) had a good fourth race with a fourth place and followed it up with a ninth in race 5, but this latter result was influenced by having to do a 720º at one of the leeward marks. Miller & Donnelly also had a good brace of results with a 6 and a 5. Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe who have been very competitive in DBSC races were slightly off the pace on Saturday but came back much stronger with a 8, 8, 10 on Sunday. They had good straight line speed and excellent pointing which meant that dealing with them in close quarters was a risky affair.

There were newcomers to this fleet in the form of Alan Henry & Simon Revill of East Down Yacht Club (14645). Alan has recently purchased a Fireball but is no slouch in a trapeze boat as he has a substantial CV in IDRA 14s. However, a work posting to Belfast has influenced his appetite for travelling to Dublin for IDRA events whereas a Fireball offers him sailing action closer to home. Two 7th places in Races 5 & 6 will hopefully whet their appetites for future Fireball regattas. A new combination was Glen Fisher & Vivian Bessler (14781) who have sailed with others in this fleet.

Marie Barry & Michael Ennis (14854) had a better Saturday than Sunday with a 8th and a 7th as did the Colin/Casey combination. However, with such a compact and tight fleet, it didn’t take too much to fall off the pace and into the higher numbered placings at the finish.

The Silver fleet was won by Jon Evans and Aidan Caulfield from Sligo Yacht Club.

Thanks are due to CLYC for hosting another successful Ulster Championships, specifically to Phillip O’Connor, Commodore, Race Officer and Head Chef, Michael O’Hare for the use of his Dufour 34, Aurora as committee boat, Henry McLaughlin as Rescue Co-ordinator and Mark Layer, Kieran Cranley who did the registration and scoring, the ladies catering team led by Siobhan O’Connor and the bar staff who stayed late on Saturday night for our entertainment.

The next Fireball regatta is the Volvo Dun Laoghaire event over the period Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th July, followed by the Nationals to be hosted by Skerries Sailing Club on the weekend of 19th – 21st July.

Photos from the event here:http://ntsr.smugmug.com/Other