The Fireball Munster Championships were held this weekend on April 20th/21st at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club in stunning weather conditions.  

It had seemed like a long time coming but alas the wait was finally over and the  eve of the first event of the season for the Fireball class had arrived. Months of  harsh winter sailing had been endured and so the event at Monkstown Bay was  met with much enthusiasm and excitement from the Fireball sailors.  

Sailors travelled from all over Ireland to attend, such as Dublin, Sligo, Wexford,  Kerry and Cork, to name a few.  

The first morning of the championship in Monkstown was a spectacular sight.  Twenty five Fireballs were packed in to the dinghy park with competitors  rigging at speed, eager to hit the water. Covers were folded away and sails  unrolled. The crinkle of fresh spinnakers and sounds of enthusiastic chat were  heard from all over. The atmosphere was bright and cheerful, the water a  sparkling blue. The wind was warm and the sun was high, with a light sea  breeze starting to fill in across the harbour. The air thrummed with anticipation  while busy volunteers prepared for the days racing.  

The race area was set off Cuskinny beach, some distance away from the sailing  club. Race Officer Dave Barry and his team with Johnny Moynihan and co. set  off early to prepare the triangular course in time for the midday starting gun.  The Fireball sailors followed suit, launching early in their excitement for the  races to come. 

The wind filled in slowly from the South East, spreading across the course in an  unsettled manner. Big wind shifts were to be the order of business for the day.  The committee had a course set right on time despite the shifts.  

With the five minute gun sounded for Race One, the competitors piled onto the  start line, jostling for position.  

The fleet eagerly pushed forward on the line until finally, the race was  underway. It was a drag race to the first big shift on the starboard side of the  course. The fleet was highly competitive with big position changes happening  on every leg of the three lap course. It was to be a battle of patience and  perseverance. In the end it was the team of Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix  of NYC who took first place, having played every shift as well as could be done.  Just behind in second was Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty of MBSC. Daniel  and Harry Thompson of Wexford took third place having picked up a big wind  shift on the final lap of the race.  

Race Two got underway in a clean manner. Ed Butler and crew Iso Inan of Sligo  made the most of the light and tricky winds, to take first place. Ewen Barry and  Sandy Rimmington of MBSC took second place. In third place it was Lee/

Geraghty. All three scraped just ahead of the three boats competing behind in  what was very nearly a six boat photo finish.  

Race three was won by the current national champions Noel Butler and Stephen  Oram of NYC. Having been slightly behind in the first two races, they found  their mojo and left the fleet behind in the final race of the day. The ever  consistent team of Barry/Rimmington took second place, with Ferguson/Chaix  in third.  

With three successful races completed the fleet headed for home in the  scorching sun.  

Overnight leaders were Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix of NYC, who sailed  a fantastic three races and showed their tactical skills in the best way possible.  

Day two  

Day two of the championship opened in a similar fashion. A lazy sun hung low  over the bay and the sky was blue. The harbour was as still as a mill pond. A  low tide made the bay look small but the birds sang and the water was inviting.  The competitors arrived early, bulling to hit the water and get racing. The start  was set an hour earlier than the day previous. The wind was due to fill in from  the East, just in time for the first race.  

Sails were hoisted and colourful spinnakers dried. Onlookers and supporters  sat by, enjoying the spectacle.  

The competitors prepared their tow lines in anticipation of a long haul out to the  race area. Launching into the still waters of the bay, they paddled up to the tow  boats and made fast their painters. Happy faces poked out from underneath  bright sails and they began the tow out to Cuskinny.  

The wind filled in from the East just as the hoard of Fireballs arrived at the race  area. A soft eight knot breeze blew over the course. There was a small wait for  the breeze to settle but it soon calmed down and proved to be gentle and  consistent.  

Race Four of the series kicked off at 11U30am. It became evident that overnight  the fleet had become even more competitive, pushing the start line to the limit  and fighting even harder all across the racecourse. All in good spirits, of  course!  

At the first windward mark it was Ritchie Harrington and Sandy OʼBrien of  MBSC, sailing in at speed on the starboard layline in first place.  Three rounds later and at the finish line it was Ewen Barry and Sandy  Rimmington who took first place, sailing well in the shifty conditions. Taking  second place was Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix. In third place it was  Louise McKenna and Hermine Oʼ Keefe of RStGYC. 

For Race Five, the wind had swung around to the South East and picked up  slightly. At the top it was a battle of four boats. Noel Butler and Stephen Oram  fought against Barry/Rimmington, while Ferguson/Chaix fought with Chris  Bateman and Lauren Murphy of MBSC. Positions changed constantly  throughout the race and in the end it was Butler/Oram who took first place, with  Barry/Rimmington in second and Ferguson/Chaix in third.  

Race Six, the final race of the series brought 40 degree wind shifts and huge  pressure changes, making it the most difficult of the day. The Thompson  brothers led at the windward mark, however they were not safe. Barry/ Rimmington snapped at their heels in second, with Ferguson/Chaix in third. By  the bottom of the leg, Bateman/Murphy had caught up and the next upwind  became another battle between the four boats. Positions changed constantly  and the racing was tight. Bateman/Murphy pulled into second, Barry/ Rimmington dropped back to fourth. However by the top mark, the top four had  sailed into a wind hole and wallowed with sails hanging limp for a minute.  Barry/Rimmington picked up a 30 degree shift from the right and crossed the  fleet in first place while the rest wallowed. A 60 degree wind shift from the left  ten seconds later allowed Ed Butler to sail back into contention, and Ferguson/ Chaix slipped passed the Thompons. Bateman/Murphy dropped back, having  gotten stuck between both shifts.  

In the end it was Ferguson/Chaix who took first place across the line, ahead of  Barry/Rimmington in second place. The Thompsons held on to third place.  

This concluded the day, and the fleet sailed home tired and happy. It had been  a fantastic days racing in champagne sailing conditions. Upon arrival at the  sailing club, the boats were packed away, sails rolled and covers donned. Once  the pack was finished the weary competitors migrated to the club and basked  in the evening sun while awaiting the prizegving. Easy conversation was had  over cold drinks and discussion of the next Fireball Championship had already  begun. 

The prizes were presented by MBSCʼs commodore Jacqui OʼBrien.  

Winning the Fireball Munster Championships (and their first Fireball event) were  Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington of the host club.  

Second place went to Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix of the National Yacht  Club, competing in their first event as a team.  

Third place went to Noel Butler and Stephen Oram of the National Yacht Club.  

Winning the silver fleet were Brian Jones and Barry OʼConnor of MBSC, in their  first Fireball event. 

Second place in the silver fleet went to Colm and Cormac Breene of DMYC. Third place in silver went to Paul ter Horst and Pat McGoldrick, also of DMYC. 

Winner of the Classic trophy for his recent restoration of his Fireball named  “Whiskey” went to 16 year old Sean OʼHerlihy from Iniscarra Sailing and  Kayaking Club, sailing with his new helm Frances Corkery of the same club.  

This concluded the first event of the season for the Fireball Class. The  championship was an extreme success, with sailors coming from all over the  country. The weather could not have been better, the atmosphere could not  have been happier. No fleet will match the Fireballs for their comradeship,  friendliness, kind nature, and value. The class continues to grow rapidly as the  people in our little country are quickly realising the boat that they have been  missing throughout their lives is- a Fireball!