Last weekend saw a hybrid Fireball Open Weekend hosted by the DMYC. This year instead of a two-day racing event the class decided to experiment with a blended event combining coaching and racing. The coaching, which had support from Irish Sailing, took place over the two days under the expert eye of Thomas Chaix of Dinghy Performance. As well as being one of the more expert dinghy coaches on the island Thomas has first-hand experience having sailed a Fireball in the last year’s World Championship at LDYC Dromineer.
Forecast for the weekend was light and so it proved. Saturday dawned with light northerlies so most coaching took place inside the harbour. The particular focus was on starts and leeward mark roundings, a perennial obsession with sailors in all classes given the potential gains available. The briefing before going afloat examined starting issues of positioning, laylines to the two sides and “runway” positioning to determine timing on the approach to the line. Thomas has an interesting and arguably more useful approach to the idea of transits, favouring the identification of two transits, one being a safe zone for the approach and another to identify the actual line position.
For Leeward mark roundings Thomas impressed on the sailors the importance of a plan of approach far in advance of the mark, with zones in which to formulate a plan and others in which to execute the plan. In particular the areas around the leeward mark were divided into pizza type slices and the advantages and dangers of approaches into each “slice” were discussed.
On the water the 14 Fireballs went through a series of starting drills. The shifty winds inside the harbour meant that the coach was saved the trouble of moving marks to vary the line bias. Equally even the short practice races provided plenty of shifts and hollows to keep sailors on their toes. The leeward mark exercises were made challenging by downwind starts with sailors forced to decide early on the best approach to achieve inside berth in crowded conditions with little breeze to spare.  The fleet then moved outside the harbour for short races in different conditions. While everyone hoped for a bit more breeze and a few waves the reality around the corner in Salthill was very light winds and an adverse ebbing tide. Starts were challenging to say the least and one of the funniest video commentaries features the coach timing the fleet’s struggle to get across the line. After a couple of entertaining races common sense prevailed and the fleet went back to the DMYC for showers, tea, beer and pizzas.
The plan for Sunday was a series of short races with coaching overview and advice between races, with some active advice allowed to the silver fleet during racing. Besides that on-the-water advice the huge benefit to the participants came in the form of a series of video commentaries by the coach uploaded to the Fireball WhatsApp group after sailing. The subtle movements by the top two teams in particular are worthy of careful analysis in the search for optimal sail shape and speed. All-in-all this was an extremely successful weekend and sailors at all levels drew considerable benefit from the event. Special mention must go to Team Cork where Chris Bateman is spearheading a Fireball revival and introducing a new young generation to the delights of the boat. In recognition of his work the class has relocated the class loan boat to the other capital for at least a year. The class welcomes new sailors young and not so young and continues its drive to mobilise dormant boats into active new hands. With a busy season ahead the next class event is the Ulster Championships at Newtownards on May 27th & 28th.