Fireballs enjoyed a fantastic two days of racing during their Ulster Championship at Newtownards SC at the weekend. Day one proved light as per forecast but the wind steadily improved throughout the afternoon. The first race took place in quite light airs complete with holes, and to cap it all a 180 degree shift saw sailors scrambling to douse spinnakers and beat towards the new wind. The first attempt at a start led to a general recall and race officer Jennifer Bryce, and mentor Sam Lyness set down a marker by flying the black flag for the subsequent start. Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe led around much of the course but were reeled in near the finish by Adrian Lee & Ossian Geraghty. For race two the wind had settled to a medium Northerly, and local Fireballer Josh Porter & crew Cara McDowell won well. Race three again featured medium winds with some quite decent gusts, Josh & Cara took the gun again to take the overnight lead. Ashore sailors enjoyed a great welcome and terrific hospitality with a barbecue and bar service run by club volunteers. Many stayed nearby in camper vans or tents and there was a most pleasant and relaxed atmosphere at the club.
More wind was forecast for Sunday and the predictions held true. Racing took place in solid Northerly breezes of between fourteen and eighteen knots, delivering champagne sailing conditions with relatively flat water on the lough. Race four saw Franco Cassidy & Stephen Oram showing some extremely fast sailing to take the gun. The pair tended to work their way towards to starboard layline on the beats, tacking only to stay in the better patches of wind. They were challenged by Josh & Cara who made inroads by playing shifts more and tending to play the left side. The middle of the course featured some quite light patches, and to add spice there were some big shifts to keep everyone on their toes. Louise & Hermine fell victim to one such shift and suffered a messy capsize which resulted in them retiring. Race five saw Adrian & Ossian chalk up another win, keeping the contest wide open. Franco & Stephen were 2nd and Josh & Cara 3rd. The final race saw Frank Miller and Neil Cramer finally find their full speed; the pair led all the way around the course but tragedy struck at the final leeward mark when their spinnaker jammed and refused to come down, allowing Franco & Stephen to take the win, followed by Josh and Cara. When the sums were done Franco & Stephen were declared winners on countback as Josh & Cara had equal points. The victory was especially sweet for Franco Cassidy who last won a Fireball Ulsters twenty years ago. Third place went to Adrian and Ossian. Special mention must go to young David Evans and crew Mark Greer. The two sailed extremely well in all conditions and never seemed to struggle even in the strongest gusts. Their reward was the Silver trophy, and the icing on the cake was beating David’s father Jonathan sailing with Adrian Caulfield. So all in all this was a terrific event despite a somewhat disappointing turnout of eight boats caused by some last minute hitches amongst those intending to travel. The next event is the Leinster Championship hosted by Skerries SC on June 24th & 25th and a bigger turnout is very much anticipated.