The Irish Fireball Class opened their 2023 summer sailing season with a one-day training session supported by Irish Sailing and reported elsewhere, followed by a one-day regatta -The Open Championship, hosted by Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC), with a programme of six short duration races.

The cold and overcast conditions of Saturday were replaced by a sunny Sunday morning and a forecast of 6-8knots from a northerly direction. Of the fourteen boats in attendance for the training, twelve initially made the starting area with a youthful contingent of three boats from Cork, with three Batemans helming – Chris, Ethel and Olin – making up 25% of the fleet. The other visitor was Josh Porter, down from Newtownards Sailing Club who was partnered by his regular crew, Cara McDowell.

DMYC provided a committee boat and crew and three RIBs for the regatta, the third RIB being driven by coach Thomas Chaix who took on-the-water videos to back up what had been discussed the previous day. Race Officer for the day was Cormac Bradley, off another successful Frostbite Series, with a brief to get races of 25 minutes duration.

For the majority of the day the wind was as forecast direction-wise, fluctuating approximately 10° either side of due North, and initially in accordance with the strength prediction, 6 – 8 knots although there was a brief period when it got up to 10 knots. However, after a planned break on the water, after three back-to-back races, the wind started to fade and only one more race was sailed, albeit to a shortened course.

Windward-Leeward courses were the order of the day in accordance with resources and as an attempt to keep the fleet reasonably tight. A further measure to try and get races turned around quickly was the use of an “offer of a finish on the water” to those who had become detached from the back of the fleet. This appeared to be well received by the competitors.

After Race 1 the course length was reduced as the target time hadn’t been achieved and the remaining races were closer to target time, although the fourth race had to be shortened at the second weather mark with a “F” flag. Shortly after finishing the fleet, the wind speed was under 2 knots and there were no signs around Dublin Bay that more wind could be expected, so at 14:30 approximately, “N over A” was flown and the fleet headed for home.

The light conditions were very much favoured by Porter & McDowell who took the winning gun in all four races. They led at every weather mark and in most instances increased the lead on the water, though in one race the class stalwarts Noel Butler & Stephen Oram ran them close, to the extent that Porter & McDowell were applying a loose cover on them. As much as the winners were solid in winning, so were the older hands, who scored four second places. The consistency of these two combinations was mirrored in a reverse way by those who finished behind them in the overall placings; Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe, (3rd), Alastair Court & Gordon Syme (4th) and Frank Miller & Ed Butler (5th) who flirted with success but also had some (relatively) big numbers in their scores.

The Silver Fleet was won by Jack McNaughton & Hugo Micka, whose high point would have been a 4th in Race 3 – because a) Jack only started sailing Fireballs in Series 2 of the Frostbites and b) to my knowledge he and Hugo have never sailed together before.

A special mention must go to an even newer combination who had never flown a spinnaker until the day before. Ethel Bateman and Bella Waterman giggled and laughed their way around the course and their enthusiasm for what was happening on the water was infectious. They scored a seventh in the last race after a few spinnaker issues in the earlier races.

Irish Fireball Open Championship

DMYC 22 & 23 April 2023

Sail No. R1 R2 R3 R4 Tot.
1st Josh Porter & Cara McDowell 14695 1 1 1 1 3
2nd Noel Butler & Stephen Oram  15061 2 2 2 2 6
3rd Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe 15061 4 5 3 4 11
4th Alastair Court & Gordon Syme 15167 3 6 6 5 14
5th Frank Miller & Ed Butler 14915 6 7 7 3 16
7th Jack McNaughton & Hugo Micka 14101 7 10 4 6 17


 The next event on the Fireball regatta schedule will be the Ulsters in Newtownards at the end of May, while summer racing in Dun Laoghaire commences tomorrow evening (Tuesday) for the Fireballs and other dinghy classes.