Such has been the upswing in enthusiasm for Fireball sailing that despite completing the full suite of scheduled events for 2023, there was a significant view that a further event would be well received. Fortunately, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC) took up the short-notice challenge and organised a race team to host the Fireballs on the weekend of 21st & 22nd October.
The forecast in the week beforehand gave a mixed recipe of winds for both the Saturday and the Sunday and while storm Babet hammered the south coast, the sea conditions in Dun Laoghaire on the Thursday and Friday were such that a matchbox wouldn’t have survived never mind a sailing boat. I saw photographs of huge seas crashing off the pier walls that were closer to what one might expect in deep December rather than mid-October.
Saturday dawned better looking than expected, with the huge seas gone and a steady breeze from the NNW. At the briefing on Saturday morning, a plan was declared to run three races on the premise that there was a better forecast for the Sunday.
Fleet participants came from Cork – Team Bateman, with three boats – the West with Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty, from Leitrim, north of the Liffey, from Skerries, from Wexford, and of course from Dun Laoghaire itself.
Three three-lap Olympic-course races were completed on the Saturday in winds that varied in strength from 12 to 18 knots in reasonably flat seas west of the harbour. With a Fireball crew as Race Officer and a Fireball helm setting the windward and leeward marks, the fleet had exhilarating spinnaker reaches on the triangles with some tweaking of the gybe mark after a practice triangle, and good planing conditions on the downwind legs of the sausage.
Ten of the fourteen boats entered made the first race which got away after a very short postponement. Perennial trophy winners Stephen Oram and Noel Butler (15061) took the first two races with comfortable wins after a tighter first triangle. In the first race they were chased by Adrian Lee & Ossian Geraghty (15017) before spinnaker issues forced them backwards in the pecking order. That opened the door to Team Butler, Ed Óg agus Ed Mór (14969) who came through to finish 2nd, with Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938) 3rd.
In the second race, thirteen of the fourteen boats entered made the start and while we had an OCS, who didn’t go back, a DNS and one RET, the balance of the fleet enjoyed sunny conditions and good breeze. This second race was a tighter affair, but by the end the cream had risen to the top and Oram & Butler took a second bullet. Having sorted out their technical issues, Lee & Geraghty finished second, with the Butlers third, McGrotty & Cramer fourth and Nicola Ferguson & Thomas Chaix (14750) fifth.
These two races ran for approximately 35 minutes each, which was marginally shorter than had been promised/agreed with the fleet and so the weather mark was moved further upwind to lengthen the beat. For the third race, two boats that may have got their time planning for the first two races wrong upturned the pecking order and came home in first and second, relegating the leaders on the water to third place. Brothers Daniel & Harry Thompson (15156) out of Wexford took the bullet in this race and were followed home by Chris Bateman & Conor Flynn (14916) flying the Cork flag.
In the wind conditions of Saturday, the distance between 1st and last boats on the water got stretched and “Whiskey” finishes were used to get the subsequent race started. Again, this had been agreed with the fleet in view of the initial weather conditions, grey, overcast and temperatures probably in single figures. A turnaround time of 15 minutes was achieved after one race between first boat finishing and the warning signal for the subsequent race. The warning signal for Race 1 was delayed by about three minutes while the race committee checked on tailenders coming out of the harbour, but not seeing any, the postponement flag came down quickly and proceedings got underway. Th weather mark was tweaked for each race and time was saved between races with the RO changing the weather mark while the balance of the committee boat crew finished the race. This meant that while we started three minutes late on the first start, three races were done and dusted by 14:00 and the fleet was ashore by 14:45.
With three races complete, the running order in overall terms was Oram & Butler, 5pts, Butler & Butler, 9pts, McGrotty & Cramer, 12pts, Lee & Geraghty, 14pts and Ferguson & Chaix, 15pts.
As the fleet relaxed in the DMYC clubhouse, the predictions of wind for Sunday started to go skewwhiff with light winds from the West giving way to light winds from the East according to XCWeather. An early evening WhatsApp from Neil Colin (weather & gybe mark) suggested that Met Eireann was also not confident of stable winds.
Sunday morning was bright but breathless both inside the harbour and outside. The committee boat cast off early and sat outside the harbour in mirror-like conditions until a dark line spread over the southern half of the Bay coming from an easterly direction. Four Elliott 5.5s, 100m away from the committee boat starting sailing in this and a decision was taken to race inside the harbour to cancel any tidal effects.
While the breeze moved around enough to prompt adjustment of the weather mark between races, it stayed around the 120°mark for the day and a further three races were sailed in accordance with the Sailing Instructions and a fourth race was then offered to take advantage of the sunshine and light breeze.
Windward-Leewards were the order of the day, each of two laps and the recipe produced much tighter racing on the water. The changed conditions also meant that the younger and lighter combinations could be more competitive and in particular Olin Bateman & Conor Kelly (14362) took advantage to mix it with the more experienced combinations. In one race they rounded the first weather mark inside the top five.
However, the overnight leaders made sure that there were no hiccups on Day 2 by taking another two race wins, before Chris Bateman & Conor Flynn closed out the regatta racing by winning the sixth race with Oram & Butler finishing a discarded sixth. Lee & Geraghty had a good day scoring 2, 3, 4 to leapfrog Team Butler (14) and McGrotty & Cramer (12) into second place overall.
For the freebie seventh race, more than half the fleet took advantage of the now benign conditions to get some more racing in!
|Fireball Autumn Regatta – Hosted by DMYC, 21/22 October 2023.|
|1st||Noel Butler & Stephen Oram||15061||1||1||3||1||1||6||7pts|
|2nd||Adrian Lee & Ossian Geraghty||15017||5||2||7||2||3||4||16pts|
|3rd||Ed Óg Butler & Ed Mór Butler||14969||2||3||4||6||6||2||17pts|
|4th||Nicola Ferguson & Thomas Chaix||14750||4||5||6||5||4||3||19pts|
|5th||Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer||14938||3||4||5||5||4||3||19pts|
|8th||Paul ter Horst & Pat McGoldrick||14790||7||7||9||10||10||11||43pts|
|9th||Niall McAllister & Killian Glynn||14600||6||10||8||11||13||9||44pts|
|10th||Olin Bateman & Conor Kelly||14362||15||9||13||8||8||7||45pts|
A compact team ran the racing over the two days with four on the committee boat and two ribs laying marks. Accordingly, thanks go to Neil, Keelan and his daughter, Brian, Margaret, Louise, Cariosa and Cormac.
Prizes were awarded by Regatta Organiser Neil Colin in the DMYC post racing.