On a weekend when all DBSC races were cancelled due to lack of wind and Fastnet Race yachts were pummelled by gales and strong winds Killaloe Sailing Club managed to run an extremely successful Fireball Munsters in tandem with the 420 class. Despite a few regulars missing from both fleets the turnouts were excellent with fifteen Fireballs and fourteen 420s lining up for the competition over Saturday and Sunday. The newly refurbished KSC hosted not just the sailors and boats but a plethora of tents and camper vans adding hugely to the sociability of the weekend.
The forecast for the entire weekend was a concern with light winds and heavy rain on the agenda. Saturday started out with a decent if modest breeze and drizzle but by the time the fleets mustered for the start the AP was flying and what light wind existed was swinging 180 degrees. After about an hour however the wind settled into a Southerly direction of around five to eight knots. Fireballs got off the line cleanly for an Olympic Triangle course with only one recall which saw the Wexford brothers Daniel and Harry Thompson return to restart. Although the pin was favoured there was a slightly better breeze on the starboard side of the course and those boats got a slight head-start on the fleet.
Boats to the fore in judging the shifts and patches of better wind included Ed Óg Butler & Maeve Leonard, Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe, Chris Bateman & Cara McDowell and Tiarnan Brown & Peter Hayes. Between the jigs, reels and shifts McKenna and O’Keeffe managed to get in front of Butler & Leonard only for the latter to benefit from a patch of breeze and sneak ahead to take the gun near the finish. Race officer Liam Moloney wisely shortened the course after two laps and the racers who followed the leaders home had an agonising final few yards to cover to the line. Several finished just seconds apart with boats on the left side of the approach benefiting from slightly more pressure. One of those on the left were the Thompsons who clawed their way back to a 5th place.
Following that race the wind reverted to its swirling game and the two fleets floated around waiting for a breeze to settle. There were quite funny scenes which included boat gymnastics, raft games, and swimming competitions amongst the younger competitors in both fleets, all it in fairly miserable drizzle. Eventually it was clear that no decent breeze was coming and the race team called it a day. Socially the day was still young and an excellent sit-down meal was served up by club volunteers giving everyone a chance to mix and catch up.
Sunday dawned again with a decent enough breeze but when the competitors got to the starting area that had vaporised. What little wind existed was from the south, while the forecast was for breeze to fill from the North. After about an hour the weather decided to play ball and a very decent northerly wind of between twelve and seventeen knots kicked in. With the pressure on to get races completed the race team wisely decided on Windward-Leeward courses, giving them the flexibility to move marks quickly if conditions changed. Three excellent races ensued.
Chris & Cara dominated the first two races, chased mainly by Frank Miller & Ed Butler Snr, the Thompsons, and Tiernan & Peter. Frank & Ed Snr got a second in race two, but a fouled spinnaker drop in race three cost them a place as the Thompson brothers nipped in at the final leeward to take that second place. The Thompsons proved that they were back in action and on form in the final race of the day as they judged the shifts and pressure right to take that race from Chris and Cara. Ed Óg & Maeve had a lost spinnaker halyard issue just before the first race of day two which when combined with a riveted fitting knocked them out for the day. This was especially unfortunate as they would surely have given Chris & Cara a good run for the overall.
When the sums were done Chris & Cara won the event on four points to the Thompsons seven. Despite an entertaining capsize on the finish line in the final race Frank & Ed Snr managed to get 3rd overall on nine points. First silver fleet sailors were Tiarnan & Peter from Glandore. 2nd Silver winners were James Anglim & Hugo Micka, 3rd Silver were Jack McNaughten & Michael Keegan. Deserving winners of the classic trophy were young Olin Bateman and Saoirse O’Connor Buckley in the class loan boat. Many others deserve special mention – Jim Ryan, event organiser, sailing for the first time with Aoise Carroll put in a very solid performance. Jakub Ozarek & Lara Killen made the very long trek from East Down and came 9th despite having very little competitive Fireball experience under their belts. Two father-son combinations gave it their all, Colm & Cormac Breen and Paul & Morris Ter Horst. And an exemplary match of youth and experience was the team of Jack McNaughten and veteran Michael Keegan.
Arguably however the biggest winner of the event was Killaloe SC itself. The club put on a fantastic event in trying conditions, with great food, camping and hospitality driven by a small army of volunteers. As commodore John Callanan said at the presentation the family-centred club can only manage one or two events like this a year but combining the 420s and the Fireballs absolutely worked perfectly for everyone. In her short speech at the presentation Cara pointed to the fact that the latest generation of Fireballers mostly came from a 420 background and having coached many of them she looked forward to seeing more 420 sailors making the transition as they get a bit older.
Next up for Fireballs and 420s is their joint National Championships at Waterford Harbour Sailing Club on the 18th, 19th & 20th of August. Both fleets are looking forward to another great combined event in that often exciting location.