Photo: Gareth Craig/

Fireball Worlds post-mortem

58 boats contested nine races in Sligo

Tuesday July 5th 2011, Author: Cormac Bradley, Location: Ireland

The records will show that a nine-race series was completed for the 2011 Fireball Worlds sailed in Sligo in June 2011 and that 58 boats contested those nine races. What the records will not show is how this programme was completed and how desperately close we came to having a problem! By the Tuesday evening, with a compulsory lay-day to follow on Wednesday, only 2 of the scheduled 6 races had been completed and, it could be argued, with hindsight, one of those was questionable, as the second beat suffered a huge windshift. There will be some who argue that the ninth race swung the series in favour of the winners and that skewed the overall result, but the realistic view is that the ninth race allowed everyone a second discard and no-one would dare question the calibre of the regatta winners.

The eventual top ten at the regatta was, as many might have predicted a roll-call of the British fleet, but on close inspection, while many of the expected names were there, there were some new combinations there too. Only two non-British boats made the inner circle, the Aussies, in Ben Schulz and Phillip Bowley and the Irish in Noel Butler and Stephen Oram.

In this observer’s preview of the regatta the following combinations were listed and the table indicates their finishing positions:

Pos Crew Tot
1 Matt Burge & Richard Wagstaff 16
2 Tom Gillard & Sam Brearey 16
3 David Wade & Simon Potts 19
5 Alex Taylor & Richard Anderton 38
6 Ben Schulz & Phillip Bowley 38
8 Vince Horey & Andy Thompson 52
9 Tim Rush & Richard Pepperdine 70
10 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 72
11 Martyn Lewis & Richard Byrne 72
12 Kenny Rumball & Seamus Moore 76
14 Derian & Andy Scott 82
18 Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella 104
20 Jaroslav Verner & Jakub Napravnik 123
26 Joe Jospe & Tom Egli 160

Of course it could be argued that predicting a winner of this event would simply involve taking a handful of the top British boats, adding a few visitors and simply drawing names out of the hat. But on Thursday evening, not everyone was in that comfortable a position. The combinations of Burge/Wagstaff, Wade/Potts and Horey/Thompson were all sweating on Black Flag rulings from the race committee in Race 5 and in the case of both Horey and Burge, this was a second start line offence in the regatta. Needless to say all three initiated appeals for redress taking advantage of photographs of the start, but ultimately they were unsuccessful.

Gillard/Brearey were at this stage sitting pretty with a 5pt cushion on everyone else. The early finish on the Thursday left everyone surprised as conditions were ideal, but what it did was set up Friday for a potential cliffhanger.

Confusion reigned on the Friday morning when it was realized that the notice posted the previous evening advising of a revised race start time and programme of races may have gone up too late! The weather forecast wasn’t that favourable for racing either with a building S-Easter forecast for the day. And so it evolved with the fourth race being sailed in almost survival conditions, crews claiming that they had gone into the crash test mode of 22’ 2” rakes.

Sailing the ninth race opened the door for Burge and Wagstaff, but they still had to beat Gillard/Brearey by two places to stand a chance of winning the event overall. This they did, taking the last race to Gillard’s third, giving them the regatta on count-back.

While the top ten did have an 'established-name' flavour to it, there were some new combinations that this scribe wasn’t aware of who made an impression. Top newcomers were Jonny McGovern & Max Capener (GBR 14801). At the start of the week they were in scintillating form with 2 second places counting. Thursday’s racing saw them drop down the order a bit with a 4, 7, 7, and Friday saw further slippage but their reward for the first half of the regatta was 4th overall.

The top ten also saw some new helms sailing with recognized crews; Alex Taylor made the tail end of International Week, scored a win there, scored another win during the Worlds (Race 5) and with Richard Anderton claimed 5th place overall. Alan Krailing, sailing with UKFA Chairman Tim Saunders, kept all bar two of his results inside the top ten to take 7th.

The French crew of Martin Peculier & Jean Francois Nouel were beaten by one place by fellow Frenchmen Remy Thuillier & Loic Berthelot but between them they had four top ten finishes and Peculier/Nouel would have had another if their performance in Race 1 hadn’t merited a Black Flag.

Guy Tipton/Matt King had an 'iffy' International week in comparison to their fellow Canadians Jospe & Egli who got on the podium in the first week, but the former combination won out in the Worlds with two top ten finishes and 21st overall.

Ben Schulz & Phillip Bowley always said that the Worlds would be different to International week and so it proved. But in addition to 6th place overall they won the fourth race and kept all their results bar three in the top ten.

Three Irish combinations claimed three top ten finishes each! The first three Irish boats, Noel Butler and Stephen Oram, Kenny Rumball and Seamus Moore and Simon McGrotty and Tony Fitzgerald all had low scores on their final tally and a tenth place and Andy Boyle/Brian Flahive and Graeme Grant/Hugh Butler scored solitary top ten finishes.

So, though I promised to eat humble pie if I was wrong, the truth is that it wasn’t too difficult to suggest who would populate the top ten.

The Race Management Team are to be commended for completing the nine race series but even the most neutral observer would have to admit that they didn’t take the easy route. On Tuesday, a recommendation from the Fireball Council (FI Exec & NCA Reps) who were having their Worlds meeting, to postpone racing until a set time and review the wind situation then was overturned by a decision to go afloat which resulted in a 3.5hr drift around waiting for a race start. Ultimately nothing was possible so the fleet came back in. Thursday saw ideal sailing conditions but a premature halt to proceedings put all sorts of pressure on Friday’s programme.

There were also issues with water depth! On the inner course one didn’t have to stray too far from the area of the race course to find the bottom (in isolated instances), but for those with fixed rudders it was an annoying experience.

Sligo Yacht Club were very hospitable hosts for the two weeks with on-site catering every evening except the Wednesday lay-days, two separate bars and the provision of a “snacky” breakfast with tea/coffee every morning. Their membership is not quite as strong as it has been in recent years (like most clubs) but there was a significant turnout of members every evening at the club and the volunteers worked very hard to keep things shipshape.

The organising committee had to work hard on the sponsorship front and secured a title sponsorship in Dubarry, who provided draw prizes on race nights, vouchers for shoes in a limited raffle, and prizes for the top ten overall. Other mainline sponsors were Fáilte Ireland, Interreg (an EU Regional Development Fund), Clarion House and the Glass House (local hotels), Malin Waters and the ISA, Ireland’s National Sailing Authority.

Supplementary sponsorship came from North Sails, who provided a brand-new suit of sails as a draw prize, and Tissot watches who donated a pair of watches as a draw prize.

The World Championships also gives the fleet and the FI structures an opportunity to set the tome for the future and this event was no exception. The Fireball Executive met on the Monday morning, the Fireball Council met on the Tuesday morning and the Open Forum was held on the Thursday evening. With the race programme in trouble on the Tuesday evening, in advance of the fixed lay-day, the discussion on the merits of a fixed lay-day was initiated and a petition to sail on the Wednesday was already doing the rounds. By Thursday evening the debate had subsided a little but it was re-visited in the Open Forum together with the future schedule of regattas, sail measuring issues and revisions to the class rules. The FI Executive acknowledged the sentiments of the Open Forum and undertook to investigate options put to it in respect of these matters.

From a regatta schedule perspective, we were hosted to a reception and presentation by the Bracciano Yacht Club (Rome, Italy) who will host the 2012 Europeans in July and of course Ben Schulz and his team were given an evening to persuade us all to go to Mandurah in December/January for the next Worlds. The Executive were able to advise on some potentially exciting options for future regattas and also reported that the benefits/reinvestment to Barbados, it’s Government and the tourism industry of hosting the Worlds last year have been

The regatta in Sligo was current Fireball International Commodore, Francois Schluchter’s last in office. In the two meetings that I was able to attend Francois was thanked for his time in office and he in turn thanked the wider Fireball community for their friendship and the camaraderie that he had enjoyed during his six years at the helm. A vote of thanks in both instances was proposed by Maja Suter, Rear-Commodore Europe, and recognised with a round of applause.

Given the financial circumstances we all find ourselves in, a 58-boat turnout isn’t a bad record. Of course we would have liked to see more boats, but that’s the way it goes. Those who came to Sligo will leave with a selection of positive memories and questions of what might have been……….if only!

Sponsored by Dubarry of Ireland, Failte Ireland, Interreg IVA*, The Clarion House (Hotel, Sligo), The Glass House (Sligo),
Malin Waters, The ISA (National Sailing Authority) and Others.

The Fireball World Championship Regatta is supported by Malin Waters, part financed by the European Union European Regional
Development Fund, through Interreg IVA Cross-Border Programme – Investing in your future!

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