Brits in front
The Fireball class enjoys its 50th anniversary this year and 65 boats from seven countries took to the waters of Comet Bay in Mandurah, Western Australia for the opening day of the 2012 International Fireball Worlds. Two races were held under partly cloudy skies, but ideal 10–16 knot breezes, building later in the afternoon with gusts to 18 knots.
The PRO set two races using the now familiar triangle/sausage/triangle courses, enjoyed by the class as it provides some exhilarating reaches. As the Kiwis say: ‘The sheep were almost out of the paddock’ a few white tops and a small swell gave competitors plenty to test them.
Race 1 begun on time at 1300 local with a clean start in around 12 knots from the S/SE. Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey (GBR) led round the windward mark ahead of two Adelaide boats, Greg Allison and Richard Watson (AUS) and new Australian National Champions, John Heywood and Brett Littledike. The Brits managed to hold off the challenge of the chasing Australians flying down the tight reaches but the battle for second and third remained all the way to the final reach to the turning mark for the finish.
Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey took the gun from Tom Gordon and Jack Fletcher (AUS) who sailed through the top half of the fleet with good boat speed. Third on the podium was Dave Wade and Tim Saxton of Great Britain, who also gained places on the reaches.
There was a short wait between races to reset the course due to a slight shift and increase in wind pressure. The breeze had notched up a few knots with some gusts making the downwind gybes quite taxing for the lower half of the fleet, resulting in a number of retirements from race two of the day.
Another clean start saw John Heywood and Brett Littledike leading the chasing Adelaide gaggle of Greg Allison and Richard Watson, and fellow club members, Nathan Stockley and Dave Kemp. The Australian champions gained on every leg showing superior boat speed to open up at least a 200m lead by the last wing mark.
The chase for second however was all on for the two Aussie boats, neck and neck all the way down the final reach.
John Heywood and Brett Littledike showed a clean pair of heals scoring their first bullet of the 2012 Worlds and on the final hitch to the finish, Greg Allison and Richard Watson prevailed from club chums, Robert Inns and Joel Coultas. The British pair of Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey climbed to fourth to finish day one with a three point lead in the championship.
“Once we were clear ahead we were able to comfortably extend,” remarked Heywood. “We had good boat speed in those wind strengths. The first race was a bit shifty but in the second we managed to find the marks well and just extended.”
Heywood/Littledike and Inns/Coultas share 8pts with Britain’s Dave Wade and Tim Saxton on 9pts. British and Australian boats make up the top 9 places overall, Martin Korbovy and Pavel Winkler from the Czech Republic lie in 10th. Meanwhile the new International Fireball Week champions, Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend of Great Britain had a mediocre start to their Worlds, (by their standards!) scoring a sixth and
ninth to sit in 8th place overall.
The fleet were welcomed ashore to a superb smorgasbord of local seafood provided by Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club, (oh and free beer!!). Racing resumes at 1300 local time tomorrow (Tuesday) with an advanced forecast of good southeasterly breezes of 15–20 knots.
Full results here