Irish Open - Greystones

27 June 2017

For their 2017 Open Championship, the Irish Fireball Class Association departed from their normal two-day, six-race format for provincial championships and held a single day Championship with a target of four races.

Additionally, they negotiated a new venue, Greystones Sailing Club, a short distance south of Dun Laoghaire, the current centre of Fireball sailing in Ireland. Greystones' fortunes have changed significantly after an extensive upgrade to the harbour. They now boast a new clubhouse in the corner of the harbour complex with changing rooms at ground floor level and an upper floor function room with bar and balcony areas that give members and visitors an uninterrupted sea view in one direction and a view of the town and hills in the background in the other direction. They have a secure dinghy park about 60m away from the clubhouse and access to two slipways that go directly to water and a third that allows beach launching. On the other side of the harbour complex, Greystones Marina provides sheltered conditions for larger boats and is home to the rescue craft operated by the club.

The Fireball Open Championships were sailed as part of Greystones' Dinghy Regatta and we joined a fleet that consisted of Wayfarers (3), GP14s (4), Enterprises (2), RS200s and 400s, Lasers (2) and Fevas.

Due to Trojan work by Frank Miller, the Fireball fleet numbered eight boats including Ed Butler's 14990 which has not seen any competitive action for a couple of years. Ed brought the boat back from Kerry and he and Frank got it into racing order in the week before the event. He then organised for it to be sailed by Teddy Byrne and Grattan Donnelly. Frank himself was crewed by Brenda McGuire, normally seen in 14865 with Mary Chambers. Also making a comeback of sorts, albeit from the close of the Frostbites in March, were Margaret Casey and Neil Colin in 14775 who have been campaigning Flying Fifteens with great success.

Race Officer Mark Usher had a challenging day with offshore westerlies setting the tone for the day. Due to the terrain behind the town – the Wicklow Hills – I can only assume that the conditions were influenced by the wind bending around one hill or the other creating huge lifts and headers and blasts of stronger breeze on occasions. From a sunshine perspective we were well served, but although it wasn't a blue sky day, the clouds moving through at a decent "clip" meant that the Factor 20/30 or higher still had work to do.

Four full Olympic races were sailed with Fireballs enjoying the third start of the day as a single start, preceded by the PY Class and the RS classes. This should have given some insight as to which way to go up the beat, but the conditions were changing so frequently that this foresight wasn't quite enough.

On the water, Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) dominated the results with four wins. However, they were pushed on occasions by the Clancy brothers, Conor & James (14807) who scored four seconds. Note that it says they dominated the results, not the racing because they weren't always the lead boat. There were some interactions with the Clancys on the off-wind legs where there was a sense that Noel & Steve were doing a bit of experimentation in their approaches to the gybe and leeward marks. The variability of the wind on the first reach of the triangle, parallel to the shoreline, made this a possibility and on some of the sausage legs they were seen to be very wide of the rhumb line between the weather mark and the leeward mark. Indeed there was some two-sail reaching on the top reaces on the day.

Upwind however they kept a loose eye of the Clancys – never straying too far away from their chasers. Behind these two, Teddy Byrne & Grattan Donnelly (14990) had a consistent day on the water with two thirds and two fourths to take 3rd overall. Teddy had taken the helm of Conor Clancy's 14807 on the preceding Tuesday night in Dun Laoghaire and won the second race that night, so we shouldn't have been surprised to see them at the front end of the fleet.

With one exception all the other boats had at least one good race – Frank Miller & Brenda McGuire (14713) had a fourth, Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) had a third, Louise McKenna & Cormac Bradley (14691) had a third, Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938) had a good last race, but the ladies in 14854, Cariosa Power & Marie Barry didn't have their best day.

Two boats each claimed two capsizes – McKenna & Bradley - Bradley caught on the wrong side of an obvious tack on the first beat of the second race and a blow-over on the "first second reach" of the last race with the spinnaker filling with water. In the third race however, they redeemed themselves by leading the fleet around the first weather mark and finishing 3rd in the race. McGrotty & Cramer also had one capsize off-wind, that I saw, but don't have the details on the other.

Unfortunately, the results fell victim to a gremlin that started awarding "half-points" to certain finishing positions, as in 1.5pts for Butler & Oram's fourth race win and the same score to McGrotty & Cramer in the same race and 6.5pts for 3rd in McKenna & Bradley's third race. Even after a stewards' enquiry, the gremlins persisted!

This caused a delay in the prize-giving but Commodore Darragh Cafferky was very generous in his welcome to the Fireball Class and commended them for the standard of their sailing as observed from the balcony of the club. He insisted that the Class would be most welcome to return to the club. Due thanks were also given to Monica Schaefer, Sailing Secretary, and her "on-the water" team for making the regatta a success and to the Usher family for the donation of their boat as Committee Boat for the regatta.

Overall Results:

1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (National Yacht Club) 15061 3pts
2 Conor & James Clancy (Royal St George Yacht Club) 14807 6pts
3 Teddy Byrne & Grattan Donnelly (Wicklow Sailing Club) 14990 10pts
4 Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (Skerries Sailing Club) 14938
5 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club) 14775
6 Frank Miller & Brenda McGuire (Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club) 14713
7 Louise McKenna & Cormac Bradley (Royal St George yacht Club) 14691
8 Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (Dun Laoghaire Motor & National Yachts Clubs) 14854

Entry to the event included a post-racing barbecue which gave the Fireballs a chance to conduct a post-mortem on the racing and the challenging physical conditions.

Race activity in Dun Laoghaire continues on Tuesday night and our next event is the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta over the weekend July 7th – 9th, with the Leinsters the following weekend in Skerries. Note that the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta is not part of our Traveller Series, but is an event we are supporting as a Class.