Fireball Open at Hayling Island SC 2018

20 June 2018

Gul sponsored Golden Dolphin series round 4, 16-17 June  


 Report by Russ Clark (crew in GBR15096)

 Photos by Rob O'Neill


If ever there was a weekend to own and sail a Fireball, then last weekend was it.  As our first Fireball open meeting Penny and I joined 22 other Fireballs at Hayling Island SC for an epic weekend of racing in company with the Merlin Rockets and Scorpions.  Saturday morning was grey and blustery and as boats were rigged and halyards rattled against masts the dinghy park chat revolved around one subject, will we race in the shelter of the harbour, or head out to sea to face a strengthening forecast and wind over tide conditions.  With Sunday’s forecast looking good for a windy but manageable day in the bay the race officer made the uncontested decision to stay in the harbour, using the favorable time of high water and run three triangle, sausage, triangle races.


Saturday (races 1-3) 

The wind on Saturday peaked at 27kts in the harbour although most of the time we had a solid force 5.  With flat water the conditions were set for a real blast.  Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff set the pace, winning race 1 from Tom Gillard and Geoff Edwards.  The front five boats stayed as a well-formed pack and positions swapped regularly, an indication of how close the racing was to be.  Clearly this was the first strong wind event for a while as several boats found new ways of clearing weed from foils and unexpectedly rinsing their sails, the gusts were particularly unforgiving and a miss-timed gybe or a dipped boom meant an early swim on the downwind legs.  It appears we were not alone in conducting running repairs to kite sheets between races.  There is clearly significant load on the guy and the knot that looked perfectly fine when the kite sheets were made in the lounge at home, merrily popped through the bobble causing a few missed heartbeats when flat out on the bottom reach.  The breeze eased a bit for race 2 and the fleet hardly separated arriving at the first leeward mark six abreast.  Our late start (caused by the above mention re-rig) gave us the determination drive the boat hard, working our way through the fleet, using the shifts to make gains and pushing harder than ever downwind.  Race 2 honours went to DJ and Vyv with Tom and Geoff close behind.  A wind increase and a left shift prior to the start of race 3 spread the fleet down the start line.  After the first general recall of the weekend the black flag came straight out.  Despite this, the fleet pushed the line hard at the restart and 3 boats were BFD, shooed off the race course by the RIBs waving a white board, I suppose this is sailings equivalent of a red card.   We had a clean start and flew upwind to lead at mark 1.  Looking back at a fleet of Fireballs tearing downwind is a spectacular sight.  This was made even better once DJ and Vyv, who were right on our transom, were shown the OCS red card from the RIB leaving us free to play the shifts and extend to take race 3 from the extremely consistent Tom and Geoff with their third 2nd place of the day.


The fleet retired ashore for a well earned drink and sharing tales of adventure.  Nick Hurst proved that if an outhaul snaps once, the same rope will snap again if it is just shortened. Dave Hall generously gave up first placed to check for weed (the slow way) and Nick Copsey and Dan Vincent broke their pole end fitting in a spectacular death roll at the gybe mark (their first of two repeat pole failures in the weekend).


Sunday (races 4-6)


At last, the day of days arrived with big breeze in the bay.  For some another hour or two in bed would have been welcome after a superb HISC social, however the 1100 start time beckoned and the fleet headed offshore into a 3-4 foot swell and 20kts of breeze.  With a strong current running, the race team set a great course allowing the fleet to stretch its legs downwind with tight reaches with boats leaping of the wave tops and kites straining.  Despite the conditions the racing was as tight as ever, positions were traded throughout the fleet and for many the adventures began.  David Sayce was reportedly seen capsized and swimming for the first time since 1987 (David, for a debrief on your breaststroke style see Chris Turner next time you’re at the club) and remarkably, Chris Thorne and Andy Stewart managed to lose a complete spinnaker bag over the side, how is that possible?


At the front of the fleet, Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff were superb, winning races 4 and 5.  Everyone thought they’d gone ashore for the last race after winning the event with a race to spare…. however, rumor has it they hadn’t practiced changing spreader settings in those conditions and the combination of a crew up the mast, a big wave and gravity took charge.  The result was significantly more pre-bend than anticipated care of the Hayling sand resulting in an early sail home.


For the rest of us we had a ball.  Upwind, jumping off waves into the air so far that daylight was visible behind the centerboard and screaming downwind (we recorded 18 kts).  The racing was intense; at the end of the day with second to fourth place separated by just one point the final race was hotly contested.  Small shifts allowed for tactical gains and losses upwind and a battle for the podium positions continued to the final reach of the final race.  We led DJ and Vyv at the first mark until we proved that a Fireball makes a poor submarine and a water over the thwart on the run made us a bit slow allowing them past, not to be caught.  We managed to fend off a determined Tom Gillard in 3rd place.  The fast reach back home in champagne conditions and surfing on the swell didn’t take long at all.


In summary, the Fireball fleet had a fantastic weekend of racing.  Everyone at HISC made us all feel very welcome; the race team did a great job as did the rescue boat crews, thank you all.  Many congratulations to Ian and Richard for an excellent win, we finished 2nd on count back from Tom and Geoff who took 3rd.  Special congratulations go to Barry Smith and Richard Spring for winning the merit award as the lowest placed finisher of all 6 races with thanks to the title sponsors Gul for the prizes. 

                                                               Winners Ian Dobson / Richard Wagstaff


As a final note, we bought our Fireball because we’d heard the racing was high class.  The reality definitely matches the reputation.  Not only that, the class is a friendly, competitive and social group of people.  If you ever had a thought that maybe I should get a Fireball then just do it, you won’t be disappointed.  See you all in Penzance for the Nationals in July and Carnac for the World Championships in August.


P.S.  The fleet is so welcoming they invite you to write the report after your first event!!