by Chris Payne
Fireballs go back to Thailand
For its 42nd World Championship, the International Fireball class is heading back to the Royal Varuna YC in Pattaya in Thailand in March 2008. This is the third time the Fireball class has sailed their World Championship there and is a tribute to the location, facilities of the Yacht Club and local area and has become a highlight of the Fireball Calendar.
Approximately 80 entries are expected from 12 different countries across four continents, showing the strength of the class world wide. The fleet will include two World Champions, plus national champions from countries such as Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
In last year’s World Championship, the British (GBR) boats dominated, finishing with 8 boats in the top 10 from the 100 boat fleet. This year it is expected to be a lot closer with countries sending some of their largest teams to take on Team GBR. These teams include Australia, Canada, USA, Ireland, Switzerland and Japan. Over the last 10 years the class has developed builders around the world that produce similar boats that are not only competitive worldwide but also remain competitive over many years. This has made for extremely close one design racing and will make it tough for the British team to dominate again.
This championship is also being used to help develop the local Thai fleet of Fireballs with the Thailand National Championship being a warm up regatta for the international fleet. In 2000 when the World Championship was last in Thailand the top Thai boat finished fourth in the World Championship, showing the depth of talent in their fleet.
Individually the competition will be fierce with Richard Estaugh/Rob Gardner (GBR) trying to defend their World Championship Title against the likes of Erich and Ruedi Moser (SUI) 2006 World Champions, Robin Inns/Joel Coultas (AUS) 2007/08 Australian National Champions, and Hiroshi Kato and Sadahiro Kumagai (JPN) 2007 Japanese National Champions.
Other sailors competitors expected to be in the mix at the end include Kevin Hope/Russell Thorne (GBR), 2007 French National Champions, David Wade / Ben MacCrane (GBR) (2007 / 2008 1st Fireball at the Grafham Grand Prix, the Bloody Mary and the Steve Nicholson Trophy).
Richard Mason / Simon Hextall (GBR) 2007 Fireball Inland Champions, Joe Jespie/Tom Egli (CAN) 2nd 2006 Fireball Worlds, Robert Levy/Rob Waldy (CAN), 4th 2006 Fireball Worlds, Robert Thompson/Gareth Owen (CAN) ex Dart World Champion, Tomas Musil (CZE), 2nd 2004 Fireball World Champion, 470 Czech Republic Champion.
Although it has been 33 years since a women has won the Fireball World Championship (Joan Ellis USA 1975) the number of women competing at last years worlds exceeded 30, showing a fundamental strength of the class where women can compete equally with the men. This year Debbie Kirkby (CAN) and Heather Macfarlane (AUS) are expected to compete with the men for the top spots.
2008 Fireball Worlds: 16th to 21st March
International Week/Thai Nationals: 8th to 14th March