Fireball Worlds, Thailand 2014 - For the sailing community the world over, the organisation of racing events, club, regional, national and international, presents two challenges – trying to ensure that the entrants are of a sufficiently high calibre to make the event credible and making sure that it is accessible for new participants.
In that regard the Fireball Class is no different and with a schedule of recent and future World Championships that reads, La Rochelle, France (2009), Barbados (2010), Sligo, Ireland (2011), Mandurah, Australia (2012), Portoroz, Slovenia (2013), Pattaya, Thailand (2014), Pwllheli, Wales (2015) and Mossel Bay, South Africa (2016) interspersed with Europeans in Italy (2012), the Czech Republic (2010) and Shetland in 2014, one might have imagined that in terms of venue choices, getting both ends of the Class spectrum to events wouldn’t be too much trouble. However, reality is a different animal and the biggest challenge now is to get appropriate numbers to events.
For the recent Fireball Worlds in Thailand, Fireball Australia came up with a novel idea – they offered free transport to any Junior Representative that wanted to go. This was made possible with new container framing allowing 12 boats to fit in a 40 foot container, four more than the old frames allowed. Costs per boat have fallen even with the free transport of a junior member’s boat.
The call was put out to the four juniors who attended the National Championships at Christmas time, and the offer was quickly taken up by Jalina Thompson-Kambas from Largs Bay Sailing Club. And why wouldn’t she jump at the offer of free boat transport to Thailand, a saving of over $1,500 dollars for the experience of a lifetime.
In offering the spot to Jalina, Fireball Australia’s only ask was that Jalina go over with an open mind, ask lots of questions, soak up the atmosphere and have a great time. Rather than us regular travellers tell you about the worlds lets hear what Jalina experienced and why not just juniors but all sailors should make the effort to get to a major championship overseas.
'From the minute I landed, I felt an invigorating assault on my senses. With so much to look at, I didn’t know where to look first. The weather, the noises, the traffic, and the people - the entire environment was different to anything I had ever experienced.
Evening calm after racing - Pattaya, venue for the 2014 Fireball Worlds. - Fireball Worlds, Thailand. - Fireball International Pattaya Fireball Worlds
'Luckily we had organised a taxi to take us from the airport to Pattaya prior to leaving Australia, because there was only one word to describe the roads – Hectic! I remember waiting along the pick-up and departure bay and the two things that hit me were the hustle and bustle of the crazy driving style, and the humidity - something I still don’t think I ever really got used to. The drive to Pattaya was interesting to say the least. The local driver was very kind and his car was in immaculate condition. The seatbelts looked as though they had never been used folded away nicely. At the time I thought the driver tidied his car regularly folding his seatbelts away, however it was later in the trip I found out that the seatbelts indeed were likely never to have been used at all!
Sunset in Pattaya, venue for the 2014 Fireball Worlds. - Fireball Worlds, Thailand. - Fireball International Pattaya Fireball Worlds
'The next morning we had a look down the streets of Pattaya only to see an abundance of cars, motorbikes, dogs, stalls full of fruit, clothes, street food, and anything else you can think of. Amongst all this chaos it was great to see many familiar faces from sailing either in local coffee shops or just walking down the street taking it all in!
'It was great to meet many new faces from the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and sailors from around the world. As I am new to the class I didn’t know many sailors from outside Australia, however I found the sailors in the Fireball class to be so inviting, helpful and friendly, I quickly felt comfortable with the entire group.
'Because sailing didn’t start until early afternoon, we had plenty of time to do many things in the morning. When we weren’t enjoying the hospitality of the yacht club and the company of the sailors, our time was usually spent shopping, exploring, eating yummy Thai food, shopping, talking to the friendly locals... and did I mention shopping? The only thing that stopped us shopping was the fact that our legs could no longer walk down another aisle of a market, or our hands could not physically carry anymore shopping bags through the 10 storey mall. It’s fair to say we shopped until we dropped!
'Our lay days were spent riding elephants through the jungle and jumping off a 56 storey building and of course more shopping!
'Although the sailing was quite serious and competitive, everyone was happy to help and give advice to us. On various occasions we found ourselves confused whether it was trying to put our boat back together after un-packing it from the container, replacing a gasket, or trying to replace our main halyard, however we were never left behind. The Aussie team was always there to help, along with other friendly fireball sailors we had met on the trip.
'The sailing part of it was great with great weather. As it was our first world championships in the class we took it more as a learning experience than anything else. We learnt heaps being around the abundance of knowledge and experience of all the sailors. It was an awesome feeling when we got up with the good guys giving them a run for their money!
'The Fireball sailors are all very relaxed and friendly, and it was great spending time with them all after sailing. Cabbages and Condoms was an interesting restaurant with mouth-watering food. There we had plenty of time to talk sailing, and get to know all our fellow competitors. I experienced a swing in the ladies toilets, and even caught a bunny rabbit that was hopping around the immaculate gardens surrounding the restaurant.
The overall hospitality of the Thai locals was incredible! We were treated like royals for virtually no money at all. We even discovered a restaurant that was a local lady’s house where she cooked from her own kitchen. The food that came out of that little kitchen has got to be the best food I’ve ever experienced. Not bad for $3.50 a main meal!
'Overall, my first trip overseas exceeded my expectations. Being able to sail everyday was awesome, along with the many other adventures we got up to. The fact that I shared it with the fireball sailors made my trip that much more knowledgeable and enjoyable. Thank you to the fireball association, it was an experience of a life time and I can’t wait for the many other fireball trips to come!'
Jalina and her crew Cameron Philcox finished 14th in the Thailand Worlds and scored two top ten positions in individual races. They also had two races where they were just outside the top ten and the balance of their results were in the mid to late teens. While the Thailand fleet was smaller than usual, Jalina and Cameron were in the top 60% of the fleet in overall terms – a great debut performance. Maybe this has whetted her appetite for Pwllheli in Wales in 2015!
Jalina and Phil in action in Pattaya, Thailand.
On the back of Jalina’s experience and the promotion of travel both within the class and to the sailing community as a whole Fireball International hope that more nations will adopt the Australia approach and send a junior to the worlds. Fireball Australia has definitely seen the benefits and have decided to make it the norm to sponsor a junior to travel to future worlds.