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Maritimo 2023 S-Series LEADERBOARD

Irish Fireball Munster Championships at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club

by Chris Bateman 25 Apr 06:49 PDT 20-21 April 2024

The Irish Fireball Munster Championships were held last weekend on April 20th/21st at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club in stunning weather conditions.

It had seemed like a long time coming but alas the wait was finally over and the eve of the first event of the season for the Fireball class had arrived. Months of harsh winter sailing had been endured and so the event at Monkstown Bay was met with much enthusiasm and excitement from the Fireball sailors.

Sailors travelled from all over Ireland to attend, such as Dublin, Sligo, Wexford, Kerry and Cork, to name a few.

The first morning of the championship in Monkstown was a spectacular sight. Twenty-five Fireballs were packed in to the dinghy park with competitors rigging at speed, eager to hit the water. Covers were folded away and sails unrolled. The crinkle of fresh spinnakers and sounds of enthusiastic chat were heard from all over. The atmosphere was bright and cheerful, the water a sparkling blue. The wind was warm and the sun was high, with a light sea breeze starting to fill in across the harbour. The air thrummed with anticipation while busy volunteers prepared for the day's racing.

The race area was set off Cuskinny beach, some distance away from the sailing club. Race Officer Dave Barry and his team with Johnny Moynihan and co. set off early to prepare the triangular course in time for the midday starting gun. The Fireball sailors followed suit, launching early in their excitement for the races to come.

The wind filled in slowly from the South East, spreading across the course in an unsettled manner. Big wind shifts were to be the order of business for the day. The committee had a course set right on time despite the shifts.

With the five minute gun sounded for Race One, the competitors piled onto the start line, jostling for position.

The fleet eagerly pushed forward on the line until finally, the race was under way. It was a drag race to the first big shift on the starboard side of the course. The fleet was highly competitive with big position changes happening on every leg of the three lap course. It was to be a battle of patience and perseverance. In the end it was the team of Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix of NYC who took first place, having played every shift as well as could be done. Just behind in second was Adrian Lee and Ossian Geraghty of MBSC. Daniel and Harry Thompson of Wexford took third place having picked up a big wind shift on the final lap of the race.

Race Two got under way in a clean manner. Ed Butler and crew Iso Inan of Sligo made the most of the light and tricky winds, to take first place. Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington of MBSC took second place. In third place it was Lee/Geraghty. All three scraped just ahead of the three boats competing behind in what was very nearly a six boat photo finish.

Race three was won by the current national champions Noel Butler and Stephen Oram of NYC. Having been slightly behind in the first two races, they found their mojo and left the fleet behind in the final race of the day. The ever consistent team of Barry/Rimmington took second place, with Ferguson/Chaix in third.

With three successful races completed the fleet headed for home in the scorching sun. Overnight leaders were Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix of NYC, who sailed a fantastic three races and showed their tactical skills in the best way possible.

Day two

Day two of the championship opened in a similar fashion. A lazy sun hung low over the bay and the sky was blue. The harbour was as still as a mill pond. A low tide made the bay look small but the birds sang and the water was inviting. The competitors arrived early, bulling to hit the water and get racing. The start was set an hour earlier than the day previous. The wind was due to fill in from the East, just in time for the first race.

Sails were hoisted and colourful spinnakers dried. Onlookers and supporters sat by, enjoying the spectacle.

The competitors prepared their tow lines in anticipation of a long haul out to the race area. Launching into the still waters of the bay, they paddled up to the tow boats and made fast their painters. Happy faces poked out from underneath bright sails and they began the tow out to Cuskinny.

The wind filled in from the East just as the hoard of Fireballs arrived at the race area. A soft eight knot breeze blew over the course. There was a small wait for the breeze to settle but it soon calmed down and proved to be gentle and consistent.

Race Four of the series kicked off at 11U30am. It became evident that overnight the fleet had become even more competitive, pushing the start line to the limit and fighting even harder all across the racecourse. All in good spirits, of course!

At the first windward mark it was Ritchie Harrington and Sandy O'Brien of MBSC, sailing in at speed on the starboard lay line in first place. Three rounds later and at the finish line it was Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington who took first place, sailing well in the shifty conditions. Taking second place was Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix. In third place it was Louise McKenna and Hermine O'Keefe of RStGYC.

For Race Five, the wind had swung around to the South East and picked up slightly. At the top it was a battle of four boats. Noel Butler and Stephen Oram fought against Barry/Rimmington, while Ferguson/Chaix fought with Chris Bateman and Lauren Murphy of MBSC. Positions changed constantly throughout the race and in the end it was Butler/Oram who took first place, with Barry/Rimmington in second and Ferguson/Chaix in third.

Race Six, the final race of the series brought 40 degree wind shifts and huge pressure changes, making it the most difficult of the day. The Thompson brothers led at the windward mark, however they were not safe. Barry/ Rimmington snapped at their heels in second, with Ferguson/Chaix in third. By the bottom of the leg, Bateman/Murphy had caught up and the next upwind became another battle between the four boats. Positions changed constantly and the racing was tight. Bateman/Murphy pulled into second, Barry/ Rimmington dropped back to fourth. However by the top mark, the top four had sailed into a wind hole and wallowed with sails hanging limp for a minute. Barry/Rimmington picked up a 30 degree shift from the right and crossed the fleet in first place while the rest wallowed. A 60 degree wind shift from the left ten seconds later allowed Ed Butler to sail back into contention, and Ferguson/ Chaix slipped passed the Thompons. Bateman/Murphy dropped back, having gotten stuck between both shifts.

In the end it was Ferguson/Chaix who took first place across the line, ahead of Barry/Rimmington in second place. The Thompsons held on to third place.

This concluded the day, and the fleet sailed home tired and happy. It had been a fantastic day's racing in champagne sailing conditions. Upon arrival at the sailing club, the boats were packed away, sails rolled and covers donned. Once the pack was finished the weary competitors migrated to the club and basked in the evening sun while awaiting the prize-giving. Easy conversation was had over cold drinks and discussion of the next Fireball Championship had already begun.

The prizes were presented by MBSC's commodore Jacqui O'Brien.

Winning the Fireball Munster Championships (and their first Fireball event) were Ewen Barry and Sandy Rimmington of the host club.

Second place went to Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix of the National Yacht Club, competing in their first event as a team.

Third place went to Noel Butler and Stephen Oram of the National Yacht Club.

Winning the silver fleet were Brian Jones and Barry O'Connor of MBSC, in their first Fireball event.

Second place in the silver fleet went to Colm and Cormac Breene of DMYC. Third place in silver went to Paul ter Horst and Pat McGoldrick, also of DMYC.

Winner of the Classic trophy for his recent restoration of his Fireball named "Whiskey" went to 16 year old Sean O'Herlihy from Iniscarra Sailing and Kayaking Club, sailing with his new helm Frances Corkery of the same club.

This concluded the first event of the season for the Fireball Class. The championship was an extreme success, with sailors coming from all over the country. The weather could not have been better, the atmosphere could not have been happier. No fleet will match the Fireballs for their comradeship, friendliness, kind nature, and value. The class continues to grow rapidly as the people in our little country are quickly realising the boat that they have been missing throughout their lives is- a Fireball!

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