Fireball Prizegiving and fleet meal
Once again, Mick and Debbie did us proud with the nosh, and once again Paul made the prizes tables (two this year) groan under the weight of assorted
shiny things and alcoholic goodies. The Miracle fleet joined us for the festivities, along with a few other persons whose fleets presumably don't do this kind of thing (actually, no other fleet does this kind of thing). Club president Harry Sayers and his wife were our guests for the evening, and kindly handed out the prizes for us. This event has grown from being an informal meal into the largest and best presented social event in the club calendar. Awesome !
The Boxing Day Pursuit
A somewhat delayed start in a gusty F3 saw seven Fireballs leave the start line in an orderly fashion. Pete Badham made the early running, chased by
Fleet Captain, Jeremy Davy and Dave Pratt in pretty much that order. A short time later, both Pete and Dave were delayed by knots coming undone on various vital parts, and left the hard work to Mike and
Jeremy, who took it in turns at the front. The slower boats were no match for the Fireballs in this weather, but the dreaded 49ers (two of them for a change) came past a good five minutes before the end,
at which point at least one Fireball stopped trying quite so hard. Finish positions looked like Jeremy 3rd, Mike 4th, Pete 5th. However, it later transpired that both
49ers had retired after sailing the wrong course, which gave us 1st, 2nd and 3rd instead (which was nice).
We are the champions, we are…. (repeat until nauseous)
The Boxing day pursuit was also the last pursuit race of 2000, and the decider for the club championship. Before the race, the top four positions
were Huetts (49er), Greg Irish (Laser), Pete Badham (FB) and Mike Deane (FB). In order for your fleet captain to win the championship, he had to beat Pete by one place, Greg by about five places and see
the 49er somewhere outside the top 10. This was about as unlikely to happen as Camelot getting the lottery franchise again, so it promptly did and Mike gets to keep the trophy for another year. Wow !
The RNLI (New Years Day) Pursuit
Not a very good turnout generally for this one, and the wind was a gusty, shifty F2-3. On the plus side, it was warmer and sunnier than we had any
right to expect. The line was hideously port-biased, and your fleet captain, whilst playing silly-buggers with Pete, managed to force himself over it just before the gun (which is quite tricky) and had
to come back for another attempt. This silliness left all the Fireballs together at the end of the first beat, whereupon Pete (leading) put his kite up for the close reach, found himself unable to lay
the mark and then discovered that the kite didn't want to come down again. He was later seen tacking with the kite up, and continued to wage a war of attrition with it for the rest of the race, which
rather spoilt his chances of beating any other boats. Fleet captain and Paul took advantage of the Pete deficit to pull out a nice little lead over everything else, but the 49er was looking for vengeance
and started to get dangerously close with eight minutes to go. Luckily, one of Paul's more printable curses took effect and one of the 49er jockeys fell out of the boat on the last beat. This enabled
your Fleet captain to sail very slowly from J to K, to be caught (but not passed) by the 49er just as the finish gun went off. Somewhere further back, Pete, Eugene and Dave were having a tremendous
battle for nothing in particular, Dave capsized (again) and Fireballs ended up 1st, 7th, 8th and 9th.
Wanted Dead or Alive…
After three fun packed years of Fleet Captaining, I have decided to retire at the AGM in March. We are in danger of having a very strong committee
next year, so the new fleet captain shouldn't even have to do anything much. No change there then. Volunteers for the job form an orderly queue please….
I had forgotten how much fun Fireballs are when you're not very good at sailing them (although there are some who might suggest that I am well placed
to remember this fact). I crewed for a well known B fleet sailor on what was arguably the nicest day of the year in early December; the wind blew a gusty force 2
4, the sun shone and my fingers didn't go numb at all. In my own boat we would have raced hard, moaned about the course and been moderately satisfied with the day. Sailing in the B fleet, every gust was a challenge, every tack a case study, every three-sail reach a potential disaster. We capsized four times in one race and enjoyed ourselves enormously. It was fun in the way that serious racing rarely achieves. The next week I crewed for a different B fleeter, with much the same results (except I lost count of the capsizes after six). With all the new hotshot Fireballs that are arriving, and the emphasis that we as a club put on racing, it is easy to think that being competitive and winning are what it's all about. Too easy, perhaps, to become discouraged when the White Winder brigade disappear over the horizon whilst pointing higher and going faster than you. Please don't be put off by this. Fireballs are possibly unique in that they cover two different sailing concepts; and are practically two different makes of boat in one.
First we have all the foam-sandwich boats which are of an identical shape where it matters, and all (well nearly all anyway) capable of going as quickly as a
brand new boat. We are effectively one-design at this level (that design being Winder), but you have to pay £2,500 minimum to play, and buy new sails every few years. Then we have the wooden and
fibreglass boats which are all slower, but typically cost sub £1,000 to buy *. This kit is most definitely not one-design, but you do get a huge amount of performance for your money. Plus, you get to
upgrade the thing as you go along, with the second hand sails, spars, nifty ideas etc which the hotshot fleet generate. It is budget sailing at its very best.
But let's be clear about this; these classes of Fireball are distinctly different (especially as the wind picks up), and you cannot even consider racing the
older stuff against foam sandwich articles in a force 4 unless you are some kind of superhero. So we try to cater for both these classes within the fleet at Draycote, primarily by segregating them into A
and B fleets. So the slow boats don't really race the fast ones at all, they have their own series and their own prizes. We also allow the slow (B) fleet to start on the three minute gun as a minor
concession to making it all a bit more fun for them, although on the whole they seem to prefer starting with the A fleet anyway. Don't ask me why.
In previous years the B fleet outnumbered the A fleet considerably on the water. Now it is the other way around, as various B fleeters have recently upgraded to
Winders and a few hotshot types came in from elsewhere. There are still more B fleet boats on the bank, but they don't get sailed as much, with the result that those that do turn up often look a bit
lonely (but are more likely to win prizes, of course). If you are a B fleet sailor who would like to race more often than at present, but are lacking some critical item such as (say) a crew, a bit of
equipment, some help and advice or whatever, please let us know. Not wanting to mince words, we are here primarily to make Fireball sailing more accessible and fun, and if we can't do that for the B
fleet, then we're not doing a very good job.
Back at the A and B fleets, last year was the first year that we ran race series from January to December, and as a result we left a few foam sandwich boats in
the B fleet which would not ideally have been there. This year we've kicked them all out, and the line-up looks like this:
* Then there's some stuff in between these categories, which it is difficult to generalise about and I'm going to ignore, OK.