Summer 2003
Draycote Water
Fireball Fleet Open Meeting
2018 Review Race Results Joining the
Fleet Buying
a boat Rigging,
Articles & Info Scrap
Book Calendar Draycote

Well the fleet is still getting better. Or to put it another way, it is still getting bigger, and the two are inextricably linked to my mind. The summer hols are nearly over so one or two of you might turn up and sail again, and we've got a packed Autumn calendar and the promise of some proper wind to look forward to.

Stuff Occurring

What we did on our holidays - Abersoch 2003

 "Let's all do Abersoch this year, it's such a lovely place, nice gentle sailing, a real family holiday, and if it gets too windy they just abandon the race." said one of the older and wiser (?) members of the Fireball fleet in the Draycote bar one evening when the fleet was making the decision whether to do the Nationals in Paignton or Dinghy Week in Abersoch for the annual DWSC summer outing.

"Oh yeah, like bullsh*t" said some of the more terrified members of the Draycote Posse on the startline of the first race as yet another 30knot squall wiped out 10 more Fireballs before they'd even got over the start line of the first race on their supposedly gentle family sailing holiday.

"Er, JR, I think we're gonna die when that next gust hits…" said one of the aforementioned (much) older and (marginally) wiser members of the Draycote Posse to the other (who was by this time trapezing off the transom) as they surfed down waves at 18 knots with just the tip of the rudder in the water.

"Are those bloody idiots in 14818 going to realise it's all been scrapped and come in and  tally off before we have to launch the Cardigan Bay Lifeboat?" said one very annoyed race officer to the other in the OD box of the South Caernarfonshire Yacht Club on Sunday afternoon…

OK you get the idea, Abersoch 2003 was CHUFFIN' WINDY!  It started on the aforementioned Sunday, which comprised 10 minutes of racing, six RS400 rigs totalled, and a very annoyed HM Coastguard wondering why it had been run at all.  Monday was much the same, although this time it wasn't abandoned and gave those brave (or stupid!) enough to go out some of the most awesome sailing you are ever likely to encounter.  25 knots gusting 40, bright sunshine, BIG waves, gallons of spray and really broad reaches that just begged to be 3 sailed.  Full respect to Pete and John for a 1st place in some very testing conditions. Iain and Paula limped home in second to last place after having pulled the mainsheet bridle through the gunwale…but that second to last turned out to be a 13th on account of everyone else having given up or stayed in the bar to watch the carnage! (Another four RS400 Cumulus rigs today then…oh dear LDC, no Fireball masts broken at all…)


Tuesday dawned and Mike stupidly allowed Ed to change the mast rake on 14226. Ed was feeling indecisive that morning and opted for 22'9 on the port side and 22'7 on the starboard. The wind was more sensible and gave some good racing (especially if you were in 14226 on starboard tack), although poor old Team Pukka Pies (Jez and Rosco) broke their jib halyard, tarnishing their excellent results so far. However, if Tuesday was sensible Wednesday was anything but. With loads of wind and naff all visibility, racing on the water was abandoned and the serious racing in the bar started. Pete Badham went hard right and threw down serious amounts of Fosters in a very tactical manner, however Jez's start from the port end of the bar didn't pay as for the second day running he was scored RTD (Really Terribly Drunk) and went home.  Pete continued covering arch rival Spanner pint-for-pint, but the Alverbanks jockey was put to shame with Mr Badham's seemingly limitless capability of handling extreme conditions and extreme alcohol. With the Draycote crowd starting to become distinctly loud our esteemed commodore turned up looking all official in a tie, which was quickly removed by one member whilst another quickly thrust a double vodka blueberry Slush-Puppy into his hand.  Allegedly much fun was had for the rest of the night, although this is purely a guess as no-one can actually remember anything else about it…

Thursday dawned less wet than Wednesday, but almost as windy, just for a change. The Draycote hot-shots were doing well and flying the flag for us, notwithstanding Mike and Ed having a near miss at taking the rudder off the boat in front as it went under wave (the rudder was entirely out of the water at the time). Afterwards we amazingly seemed to be allowed back in the bar whilst Iain spent the evening winning his protest after a port/starboard collision which saw Kath going head-first through their nice Kevlar main. Oops.

Thursday night saw most of the fleet huddled round Jez's barbeque in full offshore foul-weather gear eating yet more of Sue's by now legendary home made beef burgers, whilst trying to hold the motor home awning down in the building 25knot breeze.  Poor old Steve and Jo were not so lucky, with their tent last seen heading out towards the SWR marker!  Top tuning tip to come out of that night's discussion was for windy 3 sail reaches, do something or other with rig tension and mast rake or whatever you call it, take 1 pound of mince, mix into a bowl with chopped onion and egg, form into burgers with your hand, barbeque and immediately eat as many as possible, and then just sit back and giggle as you destroy the rest of the fleet offwind. Bring it on!!

Friday at last gave some crews the opportunity to change from the "stupidly windy" settings they'd been on all week and gave some nice tactical warm, sunny Abersoch racing.  Graham/Sue had an excellent day and managed to scotch Mike/Ed's chances of 4th overall on the last beat (cheers Graham). Pete and JR also had a good one, although they were unable to get the 1st required to win the event.


Results at the end of the day were as follows:

Badders/JR/Paula 3rd

Mikey/Ed   5th

Graham/Sue 7th

Jez/Roscoe 10th

Iain/Kath/Paula  16th

Pete/Jane  34th

Same again next year anyone?


Fireball Europeans Shetland Islands, July 2003

"You'll be sailing round icebergs as buoys and look out for polar bears," was our departing shot from Fireball Fleet Captain Iain.  None of that happened.  In fact quite the reverse.  The weather for most of the time was quite unseasonal, with temperatures over 20oC and the Shetland Islanders delightedly showing off their suntans! The sun and high pressure brought mainly light winds with most of the races sailed in non-trapezing conditions in a big swell! In fact, one day I was seasick and had to relinquish the helm to Mike who sailed the hour long trip in 14645 back to Lerwick Boating Club - 3 sails up and me curled up at the front!   (I can now recommend the purchase of Boots' travel sickness bands!).  The loss of these 2 races also became our discards. We were eventually placed 34th out of 48 entries for the Europeans, our best result being on the Monday when in true Fireballing reaching weather we managed 21st on the only trapezoid course!

One everlasting memory of the event will be the friendliness of the Shetlanders. They are so open and have no reserve.  Nothing was too much trouble for the competitors. They had planned and organised for 3 years and it showed in a great event!  We can now boast launching and retrieving skills from a slope into 12 ft deep water inside a harbour.  We also sampled local food, such as salmon and scallops, not to mention the local beer and nightcaps of speciality whiskies. The free return ferry journeys provided by Northlink Ferries were excellent  luxurious cabins with ensuite and vouchers for all your meals!

We made so many friends from visiting countries, including Slovenia, France, Switzerland, Germany and Ireland, everyone having Fireballing as a common talking point (in English, of course).  The camaraderie was worth going for and we are hooked: Mike is already planning for the Europeans in Slovenia next year  make a date in your diary.

Finally, we also attempted to take part in the Scottish Nationals but were hindered by Force 5 conditions plus on the first afternoon, resulting in 3 capsizes out to the start down the straits, only to find the race officer had abandoned the second start!  We also had spinnaker halyard problems, resulting in missed races, but we're experts on this now and can even cure a jam on the water.

Dates for your diaries:

Worlds 2004  - late December 2003/January 2004 (Elaine Tudor still has container places available).

English Nationals 2004 proposed at Fowey or Dale, South Wales.

Europeans/Slovenia Nationals 2004 17 24 September 2004 (sounds great fun and details on their website by October).

English Nationals/Worlds 2005 Teignemouth (2 week event)

English Nationals 2006 Abersoch, August (the week following Abersoch Week).

Europeans 2006 (proposed)  La Baule, France, May and Worlds (proposed) Ontario, Canada summer         Mike and Helen



Three Draycote Fireballs made it to the Nationals  Mike and I, Eugene and Bob, Paula and Roscoe. You didn't miss much!  The weather was glorious  blazing sun every day, warm days and evenings but NO decent wind.  Even less than the Shetlands!


Credit goes to the patience and optimism of the race officer, but we managed 5 out of 10 races!  Mike trapezed twice all week and one of these opportunities was on the only decent reach back to shore on an off-shore breeze!  Races were eventually scheduled every day, cancelling the lay day. All I can remember is that we drifted out, spent much time hanging around waiting for the sea breeze to kick in (or not), occasionally raced, jumped off for a refreshing swim or were towed back in. I counted 10 Fireballs being towed by a dorey one lunchtime and wish I had had a camera with me !

Eugene and Bob didn't have a good week either  they were over the line on one race and missed another because they were offsite, expecting a 12 noon start, only to find the race officer had sent everyone off at 11.10 am !  Paula and Roscoe sailed all but one race and seemed to learn a lot about rigging and derigging "Doris", the challenges of using old sails in light conditions and fitting a mismatching launching trolley and road trailer together. They also sampled loads of local ice cream and Paula can now drink Roscoe under the table !

Helen Salisbury

Firebowl Trophy Event

Held over two Sundays in late April and early May. The first race started in conditions which looked a bit on the windy side, and after due consideration turned out to be a lot on the windy side. Dave and Paul went off on scratch with Paula and Tony (Paula helming !). After the 2nd mark Paula "I've never helmed before gimme a good handicap" and Tony were in the lead and Dave/Paul were in the water. Then it got a bit windier. Luke and Katherine capsized after a mere 12 seconds afloat, thereby breaking the record for the quickest capsize in a handicap event (previously held by John/Angie at 20 seconds). Jez/Rosco also had a bit of a swim on the way to the first mark  the rest of the fleet got away without incident. Paula/Tony still had a very tasty lead, when they made a criminal error involving flying the kite whilst under the influence of a novice helm and a frankly insane crew, and as a result had a nice swim while the entire fleet sailed past. At just over the hour, all the boats were pretty close together so we opted to finish the race then and Miles/Steve got across the line first with Don/Simon second. With a rising wind and only four boats finishing out of the 14 starters, we abandoned the next two races.

The second day dawned bright and seemed breezy driving to the club, although it all seemed a bit mysteriously calm in the boatpark. Obviously we were rigging in the lee of the hill, but a quick scan of the far shore for tell-tale breakers confirmed their absence and the decision was made to run the event, albeit on "windy" handicaps as we suspected there may be more than 13mph out in the middle of the lake. Anne Steele and Tina Watkins did a sterling job of getting the fleet organised and sent off on time, and as Tina so eloquently put it she was "parping" loudly every minute or so with the "parper" whilst the crews desperately tried to stop their boats reaching up the slipways in the shifty wind prior to the off. It soon became apparent -GUST- that when you got out -GUST- towards the middle of -GUST-the lake there were some big -GUSTS- that were arriving without warning giving some "interesting" conditions. In fact, it sounds like it was a good idea for us not to be on the club start line as it was carnage with most of the laser fleet performing some synchronised turtling just before the off. Anyway, JT and Ed stormed to a convincing victory, followed by Ray/Phil in 2nd and Don/Simon in 3rd.

Race 2 got underway in even more breeze. The first leg was a reach out from the beach out to B, and it was easy to get lulled into a false sense of security and think "hmmmm, perhaps this is kiteable…" when WHAM! you got out of the lee of the hill and went for a full-on flat-wiring boom-in-the-water 2 sailer across the lake.  However Graham and Sue decided "what the hell" and popped their luminous kite…followed by a sudden course change to D, lots of spray, some great swear words in a Scottish accent echoing over the lake and a big splash.  Iain and Kath who were crossing them on the next leg promptly decided to join them for a quick swim too so they did not feel too silly. Other notable disasters for that race included the wire jib halyard on Dangerous Dave's and Perilous Paul's boat snapping resulting in a total loss of rig tension and an early shower (a shame as they were handling the windy conditions really well and looking good for a decent place) and 2 black eyes for Miles when he capsized to windward by E and headbutted the boom.  Nasty.  Ray/Phil, Jez/Rosco and Helen/Mike finished 1,2,3 respectively…hmmm, obviously a day for 6 foot pie-loving crews then…

Race 3 got REALLY SILLY. The breeze had been building steadily over lunch and we were treated to the rare sight of a F***ing Fifteen over by J waving its keel in the air with the helm in the water. When we got out in the middle, the gusts were probably hitting 30mph, and the lake was very white and very wavy over the far side.  There were a lot of retirements and many racers wished that they had stayed in the bar. John/Ed's race was over when the rudder literally exploded…leaving a little stump and the bottom section was never seen again. Mike and Helen had a very nasty capsize over by F, with poor Helen sustaining a gash to her head meaning that was that for them. Anyone who finished this race deserves maximum respect, the final order being Team Fray Bentos (Jez & Rosco) in first, "old black eyes" Thomas and Paula in 2nd, Graham and Sue in 3rd, Ray/Phil in 4th, and Iain and Kath padlocking the kite bag shut and eventually coming home by closing time in 5th after 6 capsizes.

So when all was said and done consistency counted and Ray and Phil won the event, Miles and Paula came 2nd, and Graham "don't sail for 8 months turn up and come 3rd" Wilson and Sue came, well, 3rd.  So a rematch in the Marriott Mug in September then…let's hope there's a tad less wind this time…


Pursuit races  Easter, MayDay and RNLI

None of these was windy enough for our liking. We had to run the Easter event; as a result there was a spiffy course for that one and Simon  Roberts (who usually crews for Don) won the thing in his Cherub by about 5 seconds from Steve Irish in the 800. Pete Badham came 5th. Mayday was about as good as you can expect for a F2 ie rubbish and we won't go into any further detail. The RNLI race was looking set fair to be totally hopeless, but the wind picked up just before we started and we had just enough pressure to plane on most of the reaches. The 29er came past us all embarrassingly early on and went on to win, but as a result of a storming first beat Mike/Paul managed a tasty 2nd place. Pete/John got 6th.

Stuff Forthcoming

21st and 28th SeptemberMarriott Mug personal handicap event Note change of date.

4 races over 2 Sundays, 3 races to count. This is where the slow boats start off up to 15 minutes before the fast boats, so anybody can win. Beach starts will be used; just have the boat in shallowish water with one crew member having some part of their anatomy touching the ground when your start occurs. We tell you the course and when to start all you've got to do is sail round without capsizing too much. Definitely not to be missed.


25th and 26th OctoberDraycote Fireball Open Meeting.

5 races over 2 days, first start not before midday Saturday. Loadsa boats.


16th and 23rd NovemberDraycote Fireball Fleet Championships.

4 races over 2 Sundays, 3 races to count and I get to win, OK.


Sat. 13th DecemberFireball Fleet Christmas meal and prizegiving.

It's a Saturday evening this year. Make a date.


Fireball Sweatshirts

Proper Gill jobs, available in blue, cream or red, sizes S, M, L. Email ichristie at (replacing 'at' with @ obviously) if you would like one so we can get the numbers together.  Cost is likely to be just over £20 per shirt, but the final price will depend on the number we're ordering. We'll fill you in with the price when this is confirmed. We're also going to investigate kid's sizes too, as there are a few people in the fleet who were a bit "lost" in theirs!  Please bear in mind that when we order it will be PAYMENT UP FRONT as there was a lot of chasing around last year!

Spinnaker for sale

Jeremy gave this to us. It is on the small side of medium and suitable for bag or chute use. It was measured in 1987 and has been mostly unused since. It is still crinkly, if slightly discoloured in places. See Iain or Mikey to have a look at it, then place your bid for it in a sealed envelope and give it to Iain. Envelopes get opened September 28th, highest bid gets the kite. Proceeds go to fleet funds. Sorry, bids from within the Draycote fleet only.

Trophy Amnesty

Will the person who has the Marriott Mug Trophy please give it back. You've had it quite long enough now. We promise not to beat you up or set fire to your house as long as it comes back PDQ. Otherwise, we send the buoys round

Other Stuff

We held our AGM in March and elected Iain Christie to the post of fleet captain. Iain is now suffering a moderate case of 'fleet captain's luck', which involves plenty of bad things happening to him including capsizing a lot and getting hit by various stuff.

Dangerous Dave and Paul have upgraded to a rather nice wide-bow Winder, and Katherine Bruce has signed up to crew for Luke on the rare occasions that he turns up. We have also picked up six new boats in the last 5 months. These are 'Team Doris' Kath and Paula in a renovated Severn item (was Luke's before it got holed fixed up a treat now by Richard Burton). Robin Farey with Ian Western's old wooden (very fast) boat, Kim and crew in the wooden job with the dragon on the deck, Graham and Jim in Dave's old HPS, Steve and Jo in Don's old composite Severn and Ian and John Thorpe in Pete & Jane's old Severn.  A big welcome to one and all chaps, and if you want any help, just ask any Fireballer (they're all nice people).

Regrettably we lost Jeremy Davy and Miles Thomas from the fleet though. Jeremy never sailed here much anyway due to prolonged open-meeting campaigns in all sorts of boats, but Miles did and will be missed. However, we are promised a period of attendance by well known hotshot types Andy Smith and James Meldrum from September to November.


Top Tips

A couple of pearls of wisdom when it comes to keeping your boat in tip-top condition, as well as a few modifications you might like to try to give you that slight performance advantage or stop the thingybob wotsit getting caught round the doobbery what-d'ya-callit.  Note-no responsibility will be taken for coming last, finger-pointing and mockery in the boat park, catapulted crews, death or disembowelment howsoever caused…

Spinnaker chutes…make your kite go up super-slick by spraying all round the inside of your chute with a can of McLube or ProLube (Go see Vic at OnBoard).  Got loads of PTFE in it, you see, slippery stuff…

Tired old kite that acts like a sponge? Spray it all over (on a very calm day!) with a big can of Fab-Sil (camping shop) and gasp with astonishment as the water pearls off it next time you drop it in the water.

Centreboard that wobbles and comes up at speed?  Use a small length (2" or thereabouts) of 1" softwall hose (try Midland Chandlers, Braunston) screwed to the horizontal top or back edge of your board, so that when the  board is down, the tube goes down into the case and rubs on it. Attach it with 2 screws and an old toe-strap plate, and you can alter the friction setting. Screw the plate in harder and the plate squashes the hose more and makes it wider, creating more friction and a stiffer board.

Jib cleats that won't uncleat under load?  If your crew is waving their arms wildly above their head desperately trying to yank the sheet out of the seemingly jammed solid cleat moments before the inevitable capsize, try this.  Remove the cheek block next to the jammer, and place a couple of small washers, or a small "bobble" (Vic again) suitably filed flat on each side as a spacer.  The block now is a little bit higher, so when the rope is in between the pawls (jaws) of the cleat, it's somewhere nearer the top rather than the bottom of the pawls and is one whole lot easier to get out under load. You may need to adjust the height by either packing different sized washers or by filing the bobbles down slowly and trying it each time.  Kath and I tried this on 14612 and it works a treat…we filed the bobbles down so they are about 3mm high.

Leaky tank hatches?  Try replacing all the screws with stainless bolts (you may need up to 30 of them, try a nut & bolt wholesaler like Phil Holden Fasteners in Broughton Astley or Mr.Fastner on the web, be about a fiver for all of them), use some silicone sealant behind the bezels, and try giving the threads of the hatch and the rubber O-ring a light smear in Vaseline. Job's a good-un.

Didn't win your last open? Yeah right…answers on a postcard…