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Fireballs Get the Lead Out as Season Hots up in Advance of the Worlds in Dromineer

29th April 2022
Fireballs at LDYC, Dromineer on Lough Derg
Fireballs at LDYC, Dromineer on Lough Derg

Things are hotting up for the Fireball class in Ireland. As their World Championship in Lough Derg YC this August 21st-26th draws nearer entries have already broken the 50 boat barrier and indications are that this will be a 60 boat plus fleet.

The local class has been very busy all winter with organisation and has welcomed sponsorship from Carrickcraft and Tipperary County Council.

The class has literally got the lead out to make this event work as nine Irish boats took the opportunity last weekend to get their boats officially re-weighed to make sure that they are down to the minimum hull weight of 76.4kg. The international class in 2015 agreed that the overall hull weight could be reduced by 3kg. This decision was based on the fact that modern building techniques allow the Fireball to be lighter and stiffer than ever.

Fireballs on Lough Derg

Most boats built in the last 25 years in FRP have had lead added to bring the overall hull weight up to 79.4kg. The re-weighing event took place after a two-week drying out process in a giant shed in Kildare, overseen by Irish measurers Owen Sinnott and Eddie Ferris. At the World Championship, the measurement process will be overseen by International Measurer Chris Henderson from the UK.

Encouraging youth sailors

As well as supporting the event measurement process Fireball International has initiated a grant scheme to encourage youth sailors to take part in the Worlds.

The Irish class has also organised a professional coaching weekend at LDYC on May 7th and 8th with top dinghy coach Thomas Chaix.

This event is open to all Fireballers and the idea is to get everyone up to speed and to allow competitors test the conditions at the Worlds venue. And in recent weeks the buy and sell section of the Irish Fireball website has been busy with affordable boats selling almost as soon as they go on the market. The big advantage of older boats made from FRP (foam reinforced plastic) is that they remain fully competitive for very many years, probably up to thirty years in fact, once they are maintained.

A fully competitive older FRP Fireball typically sells for around 2.5k with boats needing a bit of TLC selling for less. With the Worlds on the horizon, a number of sailors from other classes have acquired Fireballs, in particular sailors wishing to graduate from 420s and GP14s. Advice of what to look out for when buying a Fireball is on the Irish Fireball Association website which has had a major redesign by webmaster Stephen Oram. The class also has two loan boats and one of these is available now to a responsible team for events leading up to, but not including the Worlds. For details contact the class hon. secretary at [email protected]

Internationally there is big interest in the upcoming World Championship with sailors so far coming from Australia, South Africa, Canada, the Czech Republic, France and Switzerland, as well as a big contingent from the UK and from the local fleet. Special fares for the event are available from Irish Ferries. Amongst the entrants are at least two former World Champions, Tom Gillard from the UK and Swiss sailor Rudi Moser.

There are other top level sailors entered well capable of pulling off a win at the event, not least Heather and Chris McFarlane of Australia and local top dogs Barry McCartin and Conor Kinsella. Noel Butler and Stephen Oram have dominated the domestic fleet for several years and will be working to get back to top form after a pandemic diversion into RS Aeros. Dinghy coach Thomas Chaix has himself acquired a Fireball and signed up for the event with Chris Bateman and that team are expected to hit the ground running. Josh Porter and Cara McDowell will be real contenders in their completely refurbished Winder Fireball.

And nobody could rule out the newbies coming from a 420 background, especially if conditions are light, given that the set-up and technique for both boats is so similar.

Besides the May coaching weekend, the class has regional events lined up at Sutton, Blessington and Killaloe and plans to compete in the main Dun Laoghaire club regattas throughout the summer. On the back of a promised return to racing out in Dublin Bay eight Fireballs have so far have signed up for the DBSC summer series. All in all, this is going to be a busy summer for Fireballs.

For more information on the class go to fireball-ireland.com/ and for Worlds information go to ldyc.ie

Published in Fireball
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At A Glance – J80 Keelboat Specs

Dimensions (Metres/Kg)

LOA 8.00
LWL 6.71
Beam 2.51
Standard Draft 1.49
Standard Ballast 635
Displacement 1,315
Engine outboard

At A Glance – Fireball Dinghy Specs

Crew 2 (single trapeze)
LOA 16 ft 2 in (4.93 m)
Beam 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m)
Hull weight 175 lb (79 kg)
Mast height 22.3 ft (6.8 m)
Mainsail area 108 sq ft (10.0 m2).
Jib / Genoa area 35 sq ft (3.3 m2).
Spinnaker area 140 sq ft (13 m2).

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