Fireball thrives out on the ocean waves

David HannantA chilly wind was blowing from Scandinavia, but its strength was right and the sky was bright, so a hardy but keen fleet of craft set out onto the North Sea for Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Sailing Club's start-of-season event.David Hannant

A chilly wind was blowing from Scandinavia, but its strength was right and the sky was bright, so a hardy but keen fleet of craft set out onto the North Sea for Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Sailing Club's start-of-season event.

Three races followed and were fairly dominated by the slowest double-hander, the Falat's Fireball. With leading boats over the water clocking about 35 minutes of racing, this allowed recuperation and warm-up time for numb fingers. Added to this, the average-lap system of scoring allowed back-markers to sail only three laps instead of the four that the majority completed, ensured minimal waiting time for subsequent starts.

Off a short start-line, race-team Dick Roe and Kate Dulieu set an excellent beat on an initial slack tide, though it was noticeable as time progressed and the ebb-current set in that this leg became increasingly port-tack biased. With 1m wave heights there were some tremendous downwind surfing opportunities, and even upwind the Fireball was seen occasionally to take-off and "fly" over wave-tops.

The Fireball excelled to windward and led at the windward mark on 11 out of the 12 occasions. Downwind however, asymmetries took over, also in later races they gybed towards slack-tide to improve their advantage, while conventional down-winders had to rely on surfing opportunities to take them very deep with advantage; there was a most useful transit looking at a shore-groyne from the top mark to leeward gate, that enabled a clear gauge on downwind-track progress.


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The first race finished with two RS400s sailed by Martin Brown and Di Holmes and Richard Fryer and Pete Matthews separated by eight seconds. They were split on handicap by an RS500 (Phil Highfield and Tamsin Butcher) who finished third on corrected time and the Falat's Fireball sharing first place with the leading RS400.

The second race saw the leading RS400s separated by three seconds after some desperately aggressive reaching and gybing on Martin Browne's part to come through from his usual relaxed start, however this time a different RS500 popped into the placings, David Houghton and John Symonds finishing second behind the Fireball.

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The third and final race saw a close battle between the two leading RS400s and the Fireball with all three crossing the finish line within 28 seconds of each other. On corrected time the Fireball took first place.

Clear overall winners discarding a (shared) first place was the Falat's Fireball; second were Martin Browne and Di Holmes (RS400). The next five places were separated by four points showing how close the racing had actually been; most meritorious performance probably by the Contender of Phil Alison in completing all races comfortably in most trying and lumpy conditions, and safe launch/recovery in confused surf.

On Oulton Broad the summer season kicked off with the general allcomers race for the Lady Mayhew Trophy.

Fourteen boats started and the early leaders were Alan Cone sailing his Laser, Nick Crickmore in his RS Varig and Denise Sinclair (Squib). The race gradually developed into pairs of boats having close races. Out in front were Duncan Madin in his RS300 and Nick Favell's RS400, won by Favell but by only 20 seconds and nothing like far enough in front to save their time.

Just behind them disputing fourth and fifth places were the Lasers of Jonathon Jones and Alan Cone and they finished just two seconds apart to move up to second and third on handicap.

But always well-placed in sixth place was the Squib sailed by Denise Sinclair and Richard Sullivan and on handicap they moved up to first.

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