Final day for the 2009 European Fireball fleet rewarded those who were in the right place at the right time. Fairly light breeze and a strong incoming tide pushed the fleet away from the start line giving Dave Wade from England to hang in late at the leeward end, flop over and go giving he and his crew a "horizon job" finish. Unfortunately, in an 89 boat fleet, Dave had chalked up a punishing 36th place as well, pushing them down in final rankings.
The British boats dominated the top part of the scoreboard, but the three top finishers were international. 1st Vincent Horey/Rob Gardner, 2nd Martin Kubovy/Martin Cap and 3rd Tom Gillard/ Francis Rowan. Full scoreboard link: Societe Regattes Rochelle
For Many, this is the warm-prelude to next weeks Fireball Worlds which anticpates 100+ boats from all over the world. It is a set policy that the world championships alternately take place internationally and in Europe. Andrew Davies, class secretary, commented at the end of the day : "Last year was in Thailand and this year in La Rochelle. Next year will be in Barbados. To travel internationally, you can get 9 boats in a shipping container but with the Europeans, most arrive on trailers. Its a pretty relaxed atmosphere off the water. We try to set races for the afternoon for people to enjoy their mornings."
Asking about the Fireball’s origins and characteristics: "The boat was designed by Peter Milne, in 1963 and held its first World championship in 1966. There are 15,000 sail numbers registered, with builders in the UK, Switzerland, South Africa, plus 20-30% of the boats are built by the sailors themselves.
There is a mix of composite (glass/foam sandwich) and wood boats with wood boats putting in comparable results. 79 Kg is the minimum weight with "lead correction" allowed. (reminders of IOR days).
An encouraging aspect of the class is the "women in the driver seat" ratio. Notably, there are more women "drivers" and men "on the wire". Just to see so many boats, from so many countries in a class existing for so long, is a testimonial to its intrinsic value.
Lets hope for more breeze next week, in what will be an epic small boat battle.