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Chronology

It is believed this is the first attempt to compile a Fireball chronology.  There remain many gaps to be filled so the following represents progress to date.  It will be updated periodically.

Fireball Chronology

1959-1960

 

Interested in 40 ft. North American A-Class scows, Peter Milne sketched a 16 ft. two-man scow that promised exciting performance and, through simple construction, would be ideal for home building.

1961

Autumn

Finishing work on a series of 13-ft., waterjet-propelled powerboats for Donald Campbell, Peter Milne had the opportunity to build a prototype of his scow which was constructed in a barn on Ditchling Common, Sussex.  This hull was christened ‘Fireball’, is now known as Fireball ‘0’ and may be viewed at the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth.  Peter’s employers, Norris Brothers Ltd, became sponsor to Fireball and the subsequent class.

1962

February

Fireball, sailed by Keith Musto and Peter Milne, was demonstrated to Bill Smart, editor of Yachts & Yachting.

 

March 9th

A photograph of Fireball (possibly the first public image) appeared in Yachts & Yachting trailing a full article to appear in the following edition.

 

March 23rd

A 5-page article entitled ‘Here is Fireball’ was published in Yachts & Yachting.  A complete boat, excluding sails, could be obtained from Chippendale Boats Ltd, the licensed builder, for £188.

 

Spring

A number of modifications to the hull, such as enclosing the aft tank, and rig were identified and Fireball ‘0’ now became viewed as a pre-production prototype.  Incorporating the modifications, a production prototype, FB1 and also named Fireball, was built.  It is now a historical curiosity that the intended production prototype was the subject of a further, last minute, design alteration to dispense with curved inner sidetanks and was sold in an un-decked state to a private buyer. That hull was subsequently registered as FB2.

 

May

With only one outing behind her, and sailed by Peter Milne and Peter Cook, the production prototype (FB1) made her racing debut at the Sheppey One-of-a-Kind meeting.  As the wind increased during the weekend her performance was subsequently described as “extraordinary” and “sensational”.

 

Summer

Fireball won the Pennine One-of-a-Kind meeting in light airs and also finished 6th out of 93 starters in the Stokes Bay Pursuit Race.

 

 

Chichester Harbour immediately, but not surprisingly, became the focal point of Fireball activity with great enthusiasm evident at Peter Milne’s home club of Dell Quay SC, where FB0 had been based, and Hayling Island SC.  Interestingly, though, it later fell to another club, Langstone SC, to be the first in the Harbour to have a recognised fleet.  The honour of being the world’s first official fleet went further down the coast - to Highcliffe SC in Dorset (precise dates for the award of Fleet status in the early years is not known but likely to be from late 1962 onwards).

 

August 12th

Fireballs raced for the first time as a fleet.  Four boats entered a handicap race in the Hayling Island SC annual regatta and drew a disproportionate amount of column inches in subsequent press reporting.  Peter Milne finished first of the four sailing either FB0 or FB1 (presently unclear), Simon Batten was second in FB14 (‘Speedy Gonzales’) and Bill Kempner third in FB5 (‘Firewerks’).  The identity of the fourth boat is currently not known.

1963

January

The Fireball class made its debut at the London Boat Show appearing on Jack Chippendale’s stand.

 

Spring

Jack Knights provided transatlantic exposure by sailing FB23 in the Miami One-of-a Kind event.  The boat remained in the USA after completion of the competition.

 

September 27

The first Fireball Association Annual General Meeting was held.  It was reported that 325 boats had been registered in 15 countries and that boats were in course of construction in a further 15.  Class associations had been formed in the UK, Ireland and South Africa.  The use of a spinnaker was being trialled in Chichester Harbour.  UK area representatives were elected for 6 regions but nominations for a further four were not received.

 

September 28-9

The inaugural UK National Championship was held under the burgee of Hayling Island SC and attracted 75 entries including two from Belgium.  Joint winners were Bob Fisher and Dick Lonton of Tollesbury SC sailing FB277 ‘Mishap’ & David Miles and Gerald Durbin of Clevedon SC sailing FB283 ‘Clevedon Comet’.

1964

 

Use of a trapeze was permitted for the 1965 season (the effective date has yet to be confirmed) following approval gained by only a very narrow margin at the 1964 Annual General Meeting.

1965

 

Fireball International was established to look after the interests of Fireball sailors worldwide and to organise world championships.

 

 

Sail numbers reached 1,000.

1966

Summer

Built by Chippendale Boats Ltd, the prototype fibreglass hull was launched.

 

August 15-19

The inaugural Fireball World Championship was held under the burgee of Hayling Island SC.  The event was restricted to 45 entries and won by the UK’s Bob Fisher and Richard Beales sailing FB1599 ‘Pink Plymouth III’.

1967

March

The first International Bulletin was published.  Steven Schrier was the editor and he continued the role for six years before signing off with the July 1973 edition.

1968

 

Use of a spinnaker was passed at the Annual General Meeting with effect from 1969.  The French and Swiss associations had proposed a spinnaker in 1967 but the UK had been generally against it.

1969

 

A forceful, but ultimately fruitless, campaign was mounted to secure adoption as the sixth Olympic class.  The Tempest was selected for the1972 games.

 

 

Frank Berry became full-time Class Secretary having already held the part time position of Honorary Secretary for two years.

 

 

The inaugural European Championship was hosted by Y.C. de Nieuwpoort, Belgium, and won by Peter Bateman and Julian Brooke-Houghton of the UK sailing FB4161.

1970

August 21

The IYRU officially adopted the Fireball class and international status was thereby achieved.

 

 

Sail numbers reached 5,000.

 

 

There were now National Associations or representatives in over 50 countries.

1971

March 1

Spinnaker chutes were permitted.  Chute design improvements came thick and fast such that early examples were out of date within weeks.

 

 

A second campaign for Olympic selection was launched.  It also ended in failure – this time losing to the 470 which was selected for the 1976 games.

1973

April

Fireballs were now being sailed in 68 countries.

1975

January

Peter Milne introduced stitch-and-tape construction at the London Boat Show

 

 

Sail numbers reached 10,000

 

 

Joan and Art Ellis (US9798) won the World Championship.  The event was notable for being the first occasion a woman had won the championship and also because Joan and Art used a mast strut and transom sheeting - both unusual features at the time.

1976

 

A final, but this time low-key, campaign for 1980 Olympic selection commenced.  Unlike the previous attempts, ultimate rejection was not met with any great disappointment.

 

 

Steve Benjamin and Tucker Edmondson (US10149) won the World Championship using spinnaker bags, mast strut, transom sheeting and a stiff rig.  Sailing slightly lower than the norm and very fast, they challenged conventional wisdom and successfully produced an alternative to the established way of sailing a Fireball.  Whilst the jury remained out for many years on the quickest way to sail, their victories (also winning in 1977) spelt the beginning of the end of the spinnaker chute which quickly fell out of general favour. 

1977

December 3-5

The inaugural Asian Championship was won by Bob Kennett and Panasarn Hasdin of Thailand.

1981

 

The administration of Fireball International was separated from The Fireball Association which was re-named The UK Fireball Association.

1987

September 19

The 25th Anniversary celebration meeting was held at Hayling Island SC and comprised celebrity and regular racing.  Fireballs 0, 1 and 2 all participated.

1988

26 December 1987 - 13 January 1988

The 1988 World Championship was hosted by Glenelg SC, Adelaide with John Clifton and Paul Martin sailing KA13695 ‘Driving Force’ winning the event.  Of particular note was successful maximum use of measurement tolerances by Australian boats most notably flat rocker and wide bow sections.  This was not lost on UK competitors and marked the advent of what became an inexorable move towards ‘wide-bowed’ Fireballs.

2008

 

Sail numbers reached 15,000

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