As the venue of both the first UK Nationals and Worlds in 1963 and 1966 respectively, Hayling Island SC was the obvious choice for the Fireball 60th Anniversary Celebration over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd July, and it did not disappoint with warm sunny weather and fantastic breeze.
This was both a celebration on the water but also a chance for anyone who had sailed these fantastic boats over the past 60 years to meet up and rekindle old friendships and start new ones.
Fireball sailors of yesteryear who joined the celebrations included past World Champions Julian Brooke-Houghton (World Champion 1967 and 1968), John Caig (1970 and 1971), Sten Warfvinge (1972), Ken Brakewell (1973) Andy Barker (1978), Tim Rush (1993), Jim Turner (1996 and 1998) and Chips Howarth (2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010).
For racing on the Saturday Race Officer Mark Darling (himself a Fireball National Champion crew) set a starboard hand triangle in Chichester harbour. With the windward mark just off the beach, and the first reach just in front of the club and 20 knots of breeze, the spectators on the club balcony were able to enjoy a grandstand view of the racing. Dave Wade, back in the class after a 2-year sabbatical, revelled in the conditions to comfortably win both races crewed by Vyv Townend. Vince "Wally" Horey and Richard Pepperdine took the prize for most spectacular capsize of the day. Wally claimed ashore that his rudder had fallen off, but photographic evidence later emerged with the boat mid-capsize with rudder firmly in place so the cause was proven to be incompetence.
HISC put on a fantastic Anniversary Celebration dinner in the evening which gave a chance for the current and erstwhile Fireball sailors to mix and share stories.
Sunday dawned with a significant drop in the wind and the fleet headed out for 3 races in Hayling Bay in 5 knots of breeze. In the first race it looked like Dave Sayce and Andy Barker, making a cameo appearance for the day, were going to be the leaders at the first mark but they were just pipped to it by Martin and Daniel Lewis. Keeping the boat moving in light breeze was the order of the day and Martin and Daniel proved to be the masters, taking the race win with Derian and Andy Scott second and Dave and Andy third.
The second race started in similarly light conditions. Martin and Daniel were having a great day and took an early lead. However, the breeze kicked in from the left halfway up the second beat and Derian and Andy were in prime position to take advantage taking the lead and winning the race from Dave and Vyv in second and Martin and Daniel finishing third.
The breeze really kicked in for the third and final race of the day, with everyone going back to their fully raked rig settings and crews trapezing "down to the knot". Dave and Vyv once again revelled in the 20 knot breeze leading the race from start to finish to take the race and the event, with Derian and Andy second and Vince and Richard third.
Special mention must go to 420 sailors Katheryn Byne and Lia Horne as conditions for the weekend were pretty tough and weighing in at a combined weight of less than 120kgs they were sailing against some boats in which the crews alone weighed in at 90kgs. However, they sailed very impressively and finished every race to come in a very creditable 7th overall.
Thanks go to HISC for hosting such a special occasion and making it such a success both on and off the water, and to Selden for sponsoring the event.
Final words come from two-time World Champion crew, Olympian and America's Cup sailor Jim "Lardy" Turner who summed up the spirit of the weekend and the Class perfectly:
"I fell in love with the Fireball in 1990 when a 134 boat fleet came to the Nationals at my home club in Lyme Regis.
Sponsored by Seiko watches and with a fully branded up pathfinder sailed by local rockstars, as a 14-year-old I was in awe. When asked to crew for the sail back to the beach after the start one day, it was the coolest experience of my life.
Ian Pinnell and Jarrod Simpson won that week and I went home every night thinking 'one day'... Four years later I was fortunate to team up with my good friend Colin Goodman for a fun and successful few years winning 2 Worlds, 2 Nationals and 1 Europeans.
However, it's not the racing I remember the most, but the fantastic time we had travelling the World, causing mischief and making lifelong friendships.
For sure, the competitive racing in the Fireball prepared me for my career racing at the Olympics and Americas Cup, for which I will always be grateful."