With hours to go until the first race of the 2011 Fireball Worlds, hosted by Sligo Yacht Club and the Irish Fireball Class Association, I suppose it would be appropriate to speculate on the riders and runners for this regatta. However, unlike most other forms of sport where there is the benefit of bookies to give some indication of what might happen, sailing doesn't allow one to go to the form book.....or does it?
So, in an almost Who's Who of this regatta, lets speculate on who might be on the winners podium by Friday evening.
The least difficult part of this exercise is to identify those who had form during International Week. Ben Schulz and Phillip Bowley won four of the six races sailed, scored a second in another and deliberately didn't sail one race. In a small fleet they were able to sail low and fast to get to the front of the fleet. They have also had the benefit of three days of racing at the venue. Derian and Andy Scott won a race and were generally at the front end of the fleet, their worst score being a fourth place. Joe Jospe & Tom Egli took third last week and the last race of the regatta was won by Alex Taylor and Richard Anderton. Richard was a to finisher in Barbados last year so clearly their race win last week was no fluke. Of the Irish, Noel Butler and Stephen Oram, Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella had a good week. So there are six combinations who will have had the benefit of time on the race track.
Of the late arrivals who missed out on any racing last week, the stand-out candidates for this week have to be Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey, the 2010 (and thus reigning) European Champions. They have enjoyed success this year on the domestic Fireball circuit in the UK which in numbers at least is the most competitive circuit in the World.
The Pinnell & Bax stable will also boast candidates who can win this regatta in Dave Wade & Simon Potts and Vince Horey and Andy Thompson. Matt Burge and Richard Wagstaffe were runners up in Barbados and are therefore no strangers to podium positions.
Tim Rush, sailing with Richard Pepperdine is a past World Champion and reports from the UK show that Martyn Lewis, sailing with Richard Byrne is enjoying Open Regatta success with a new boat and a 3DL Main from North.
Jaroslav Werner was the runner-up in the 2010 Europeans and brings a different crew in Jakub Napravnik to Sligo. Granted offshore Sligo is not the same as an inland venue in the Czech Republic, but success breeds confidence. Kenny Rumbal and Seamus Moore of the Irish fleet are a "newish" combination who got together at the end of last season and they will be pushing to be at the front end of the Irish fleet.
Of course there are other combinations that might consider that they should be included in this analysis, but as an avid reader of regatta reports from the UK, I can't think of any immediate candidates that need to be included. Of course there are names on the entry list that I know in their individual capacities but I don't know how they will fare in tandem with their crew/helm. This of course may mean I have set myself up for a substantial portion of humble pie later in the week. But rather than write nothing at all, I have decided to put my neck on the block! To candidates in this category I offer my apologies in adavnace and will be delighted to correct the record in subsequent reports.
Sligo is bright, sunny with a slight amount of cloud. The XCW website for wind is suggesting 8 - 10 knots of WNW winds, but as I have indicted in previous reports, Sligo weather only makes up its mind by about 11am!
Must go - Regatta briefing is 15 minutes away!