Sponsored by North Sails and Pinnell and Bax
A cold weekend in October was the beginning of winter and also the Fireball Inland Championships at Draycote Water. There was a good turnout of 44 boats despite a number of notable absentees from the top of the fleet. The entry list included current European Champions Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey, Martyn Lewis (who had the stick again after his bout of crewing in the Czech Republic), the lottery funded pair of Niki Birrell and Chris Grube (twiggy) and the return of David Hall to the Fireball class. Draycote Water was well represented with 15 entries.
Saturday morning was sunny with the wind building to 12 – 15 knots of breeze from the North West – a perfect day for sailing. Reigning European Champions Gillard and Brearey continued their impressive streak winning the opening 2 races with a 3rd in the last race of the day. Lewis after a 13th in race 1 (after having to do some spins) recovered well to come 2nd in race 2 and win race 3 on his home waters, showing it was going to be a tight tussle at the top. Throughout the fleet the racing was tight with much place changing. There was the occasional big gust which often caused some interesting mark roundings and the requirement to dodge the occasional capsized boat always seemingly at a mark.
Saturday evening saw the fleet enjoy some excellent grub at the club followed by some refreshments or the type that make you fall over. There was going to be a quiz but the proposed quiz master had got plastered the night before and so suitable materials for said quiz were lacking. Those who had scrounged campervan space were particularly grateful as it turned out to be quite a cold night. A few of the youngsters travelled further afield for their entertainment. No one is quite sure where they went.
Sunday mirrored Saturday in many ways although there was a bit more sunshine. The first race of the day saw another victory for Gillard/Brearey, Dave Hall secured his second top 3 finish, followed by Lewis in 3rd. The middle race of the day was the start of the business end of the competition. It did not go well for the current leaders who were Black Flagged (not ideal). Niki Birrell secured his 1st race win, Jon Ibbotson and Andy Thompson came 2nd with Lewis in 3rd. For the final race Lewis/Byne had to put places between them and Gillard. Birrell lead round mark 1 followed by Gillard with Lewis in 5th. With positions constantly changing it was all up for grabs. In the end Gillard/Brearey did enough, winning the final race and winning the Inland National Championships with 4 race wins. Lewis/Byne finished 2nd, North Sails man Tim Rush crewed by Richard Bailey in 3rd. Dave Hall/Paul Constable in 4th, with another home boat, Peter Wood completing the top 5.
Thanks to the generous support of the sponsors and the class association a wealth of prizes were handed out, weighted towards those in the bronze and silver fleets. These included a number of free and discounted entries to next years National Championships at Pentewan Sands Sailing Club. The young Portishead pair of Anthony Willcocks and James Willcocks took Silver fleet honours. The Bronze fleet was won by new class webmaster, Nick Hurst from Shoreham Sailing Club, crewed by Ben Fjaerem. Thanks go to the race officer and his team and all those at Draycote Water who made the weekend a success on and off the water. It was great to see some new faces and some old faces of which we expect to see more of in 2011.