Silver Fleet Report for the 2008 National Championships at Mounts Bay Sailing Club
Let me give you a bit of background to my Fireballing and this will explain the following ramble and make up the words for this article. I bought my first Fireball about 3 1/2 years ago (having come from another, unmentionable symmetric dinghy class). I spoke to the Association and they passed me onto a very experienced (no not too old) person who gave me advice buying my first boat. For the first couple of years I sailed with club contacts and tried to get to grips with the boat. The 2007 Nationals at Brightlingsea saw me crewless with about 3 weeks to go. A call to that useful Class Association again and I had a crew, sailed with him once and turned up. Second in the Silver fleet was achieved and so expectations were set for 2008 (and a new, regular crew obtained).
I didn't get any sailing in from November until June of 2008 due to the crew drinking my taxes at university. So this year was all about preparing, getting a good result at the Nationals in Mounts Bay and winning the Silver fleet that we missed out on last year. We tried to do as many events as possible to get some practice in, even the Eurpoeans and got out on the water with other Fireballs to do some 1 to 1. Club sailing never does it when you’re the only Fireball out there. Help was also never far away, asking the experienced about setup and speed was a great bonus this year.
So onto the event. After a short hop down to the metropolis town of Marazion the scene was set for a great British summer sailing event - huddled in the clubhouse waiting for the torrential rain to pass just long enough to rush down, get the boat through measurement and get the mast up. It was good to catch up with old faces and some more familiar ones throughout the fleet and eat bacon sarnies of course.
With the forecast for big wind all week, we were rubbing our hands and thanking those windy days of practise on the Solent. The course in Mounts Bay was so close to the beach that most boats didn't even have a chance to capsize before getting to the start line.
From this point on I am supposed to write a mark by mark commentary on every race with details of who passed who on which leg and who crossed who to finish in the top 5 spots. Now as you've gathered I drive the boat. I'm the most important in the team(!) and if I don't get it right we don't go fast. So how am I supposed to see what everyone else is doing and if they're that far away from me why should I be bothered?
The first race and the first gate start for lots of the fleet including me. All was going well, sailing instructions banked to memory, picked a spot reasonably out of trouble for a cautions first stab. Pathfinder on port, don't edge too far forward, two minutes, pathfinder released and we're poised for the off behind the gate boat. But it's stopped. That's not in the script. Bear off, go. A bit of work to do now. The rest of the race was a blur and well, we finished. One race gone, one discard used.
Second race will be different. A few less boats. Better position on the start and all's going well. Top reach looks tight but we've practiced that and we know we can do it. Kite up, in we go and yes the water is very cold. Boat up (with kite) and we're trucking, making back most of the places we lost. Tight for the wing mark, might have to drop the head of the kite. Lean in for the halyard and it all goes dark and wet again but we weren't the only ones and did manage to redeem ourselves.
With Monday looking like the only day off, the potential for 4 days on the trot of big winds was something that might kill me but I was going to enjoy it in the process.
The rest of the week seems to pass in a glorious blur of massive 2 and 3 sail reaching, burning arm and hiking muscles, bad starts, making sure we kept upright and knew the other boats in the Silver fleet and that we beat them.
We went into the event with one clear goal - to win the Silver fleet. We also wanted to finish above a certain place (I'm not going to say where) and we didn't achieve the second goal but when I look at the boats around us (including the previous owner of my boat!) I tell myself that that we actually did better than we expected and beat boats that I never expected we ever would. The Fireball fleet is one of the strongest in the country with 9 previous Nationals, European or Worlds winners attending (and just look at some of the names on the trophies) and a clutch of “professionals”. To compete even fairly close to these people is an achievement. It may still be demoralising at times but having those goals along the way helps me feel I’ve achieved something without winning outright and thanks to the Class Association for making this happen.
The bonus of having the Rooster sponsorship for the Silver fleet has landed us with Aquafleeces which are warm and waterproof and a great prize. A thanks as well to Tim Rush who has provided lots of help and advice this year and of course to all the hard working committee members who magic these events out of thin air.
Simon Lomas-Clarke GBR 14628