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Homecoming Scotland Fireball Europeans Day 1

The 2014 Fireball Class Europeans were opened in traditional style last night in Lerwick in the Shetland Islands by an axe-wielding Viking dressed in traditional costume along with a group of his colleagues.

Shetland Class Chairman, John Manson opened proceedings with a warm welcome to the competitors, some of whom had travelled for three days with boats to get to this northern outpost of Fireball sailing. The Czech Team can lay claim to the longest journey to participate in these championships.

With further thanks to sponsors and a host of parties who have made the event possible – the Lerwick Port Authority, Northlink Ferries, Lerwick Boating Club, and principal sponsor, Homecoming Scotland 2014, John passed control of proceedings to Fireball International Class Secretary, Andrew Davies, who re-iterated the thanks of Fireball International to those parties identified by John but also the work that John and Emma Manson had put in to organising the regatta.

The microphone then reverted to John Manson who introduced the individual who was to declare the regatta open – Ivar the Boneless Ragnarsson & his Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad. Ivar and his Jarl Squad hark back to the Viking influence in the history of the Shetland and their year is focussed on the Up Helly Aa celebrations which take place in late January.

After Ivar and his colleagues had opened the regatta, competitors, officials, organisers and family members were invited to a sumptuous feast of local fish produce sponsored by Ocean Quality UK and Shetland Fish Producers Organisation, washed down with drinks sponsored by Valhalla Brewery, Britain's most northerly brewery.

Six nations are present at this regatta – the home fleet of Shetland, of course plus, the Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Scotland and Switzerland. In terms of entries we have former World Champions, Matt Burge & Richard Wagstaff (Sligo 2011), Tom Gillard (Mandurah 2012 & Slovenia 2014) and former European Champions, Burge & Wagstaff and Gillard. The English team also includes David Wade, a long standing performer at the top end of the fleet. From the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Werner and Jakub Napravnik haven't travelled for three days just to make up numbers. And from Ireland there is the "new kids on the block", Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella who won the Shetland Nationals precursor to this week's Europeans. Also from Ireland, the man who can claim to have the longest track record of participation in international Fireball events, Louis Smyth, who will not thank me for telling how far that track record goes back.

This morning, Principal Race Officer Bruce Leask's first action after the welcoming brief, from a sailing perspective, was to postpone the start by 1 hour from the scheduled 13:00 start due to a combination of light winds and fog. The foghorn in Lerwick has been active since about 07:00 this morning and had eased considerably by the briefing at 11:00, but he advised his audience that the wind was not where it was forecast to be and with a 5 knot threshold for racing installed in the Sailing Instructions, he wasn't taking any early risks with the quality of racing. He did however promise a wide range of wind conditions for the week.

Day 1

The first day of the Fireball Europeans, sponsored by Homecoming Scotland 2014 and being hosted by Lerwick Boating Club in Shetland was lost to a combination of mist and very light wind. Principle Race Officer Bruce Leask has originally signalled a 1-hr postponement after the skipper's briefing but that became an indeterminate postponement.

An excellent fish lunch was then served at the host club before racing for the day was abandoned shortly after 15:00.

The fleet has now dispersed but many will reconvene later at the Club to make their way to a curry buffet at a local restaurant in Lerwick, the regatta's culinary choice for this evening.



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