Australian Fireball Nationals 2008-09

Hervey Bay Sailing Club - Robin Inns and Joel Coultas retain title

Congratulations to Robin Inns and Joel Coultas for retaining the Australian Fireball Championship after coming from behind in the series with 2 days to go to take the title by 5 points from Nathan Stockley and Sam Muirhead in second followed by Ben Schulz and Ben Neaylon in third place. The event saw all 26 boats travel from interstate to enjoy the Queensland hospitality and sailing hosted by the Hervey Bay Sailing Club. The sailing was some of the closest for many years with the leading and mid fleet groups exchanging places regularly during the races and finishing closely in most races. The first 5 races saw some perfect conditions in the Northerly winds before new years day, the remaining races were held in some very testing conditions, testing crews and gear to the limit with shifting gusts up to 35 knots in the end limiting the series to 8 out of the 10 races. Many of the competitors took advantage of the location and visited nearby Fraser Island on New Year’s Day, with a challenging 7:30 start, one of the varied social events held during the event, well supported by the fleet. This was a new location for the Fireball fleet and next year sees another new location at Port Stephens in NSW. As the fleet looks forward to hosting the World titles in 2011 in Mandurah WA and having just reached the 15000 boat milestone there are exciting times ahead for International Fireball sailors.  

Invitation Race  

The 43rd Australian Fireball National championship began today in the pristine waters of Hervey Bay, Queensland. For the 26 competing crews, several of whom arrived before the Christmas break the day was to prove very interesting. For the crews who had arrived before Christmas to several days of champagne sailing conditions, the day was to prove even more frustrating. The boats launched into a 10 knot northerly which was soon to change. After 2 general recalls under normal starting orders the black flag was brought out by the RO. On the third start the fleet got away with 3 boats falling to the black flag. The race itself had a little bit of everything, with varying strength and some large shifts keeping all the crews on their toes. Line honours were taken by 14971 ‘Butterfield Services’ sailed by Greg Allison and Richard Watson, followed by 14782 in 2nd and 14811 in 3rd. The series begins with a 2 race day which will most likely see all the crews looking for some more consistent wind conditions.

 Races 1 & 2

 The first day of the series began today at Hervey Bay Sailing Club. In perfect conditions of 12-15 knots the first race began with a clean start. The racing was closely contested around the course from the front to the rear of the fleet. With two races planned for the day, the short course sailing was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Race 1 of the series was taken out by 14786 ‘Renegade’ sailed by John Heywood and Brett Littledike. Race 2 began with a general recall for the fleet as they succumbed to the tide causing a large number of boats to be over the line. The second start got away cleanly with the fleet sailing in conditions similar to the first race. With 14850 leading around the first lap the whole fleet was again very tightly contested with several positions changing on every leg of the course. Again 14786 showed good pace to take the lead and line honours for race 2. After 2 sensational races, 14786 (Heywood/Littledike) is currently leading the championship with 14850 (Schulz/Neaylon) tied with current national champions 14782 (Inns/Coultas) tied for 2nd place.

 Races 3 & 4

 The fireball fleet began day 3 of the national championships at Hervey Bay Sailing Club with the promise of great sailing conditions again. With two short course races again planned for the day, the fleet left the beach and ventured into the bay with a consistent 15-20 knot breeze. After a single general recall for the first race, with many of the crews being eager to jostle for the best position on the line, the fleet got away cleanly. After the first work, the fleet was still very closely bunched, with 14850 (Schulz/Neaylon) rounding in the lead. With the whole fleet enjoying the conditions 14850 managed to hold onto their lead to take 1st place. The other podium places were taken by 15011 (Stockley/Muirhead) in 2nd and 14786 (Heywood/Littledike) in 3rd position. With the top 5 boats finishing within 30 seconds, it shows how close the racing is. After another general recall in race 2, the fleet got away cleanly to enjoy the perfect conditions. With the breeze still consistently around 20 knots the fleet again enjoyed a well set course with some screaming reaches, and tactical beats. After some very close racing, 14786 ‘Renegade’ (Heywood/Littledike) took line honours, followed closely by 14850 (Schulz/Neaylon) and 14782 (Inns/Coultas).

 Race 5

 Day 4 of the event saw lighter winds still from the North for a single race before New Years Eve celebrations. After two general recalls the fleet got away on the third start under a black flag with only one boat being disqualified. Unexpectedly the wind strength reduced even more and with shifty conditions crews had to concentrate hard to throughout the race. Early leaders Greg Allison and Richard Watson in 14971 were pushed hard by Robin Inns and Joel Coultas last years winners in 14782. In the end the race was shortened at the end of the second reach on the second triangle with Inns/Coultas eventually ending up winners with Stockley/Muirhead 14587 second and Allison/Watson 14971 in third. Once again there was close racing between the front group of boats and the competitive mid fleet with any small mistakes costing places. The fleet now have a lay day with many taking advantage of the location with a day trip to Fraser Island, racing re-commences on Friday 2nd January.

 Race 6

 The race day began for the fleet with far from perfect conditions. After most of the fleet enjoyed their day tour of Fraser Island, many woke hoping that the perfect conditions would continue today. Unfortunately they were greeted by heavy rain and light shifty winds as a south easterly change moved over the race area. With the RO choosing to postpone racing as he waited for the wind to settle the fleet milled around on shore. Around 3.30pm the decision was made for an attempt to get a race in. With the fleet rushing to make the water, the boats headed out into a light breeze ranging between 5-10 knots. After one abandoned start due to signal failure on the start boat, the fleet got away on the second. Again with very close racing the fleet fought their way around the course in very shifty conditions. With the lighter crews on the race course enjoying the light breezes the positions were changed around slightly. Race honours were taken by 15011 (Stockley/Muirhead) followed by 14786 (Heywood/Littledike) and 14971 (Allison/Watson).

 Race 7

 Race 7 saw the strongest winds of the series so far. With gusts in excess of 30 knots from the south east, the fleet ventured out onto flat waters underneath an overcast sky. After a clean start the fleet headed upwind at maximum speed. Again the whole fleet was extremely tightly packed at the top mark heading onto the reaches. Even in the strong breezes the majority of the fleet chose to fly their kites making for two very fast reaches. With a few boats succumbing to the large bullets that were crossing the race area they chose to take a swim in the warm waters of Hervey Bay. A small number of boats headed to the shore to avoid the strong winds leaving a fleet of 20 crossed the finishing line amidst a large squall. After the fleet finished the RO chose to postpone trying to allow the squall to pass looking to squeeze in a second race. Unfortunately the squall persisted and the fleet headed for home, a few boats suffering from gear failure, the biggest being a broken rudder blade for 14850. Race 7 was taken by 14782 (Inns/Coultas) followed by 14971 (Allison/Watson) and 15011 (Stockley/Muirhead).

 Race 8

 The race day dawned for the fleet with strong winds hitting around the 30 knot mark. The strong wind left several boats struggling before the start, leaving a few crews with little option other than to head for the safety of the beach. After a period of waiting to see if the wind would lighten the race officer chose to start the fleet in the strong winds. With the fleet fully powered up the first beat didn’t last too long, and although a little more spread out than normal all the boats rounded the top mark for the first reach. Several of the crews took the chance to get as much speed out of their boats by flying their kites along the reaches. Pushing the limits of their boats many crews were heard commenting on ‘quite possibly the fastest they’ve ever been’. With a reduced fleet crossing the finish line due to equipment failure, succumbing to the strong winds or injury it made for a very interesting finish to the championship, mixing up the places a little on the last day. Race honours were again taken by 14782 (Inns/Coultas) followed by 14971 (Allison/Watson) and 15011 (Stockley/Muirhead).


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