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Fireball Class Agrees to Put Youth Development to the Fore at Lively AGM

4th December 2023
Fireball dinghy numbers in the Cork area have risen from 1 last year to 11, with nine in Monkstown Bay alone, the recent Fireball AGM heard
Fireball dinghy numbers in the Cork area have risen from 1 last year to 11, with nine in Monkstown Bay alone, the recent Fireball AGM heard Credit: Bob Bateman

The recent Irish Fireball Association agm was a lively affair as the class discussed two thorny issues and reconfirmed its commitment to younger sailors.

First, the thorny stuff - there was a lively, sometimes heated discussion around the decision not to award the class a place in the Irish Sailing Champions event (formerly known as the Helmsman's). The ultimate decision was not to award the class, which features several highly competitive sailors, a position based on a notional cutoff of having a 20 boat fleet at the National Championship.

The 2023 Nationals had an 18-boat fleet. A parallel issue was the decision to use a virtual National Judge to save the cost of having a National Judge attend in person.

This was fundamentally to save costs and to keep the entry fee for the event at WHSC affordable. Class chairman Neil Cramer explained that having a National Judge attend an event outside Dublin could add approximately 500 euros to the cost of running the event when judges' expenses are factored in.

Irish Fireball Association Chairman Neil CramerIrish Fireball Association Chairman Neil Cramer

Unfortunately, the vast majority of National Judges are based in Dublin or Cork, so travel and subsistence expenses are unavoidable for most regional clubs. Inevitably, this cost has to be passed on to competitors in the form of increased entry fees. From the perspective of the Irish Fireball Association, this is actually anti-sailing and anti-smaller clubs. A clear solution would be financial support from Irish Sailing for National Judges when smaller venues are hosting a national championship. At the AGM, the class reiterated its commitment to youth sailing and agreed to continue its strong subsidy for youth membership and youth entry fees for events.

"increased entry fees are anti-sailing and anti-smaller clubs"

The future of Fireball sailing lies with young sailors and the class will continue to invest in that future. One younger sailor at the agm argued that the class should be better at marketing itself. Chris Bateman, who is a youth development officer on the committee, said that every young sailor he introduces to the boat is amazed at its performance. As a lightweight boat (66.4kg hull) the Fireball has an impressive power to weight ratio and in terms of youth sailing it is actually lighter than a 29er. Chris pointed out that the key selling points should be that the boat is fast, fun and affordable. To prove all of these points, he is running introduction and coaching sessions at Monkstown Bay SC over the winter and into the spring. He has embarked on a mission to rescue and upgrade abandoned Fireballs around the country, building the Cork fleet from almost zero to some dozen boats.

Chris Bateman is a Cork Harbour based Fireball, skiff, catamaran and Laser sailorChris Bateman is a Cork Harbour based Fireball, skiff, catamaran and Laser sailor

The saving grace of an abandoned or neglected Fireball is the hull build quality as boats made by Winder, Duvosin and Weathermark will have a competitive lifespan of well over twenty years. Some of these boats can be picked up for a song, and with re-roping and a bit of cleaning up, they can go head to head with newer boats on any startline. The gold/silver fleet division was also debated at the agm and a draft document was agreed in principle, to be voted on and signed off after a wider poll of sailors.

The guiding principle is to ensure each division is competitive and fair while promoting the top silver sailors into the gold fleet at the end of each season. Events so far nailed down for 2024 include a Nationals at RCYC in tandem with 420s and 29ers, a Leinsters at Skerries, and a Munsters at Monkstown Bay SC. But Fireball sailing doesn't stop for winter, and competitive winter racing is ongoing in the DMYC Frostbites series and at Monkstown. 2024 promises to be another great year for the fleet, with young sailors pushing to the fore and great events at home and abroad.

Speaking of the latter, at least two Irish teams will be competing in the World Championship at Geelong in Australia in February, and there is already big interest in the European Championship on Lake Maggiore in Italy in September.

Published in Fireball, Youth Sailing Team

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