The first day’s sailing at the Fireball European Championships got underway yesterday with victory for the Irish pair who had earlier snatched the Shetland National championship.
An early weather postponement of the first race was called off by principle race officer (PRO) Bruce Leask allowing the regatta to get started.
Predictions at midnight had been for a very light west-north-westerly wind, forecast to freshen slightly, and on the course the wind was found to be fluctuating by 260 degrees, though less so at the start line.
Three races were sailed in moderate trapezing conditions – not too severe – with the conventional Olympic course used in all three races. The first race was shortened after the downwind sausage leg but the other two, on a smaller physical course, ran their full length.
Race One honours went to Barry McCartin and Conor Kinsella, who initially were behind Dave Wade and Tim Hartley, but pulled ahead on the second beat to lead and win by a comfortable margin. The podium had a three nation flavour with Wade and Hartley in second and Jaroslav Werner and Jakub Napravnik of the Czech Republic in third.
Also included in the leaders who set the pace for everyone else were Tom Gillard and Richard Anderton with Matt Burge and Richard Wagstaff closing out the top five. The balance of the top 10 were Alex Taylor and Geoff Edwards , Maja Suter and Thomas Boehm, Jiri Paruzek and Jakub Kosvica, Ondrej Labuda and Karel Otto and Darren and Craig Forrest. The racing was tight and there were skirmishes going on around the course but nothing excessive.
The PRO and his team had already modified the position of the weather mark in Race One, but while the crews were sailing the sausage leg of that race, he also modified the position of the gybe mark, making the course smaller.
The “usual suspects” were at the front of the second race with an almost reversed order of finishing (relative to the first race). Going right seemed to pay most dividends, according to correspondent Cormac Bradley.
This time it was Matt Burge and Richard Wagstaff who came from behind to take the lead to win comfortably at the finish. Indeed the front five or six got away from the body of the fleet but none of them were able to close the gap on the boat in front of them. The sausage downwind produced a variety of approaches with some sailing round the mark and going right for a short distance before coming back left. Others gybed immediately.
The breeze was a bit stronger but not by much. The two reaches of the triangle were challenging but the second one was by far the tighter.
After a race that lasted just under an an hour the finishing order was Burge and Wagstaff, Gillard and Anderton, Verner and Napravnik. Wade and Hartley and Taylor and Edwards were both scored fourth.
McCartin and Kinsella were sixth, Paruzek and Kosvica seventh, Scott Nicolson and Roger Goudie eighth, Louise McKenna and Hermine O’Keeffe ninth, and Frank Miller and Ismail Inan 10th.
Another quick turnaround by PRO Bruce Leask saw the third race started and delayed by the first general recall of the day. It was quickly followed by the first black flag start of the day.
Again, going right was favoured by the “hot-shots” and this time, according to Mr Bradley, Tom Gillard and Richard Anderton set the pace before, yet again, Burge and Wagstaff took up over. Also prominent at the head of the fleet were Alex Taylor and Geoff Edwards. This time, Mr Bradley was closer to the action to watch five boats fight each other for the lesser places. The downwind leg of the sausage was very competitive as boats went one way and then another in an attempt to gain an advantage. However, nobody could dislodge Burge and Wagstaff who sailed home to a second win and top spot after day one.
Behind them the order was Gillard, Verner, Wade, Paruzek and McCartin.
According to Mr Bradley, Mr Leask and his team were to be commended for getting three races in, particularly when the dinghies were only afloat after noon. Proceedings were finished around 5.30pm and the completion of three races meant that they were only one race behind schedule. Sunday’s weather prediction was for more wind today, with another three races planned for today, which meant there is a real chance that the championship could be back on schedule this time tomorrow.
The fleet went clay pigeon shooting last night.
• For more on the championships, including reports on the latest action see Friday’s Shetland Times.