Englishmen Tom Gillard and Richard Anderton produced a tremendous last day of sailing to become European Fireball champions.
The pair won two of the final three races today to pip fellow countrymen Matt Burge and Richard Wagstaff, who had held the overnight lead. After two discards Gillard and Anderton finished on 10 points, a six-point winning margin.
In third place were another English duo, Dave Wade and Tim Hartley, who recorded a consistent series of finishes without winning an individual race.
Fourth were Irishmen Barry McMartin and Conor Kinsella, who started by winning the first race and ended by taking the ninth which was to be the final of the series. The 10th race was cancelled due to lack of wind.
Czech sailors Jaroslav Verner and Jakub Napravnic and Jiri Paruzek and Jakub Kosvica took fifth and sixth places respectively with another English pair, Alex Taylor and Geoff Edwards, finishing seventh.
The first Shetland duo were Willum Moutt and Neil Fraser in eighth place, just ahead of Scott Nicolson and Roger Goudie in ninth.
Tenth were Irishmen Frank Miller and Ismail Inan, with Miller returning to Shetland after competing in the European Championships when they were first staged in the isles in 2003.
The first women in the series were Louise McKenna and Hermine O’Keefe from Ireland, the first helm aged under 25 was Paruzek with Kinsella the first crew under 25. The award for the first classic boat went to local men Mouatt and Fraser.
Winning helm Gillard, 25, from the aptly named Viking Sailing Club in Sheffield, began sailing when he was just two years old. He has now reached the pinnacle in his sport, having also been world champion on two occasions.
He said: “We have had everything this week. I don’t think there’s a condition that we haven’t had. We came up here expecting a lot of blow but just had one day of windy conditions the whole week.
“You have very clean water – you can see the bottom many metres down – and the air is very fresh.
“We’ve had a great time here. The social side has been wonderful. This place [Mareel] is awesome as well. I’ve never had a prizegiving in such a grand building.”
Miller, who finished in 10th place, was back after having competing in the Lerwick-staged event of 2003. On that occasion there were 48 Fireballs, almost double this year’s 26 entries, and he finished in 23rd place.
He said: “The event 11 years ago was one of the best Fireball events I have ever been in, not just for the sailing but the hospitality and the facilities. Shetland [put on] a fantastic event 11 years ago and they have done it again.
“For us being Irish, the music and warmth means a lot. One of the great things about sailing Fireballs is you get to go to unusual places that you wouldn’t go to otherwise. I’ve been to Barbados, Thailand, Adelaide in Australia, Vancouver Island, Slovenia … It’s almost a random-made tourist guide.”
Also here in 2003 was Miller’s fellow Irishman Louis Smyth, who now considers himself in the veteran class.
“It’s one of the finest places we’ve been to. I wouldn’t have come here again if I hadn’t had so much hospitality.
“I’d like to come back here again, but I’ll probably be on a zimmer frame,” he joked.
At the presentation ceremony a whole host of awards were made, with Lerwick Boating Club and all the various helpers, supporters and sponsors being thanked for the contribitutions
Special presentations were made to various people including hard-working organisers John and Emma Manson, priciple race officer Bruce Leask, the international jury and international secretary Andrew Davies.
Then the party began with music from local bands First Foot Soldiers and the legendary No Sweat.
• For full report, points table and more photographs see next week’s Shetland Times.