After coming 4th in the Fireball Europeans 3 weeks previously, we attended the Fireball UK Nationals at picturesque Tenby SC in Wales over the week of the 17-22 August.
With nearly 50 strong entries mostly from UK but also from Ireland, Canada and Switzerland, it was always going to be a high standard event. A return to gate starts and some course changes to tighten up racing was mentioned in the briefing while a windy week with offshore winds forecast made it all even harder.
On Sunday, Day 1 saw 20-25 knots on the course with extreme (30degs) windshifts. Doing our first gate start we caught up around the course to come in 10th at the end. The result of this meant we were Pathfinder for the next one. This worked to our advantage initially getting to windward in the top 3 but making a few mistakes in another very long race (1hr 10mins) meant we dropped to 8th.
On Monday, an even windier day was on the cards with winds constantly 25-30 knots but a little steadier further from the cliffs. In the first gate start we were leading at the windward but sailed to the gybe mark rather than going on the run. Eventually we recovered to 6th. Then in the 2nd race by line start we did not sail as well but came in 8th place in another race lasting over an hour. Thus steady but not amazing results so far.
On Day 3, the wind was a bit lighter and after a decent gate start, we were one of the early starters putting us on the left but a 20deg right-shift put us right to the back and while a capsize upwind due to another 30 deg windshift threw us back more we came from almost last into 20th by the end. (Discard we hoped). In race 6, eager to put a good score down we nailed the start and first beat in the now 14-18 knots to lead at the windward mark which we held down the run but lost out on a shift on the next beat to finally come in 3rd. A solid result and best so far making for happier sailors.
Wednesday was the Lay Day used to recover from a physical week so far before the last 2 days of the championship. Thus on Day 5, Thursday, a bit fresher, with forecasted 20-40 knots, we started in 20 knots and we sailed a solid race 7 to come in 5th place. The next race saw a big becalm on the course (aka before the storm) so starting in lighter settings we were well placed in top 5 until the last beat when the large squall came through which, compounded with a kite problem, saw us back to 13th at the finish losing 8 boats frustratingly.
Thus, going into the last day we were in 7th position with sight of 5th but very close opposition to 12th making it all to play for. In race 9 we sailed steadily yet conservatively in about 15 knots but came in 7th place albeit losing one boat down the final run. Finally, the last race of the championship was to come and we needed a good result. The wind increased slightly and we came out of the blocks flying-high & fast! We rounded the windward in 1st which we held on to for the 1st lap. Then Tom Gillard (eventual winner) passed us on the next beat but we were still 2nd in a tight battle with 2nd overall (Ian Dobson). On the last beat he got us relegating us to 3rd by the end but finishing well and crucially ahead of our close opposition.
After some sums we worked out that we came 5th overall which was our goal so we were happy to pull it out of the bag on the final day. Congrats to Gilly & Richard Anderton who won the Europeans a few weeks ago and again this event in some style.
Two events of the year left and next up is the Irish Nationals in a few weeks time in Lough Ree. Once again we would like to thank Team North and especially Team Rooster for supplying us with gear to keep us warm on the water. We are especially in love with our thermaflex tops!