So it seems as though I've been away from racing Fireballs for years, although in truth it's only been a month. Anyway, predictably my return was met by a forecast of NO WIND AT ALL, but luckily it was wrong. So the faithful all rigged up in a mild onshore breeze of about 6mph (max) and the Firebowl was GO!
Or at least it would have been 'GO' if we could have laid our hands on a hooter, but they had all been hoovered up by the open meeting and club races. Doh!. OK, Quentin's got a whistle, Firebowl is 'GO'!
So the early starters zoomed off in a fairly decent breeze, rapidly went round the flyaway mark 'T' and disappeared off towards 'E'. Later starters such as yours truly were lumbered with less of the moving air thing and the need to tack to get to 'T', and on such details do entire races turn. So the 10mins-and-over boats had an engaging race amongst themselves, while the early starters had what appeared to be an equally engaging race for the good places at the front; the chances of any of us catching any of them never looking terribly good to be honest.
Anyhoo, we (me and Alex) started with Jez/Dave and spent the entire race swapping places with them in a good natured and unstressed manner. Along the way we came across Colin & Karen with the brand new North sails, Mo & no.1 daughter Holly, and JT & Quentin. And with the exception of the latter pair, who went out the back door by going too far right on the (rather excellent) beat to 'G', we stayed with all these boats the whole way round. And we picked up a couple of Freds too, so the whole thing developed into quite a nice little race. I was able to observe the lead boats taking mark 'F' in a small lump with some shouting, this appeared to be Dangerous Dave, Pete Muggleton and somebody else. I didn't get much time to follow this little battle because Jez had just overtaken me again and everyone else was coming up fast too. This culminated in the run from 'E' to 'D' where it seemed that the whole lot (including the pair of Freds) arrived at 'D' at the same time, with the boats at the back of the pile blanketing the ones at the front and Jez calling that he needed more than the 3ft of water that was on offer. Woooo!, that was a close one, but remarkably nobody hit anybody else and after I'd opened my eyes again we all sailed off to 'P' (hideous fetch) and then OL to the (hideously biased) finish line. On the way there we discovered that it was better to 2 sail and go high into the freshening breeze than to 3 sail and go low into the header, cue victory for Mo and some grinding of teeth from yours truly :-)
All in all, a great sail, in spite of me coming in somewhere around 9th by my reckoning. The wind dropped at lunchtime so we canned the PM races, and what a good idea that was. The wind dropped to about four fifths of sod-all and it looked like one of those times when you'd actually have more fun mowing the lawn.
Still, I can conclusively report that it is possible to enjoy a decent race in winds of 4-6mph, and I'm looking forward to races 2, 3 and 4 on the 8th May.
Results here http://www.draycotewater.co.uk/fleets/fireball/results/2010/Firebowl.htm
Thanks to OD team Richard, Ray and Anne for all their good works.
PS, did anybody else notice the explosions on the farmland on the other side of the main road in the afternoon. That was weird, anyone know what was going on there ?