Despite a very hostile weather forecast, with gale warnings issued across the country, 50 Fireballs made the journey to Rutland Water for the class inland championship on November 4-5.
As it turned out, the storms failed to materialise and the fleet enjoyed 10-12 knot breezes, which whilst not of the strength most had anticipated, were shifty enough to provide some extremely challenging conditions. This coupled with a high quality fleet that contained no less than five past and present world champions, and six European and national champions from other classes, produced some exciting and, for some, frustrating racing.
The first race got away after a general recall and after a tense first beat which saw the lead swing from the boats on one side of the beat to the boats on the other and back again many times, it was Daren Fasey and Colin Davis who continued to their recent run of good form to round the top mark first, followed by DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend in second and Ian Pinnell and Andrew Davies third. Fasey did well to hold off the challenge from Edwards for one round, but found himself overtaken at the top of the second beat. Edwards extended his lead over the rest of the six-round race to win by a comfortable margin. Fasey continued to sail a great race but was unfortunate to be overtaken on the approach to the downwind finish as the boats behind came down the leg in a line of breeze and he had to be content with third. Clive Goodwin and Howard Davies took second spot, Paul Cullen and Matt Akland fourth, Pinnell was fifth and Kevin Hope and Simon Hextall finished sixth.
With the light beginning to fail, the race officer then set a short two-round race. Edwards led this from start to finish. Goodwin was second for a round before being overtaken by Hope while Vince Horey and Jon Mildred were fourth.
Despite the stormy forecast, Sunday saw a slight drop in the breeze to around 8-10 knots. The first race was started from a pin end-biased line which presented difficulties to a number of boats in finding a space to tack onto port to get away. Goodwin, lying second overnight, was one of the boats who was caught up in the confusion and had a poor start. Horey, however, made the best start and had a good lead at the first mark followed by Edwards in second, and Pinnell third. Edwards managed to just squeeze past Horey at the top of the next beat and the two boats sailed cheek by jowl down the run with the lead continually changing. Edwards however, rounded the leeward mark ahead. All the leading bunch headed up the right-hand side of the next beat except Pinnell who banged the left-hand corner and for a while looked strong. But at the top mark Edwards still had a comfortable lead with Horey second, Pinnell third, and Tim Rush and Bob Gardner fourth. The race was finished at the bottom of the triangle but Horey found he had been over at the start which gave second to Pinnell, Rush third. Andy Foskett and Howard Jones pulled up to fourth.
Three firsts gave Edwards and Townend the championship with a race to spare but they decided to stay on the water for the fourth and final race. A long line coupled with a shift at the start saw the majority of the fleet make the windward mark without tacking. It was the familiar red spinnaker of Edwards that was once again hoisted first with Foskett rounding second and Mark and Simon Maskell third. Edwards had another comfortable win, Steve Morrison and Richard Wagstaff made up for what was for them a poor weekend by passing Foskett on the last beat to take second after sailing their way up through the fleet, Mark Pollington and Neil Ruthven were fourth. Jeremy Davy and Matt Flint fifth and the Maskells came in sixth.
1st 14708, DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend (British Steel SC) 3 pts
2nd 14496, Clive Goodwin and Howard Davies (Brightlingsea SC) 12 pts
3rd 14635, Ian Pinnell and Andrew Davies (Northampton SC) 20pts