The Typhoon-sponsored Fireball national championship was held at Exe Sailing Club, Exmouth over the week 11-17 August. Winds were predominately 8-12 knots all week and Race Officer Phil Morrison was easily able to complete all eight races according to schedule.
The first beat of the first race established a pattern that was to prevail throughout most of the week with the right-hand side heavily paying. One of the boats that made it furthest right was Vince Horey and Jon Mildred who came into the first mark with a comfortable lead from Dave Wade and Richard Wagstaff with Andy Pearce and Jon Bale third.
However, Chips Howarth and James Grant who were one of the boats to suffer from a poor first beat on the left and had been in the early teens at the first mark sailed a stormer of a race to win by a comfortable margin. Vince Horey came in second place and Pete Harper and Vyv Townend third.
Two races were held on the second day, both using gate starts. For the first race it was again to be a battle between Horey and Howarth. Horey led for most of the race but it was Howarth who took the winner’s gun with Andy Smith and James Meldrum third.
Pre-championship favourites, the newly crowned European and world champions Stevie Morrison and Liam Murray, had a poor couple of early races but as pathfinder of the third race, and the right-hand side paying heavily they led from start to finish. Wade was second and Steve Goacher and Tim Edlund third. However, Morrison’s euphoria at his race win was tempered by the fact that Murray was beginning to suffer from a viral infection, requiring him to find a stand-in crew for the rest of the week.
Race four held on day three was in a lighter 8-knot breeze. Smith was the fortunate recipient of the pathfinder’s job on account of his 10th in the previous race. This was the race that right was definitely the way to go and after hitting the layline before tacking Smith had an unassailable lead at the first mark that he maintained to the finish. Australian Ben Schulz and Colin Park had gone out of the gate early but were forced to tack off and duck almost the whole fleet. There was a silver lining to the cloud as this put them on the favoured side of the beat and second at the first mark, a position they maintained to the finish. Horey was showing consistency with a third.
Day four saw the sun come out for the first time. The continued loss of his regular crew did not prove a hindrance to Morrison as he won the morning race (race 5) in what were tricky conditions. It once again paid to be pathfinder with Harper reaching the windward mark first, a position he held for two laps of the three lap race. However, the last beat proved less predictable than has been the norm in the regatta with Angus Hemmings and Steve Chesney pulling themselves up from sixth to take the lead. However, Morrison and stand-in crew Simon Hughes passed Hemmings on the reach to take the race which was finished at the leeward mark.
The breeze had increased to 12 knots for the afternoon race (race 6). Howarth led from start to finish to win their third race of the week. Wade was second and Horey third.
With two races to go it was looking as though it is going to be a fight between Horey and Howarth. Morrison could still win, but needed two good results.
A Force 5 and bright sunshine greeted the fleet for Race seven on day five. Howarth was first to the first mark closely followed by Wade and then Horey. However, with a change from the norm it paid to go left on the second beat which allowed Lee Sydenham and John Rees to take the lead followed by Tim Rush and Bob Gardner. Meanwhile, drama was unfolding on the right-hand side. Howarth was covering Horey when his jib halyard snapped effectively ending his race.
Sydenham opened enough of a margin to hold on to the finish, with Horey pulling through on the last run to take second and Smith taking third on the last beat from Rush. Second was enough fo