The opening day of the 2024 Fireball Worlds at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club gave sailors a real heart-starter, beginning with an onshore delay and ending with strong winds in two late afternoon, early evening races.
On a hot day in Geelong, sailors entered an on-shore postponement with racing delayed until 4:30pm local time while the race committee waited for the breeze to swing from north to south.
Eventually the breeze settled in the late afternoon with 20-25 knots filling in from the south for the two opening world championship races.
Local Fireball stalwarts and big breeze gurus Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien on Black Pearl kicked off their World Championship campaign in the best possible way, clinching two emphatic race wins in the breezy conditions.
It was a dream start for Garner and O’Brien, who finished seventh overall in the Australian Nationals pre-worlds regatta and only once claimed a top-five finish.
The top British teams remained in the mix in the windy conditions with Tom Gillard and Andy Thompson finishing the day in second place with a 3,2 scorecard, DJ Edwards and Vyv Townend in third with a 2,5 today, and pre-worlds regatta winners David Hall and Paul Constable sitting fifth with two fourths.
Newly-crowned Australian Champions Ben Schulz and Angus Higgins on Rip Tide ended the opening day in fourth overall with a 5,3 scorecard and remain well in the hunt having proven themselves in all breezes.
Mornington Yacht Club sailor Sophie Jackson, who also campaigns the 470 and is steering Zig Zag with Josh Galland this week, said it was a long wait for the breeze.
“We had a pretty long wait on shore today, a lot of hours, a very hot day, and then pretty late in the piece about 4:30pm, finally the southerly came in and it was absolutely honking out there,” she said.
“There’s some pretty solid teams out there that know what they’re doing, so it was cool to learn from them, learn a bit more about the Fireball and how to make it go in a breeze.
“All in all, a pretty awesome afternoon, the boat was going nice and quick and we’re pretty excited for the next couple days of racing.”
The event has been a long time coming for the Australian fleet and Royal Geelong Yacht Club, originally slated for 2020 however delayed twice due to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as travel and logistics challenges.
Victorian Fireball veteran Heather Macfarlane said
“We held a national championship here in 2019 and it was supposed to be the precursor for a World Championship,” she said.
“As everybody knows COVID hit and the event was put on ice until we could reschedule to another time, so the organising committee has been in operation since 2017 and now finally we can bring everything to fruition here now in February 2024.”
There are four more days of racing scheduled for this week with a 10-race series planned should the weather play the game, as well as a lay day on Wednesday to allow sailors to explore the best of what the City of Greater Geelong has to offer.
Similar forecast for tomorrow with hot weather throughout the day, however there is hope for another late sea breeze for two more championship races.
For up-to-date results, head to https://bit.ly/2024FireballWorldsResults
For more information about the event, head to https://rgyc.com.au/on-water/regattas/2024-fireball-worlds/
Story author: Harry Fisher, Down Under Sail
Photo credit: Alex Dare, Down Under Sail
Video credit: Alex Dare, Down Under Sail