Victorian Fireball State Titles

Blast from the past returns in top form to win Fireball State Titles 2023.

A small but competitive fleet contested the Fireball State Titles at Royal Geelong Yacht Club, home of the 2024 world championship. Brendan Garner and Ben O’Brien teamed up for the first time since winning the Nationals in 2005-6. They were a formidable team in the naughties and they showed that 15 years had not dulled their skills, winning races in both strong winds and light shifty conditions.

Brendan Garner / Ben O’Brien - winners are grinners. Photo Copyright Tom Smeaton
Brendan Garner / Ben O’Brien – winners are grinners. Photo Copyright Tom Smeaton
Return of the Jedi (Ben Garner/ Sam Williamson) showing their secret weapon!. Photo (including additions) Copyright Tom Smeaton
Return of the Jedi (Ben Garner/ Sam Williamson) showing their secret weapon!. Photo (including additions) Copyright Tom Smeaton

After a blown out day 1, two days of sailing eventuated with 3 races each day.

The race management team saw wind averages of 18-22 knots on Saturday with higher gusts. For those sailing it created fast and exciting racing in the relatively flat water. Some found the conditions a little challenging and only four boats started the third race. Brendan and Ben won all three races in the wind showing good boat speed and great boat handling to win convincingly. Nick and Simon Gunner also showed some great turns of speed but a capsize just before the first start put the pressure on. Phil Peverell and Bruce Shand, one of the smaller crews, managed to get consistent results in the wind to be equal with Nick and Simon after the three races. Susannah Gillam and Andrew Butler, the lightest pair in the fleet, managed to complete all 3 races without a capsize. This consistent boat handling and stamina kept them in touch with the leaders.

Phil Peverell and Bruce Shand taking off at the start of race 1, having threaded the needle through gaps to start at full speed. - Photo Copyright Tom Smeato
Phil Peverell and Bruce Shand taking off at the start of race 1, having threaded the needle through gaps to start at full speed. – Photo Copyright Tom Smeaton

Sunday was very different. A gentle breeze saw boats struggling to get to the start on time. Luckily the wind was shifting and race management let it settle. Race 1 was sailed in a pleasant 10-14 knot breeze with lots of tightly contested mark roundings. Race 2 was lighter and race 3 had a big 90 degree shift while the fleet was on leg 2 of the course. The lead changed multiple times in each race. Brendan and Ben picked lay lines well and the best path through the shifting breeze on race 3 to achieve their 5 wins out of the 6 races. Heather Macfarlane and Chris Payne were the only other race winners although a few boats had opportunities they were unable to capitalise. It’s great to see other challengers coming through to break Heather/Chris’s title holding streak of 13 years out of the last 15. The racing behind the leaders was close and crews eagerly waited for the full results to be published to identify the minor placings. Brendan and Ben were stand out winners and those of the fleet that have been putting in practice together are showing performance improvement. Handicap winners received vouchers from Irwin Sails.

A big thanks to the organisers and race management team at Royal Geelong Yacht Club. And thanks to Garner Marine Services that put on a BBQ for competitors from all fleets: Musto Skiffs, FDs as well as the Fireballs on Saturday evening. A great way to recover after a tough day on the water! See www.smeatonphotography.com for a complete regatta photo gallery.

Full results are here

Article by Heather Macfarlane

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