‘’Then wrought, the people of the Westerns, A Mound over the Sea, It was high and broad, By the Sea-faring man, To be seen afar’’
Written by a 5th Century monk known as ‘Bewulf’ about a place which is known locally to us as ‘The tomb of Queen Maeve of Knocknarea’, today Sligo Bay waters remain for the most part, rather quiet. Long ago however, Sligo was heavily engaged in herring trade (sometimes in exchange for wine) as Hugh O’ Donnell, his mariners and tradesmen ruled the seas of the northwest. Maritime affairs may have slowed since then, however, sailing in Ireland, be it for pleasure or competition is very much alive. This is no surprise considering this little green island is surrounded by some of the best sailing territories in the world and Sligo Bay is one of them! Just in a few weeks time, Sligo Yacht Club in historic, Rosses Point will proudly host the ‘Dubarry World Fireball Championships 2011’ running from 11th-24th June.

Although a slight change of environment from last years’ World Championship, hosted in Carlisle Bay off the beautiful Carribbean island of Barbados, Sligo will no doubt do a very good job. Sure, there may not be the very fine ’Mount Gay’ sugar cane rum of Barbados, palm trees, sun and warm waters, but we do have our good old fashioned and very tasty Guinness to entice the international sailors! Not only that, but on the landward side, we have a stunning scenic backdrop of mighty Benbulben, the Valley of Glencar, Knocknarea and the golden dunes of Strandhill. Most importantly, on the seaward side, we have the wildest and freshest of winds and green-blue cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean to provide the sailors with prime, yet challenging sailing conditions.

From the time of the earliest settlers to Viking raids at Inishmurray Island, to 16th Century shipwrecking of the famous fleet of the Spanish Armada and beyond to merchant shipping and trade, Sligo has since developed a traditional background in seafaring. This years’ event will coincide with Rosses Point ‘Sea Shanty and Seafaring Festival’ running from 17th to 19th June. This is an annual, localised maritime affair filled with poetry, old Irish mariners tunes, dance, craic agus ceoil and should not be missed.

Sligo Yacht Club today is situated at Deadmans’ Point, famously known for its Metal Man but was first established in 1821 on Lough Gill. A new club house was built at the point in 1973. It has since then developed to become one of Irelands’ most professional clubs with excellent facilities and beautiful sailing grounds which has hosted many national, international and world championship sailing events. World Class Dinghy Championships hosted here have been- The Enterprise World Championships 1979, the Mirror World Championships 1987, the GP14 World Championships 2006 and now the World Fireball Championships 2011.

So what is a fireball? It is not a ball of fire but it sure as hell goes like one! It is a high performance 16 ft racing dinghy sailed by helm and crew. It can be sailed in lakes and at sea. It is a competitive boat with an adjustable rig, tall and narrow jib, main sail, single trapeze and spinnaker (a trapeze allows the crew to put their weight right out over the side to balance the power of the sails and thus keeping the boat upright). It was designed and first sailed by Peter Milne in England in 1962.

Most fireballs were made of wood, but now, many are being made of plywood and fibreglass composite or a relatively new plastic called epoxy. Generally, the lighter the boat, the faster she goes! This year, Sligo Yacht Club members, Beth and Peter Armstrong are sailing their own home made fireball. Their father has been working on it intensively, shaping and sanding the wood to make it as fast and light as possible. Best of luck to them!
Some of the Irish sailors expecting to do well this year are Noel Butler, last years’ national champion, Kenny Rumball, Simon McGrotty and Francis Rowan of Dún Laoghaire and Damien Bracken of Skerries. Thirty five Irish boats are expected to enter along with entries from- England, Scotland, Australia, North America, Canada, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Namibia, Belgium, South Africa, St. Lucia and Slovenia. Last years’ world champions, Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend (UK) will no doubt be determined to defend their title!
The championship runs from the 13th to the 24th June. Week 1 will be the International Championship and Week 2 will be the World Championship. There will be racing every day starting around 1300hrs except Wednesdays. The club will be open all through the two weeks with many social nights of fun planned for sailors, supporters and spectators! Bring a pair of binoculars for the event so you can get a glimpse of all the action on the water. If the weather is good, why not have a beer on the sun drenched clubhouse deck!

If you are interested in doing some sailing, feel free to contact us or come down to the club. SYC hosts Adult and Junior sail training courses each year. The adult sailing course is currently under way with 42 participants and the Junior starts in July, running for eight weeks. For more information on courses and Sligo Yacht Club, go to Remember, sailing is fun, exciting and a breath of fresh air and you don’t need heaps of money to get involved so hope to see you soon either way and to cheer your Irish competitors all the way to the finish line!

The Dubarry World Fireball Championship 2011 is supported by Fáilte Ireland and by MalinWaters, part financed by the European Union's European Regional Development Fund through INTERREG IVA Cross-Border Programme.
Other sponsors include ISA (Irish Sailing Association), Topaz, North Sails, Bowley Plumbing Services, Source, Sligo Tourism Development Association, the Clarion Hotel and the Glasshouse Hotel. Sligo Yacht Club would like to thank, in advance, all of those who support this exciting event.

Auriel Robinson (SYC Member)
Posted in: Racing
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