The Fireball Dinghies head home to the Sutton Dinghy Club this weekend
This weekend the Sutton Dinghy Club on Dublin Bay welcomes the Fireball fleet to Sutton Creek for the first time in a long time. This will be an unusual situation as this will be the first time we have hosted the Fireball Ulster Championships. With Worlds in Ireland this year, the class were very keen to make sure many of their events went ahead and Sutton was more than happy to help. writes the Club’s, Andy Johnston.
The Fireball is a class that Sutton knows very well from a historical perspective, as it was here 60 years ago that the first Irish Fireball was sailed by our former Commodore Roy Dickson, when in September 1962 Roy sailed on hull number 38 through Dublin Bay to Dun Laoghaire.
Over the next few years, Roy had helped build a formidable fireball fleet with the likes of Bunny Conn, Ian Baird, David Lovegrove, Hugh Morton, Ronan Henry and Brian Galton. In 1963 the first Fireball Nationals were thrown from Broadmeadows in Malahide and were won by Noel ‘Bunny’ Conn and Ronan. Roy with Pat Gilmour’s crew won the championship in 1964. The fleet remained strong at Sutton well into the 1970s with Barry O’Neill, Jamie Wilkinson, Brian Matthews, Joe McKeever, Vincent Wallace, Freddie Harrison, Ian Baldock all campaigning outside of Sutton Dinghy Club. As well as winning several national championships, Sutton’s fleet campaigned at world and European level with a 4 boat team going to Bendor in France in 1967 where Roy Dickson and Hugh Morton took 3rd place with David Lovegrove and Ian Baird in 4th. The quality of this fleet is demonstrated with Barry O’Neill and Jamie Wilkinson progressing to Olympic level together in Montreal in 1976. Jamie returned to partner David Wilkins in Moscow in 1980 for a silver medal.
The fleet began to fade from Sutton in the late 70s with intermittent campaigns from Ruan O’Tiarnaigh and Stephen Boyle in the 90s. The pair were very successful, with podium finishes at a number of National Fireball Championships, most notably in 1994 and 1995, with Ruan eventually winning the Helmsmans Championship in 1995. The most recent sighting of a Fireball in Sutton was multiple IDRA14 Champion Alan Henry and Simon Revill who competed in several events of 2015 to 2017. Simon actually won the Fireball Nationals in 2017 as a crew with Noel Butler.
This weekend’s Ulster Championship will have a small but perfectly formed fleet which includes still active class captain Frank Miller and will, we believe, include a crew from the host club. With the GP14 Worlds also in Ireland in 2022, Conor Twohig and Matthew Cotter are using the Ulster Championship to hone their skills and spend more time on the water and are joined by fellow GP14 crew from Blessington to Richard Street and Lisa Flynn . We think it’s missing a few notable Fireball crews that are so hard to assess who is the most likely winner. There may be a surprise. Either way, it’s great to see the Fireballs back in Sutton Creek and we’re looking forward to a great weekend.