This year’s Fireball and Friends Regatta was what everyone came to Florida expecting. Warm weather, great hospitality, tight racing and the general feeling that there was really no other place they would have rather been for the weekend. Although only five boats showed up they represented areas in North America as far away as Victoria, BC, Phoenix, AZ, Cleveland, OH, Ottawa, ON and yes even Pittsburgh, PA was represented. The wind on the first day was somewhat mild as the average was 8-10 out of the north east. The big surprise was Duncan Schaefer who showed up with the hull he and his son Graham built together with some of Graham’s friends back in 2003 for the High School Challenge Cup program. This hull is a well built standard hull with a dated rig sporting barber haulers and a jib system that sat on the deck in a fore/aft position. But Duncan proved that a well sailed homebuilt boat can be as competitive as any professionally manufactured plastic fantastic as at the end of the day Duncan was sitting in second place with two seconds and a fourth. He was pointing high and going fast all afternoon.
Pat Crump did his usual first place gig while Mike McEvoy and Rob Thompson were left trying to figure out how to get ahead of Duncan. I myself was left to witness all this from the back of the fleet but I enjoyed sailing with my brother for the first time in 30 years so it was still a great time had by all. Saturday brought the same type of wind pattern and once again Pat ripped off two first place finishes while Rob, sailing with his son Francis figured out how to beat Duncan and Mike using Clay Pulson as his crew showed signs of marked improvement. The third race saw Duncan and his son Graham taking one away from Pat before everyone was told to head in to allow the wind to fill in a bit. As I was using a young crew from the Davis Island youth program named Ellis I was somewhat pleased that we had managed to complete all the racing without breaking anything or deflating his spirits as once again we were in last place. Although nobody would have thought that if one had witnessed the welcome Ellis got on returning to the shore by his fellow youth members. Back at the club I had to point out that I was the guy who sailed with Ellis and then people knew who I was. We went out for one more race after about an hour or so on shore and although the beginning of the race started off fine the wind died and the entire fleet was sent in for the remainder of the day.
Sunday proved to be the day everyone was waiting for as we started the day in 10-15 mph wind that continued to build for the entire morning to about 23. Again Pat showed his dominance while Duncan, Mike and Rob all switched places several times before Rob started to dominate the second place position. After the racing the ride back to the Club was probably the most exciting part of the entire trip as we had to beam reach the entire way in riding a plane all the way hoping that someone on shore had a good camera. In the end Pat Crump and Jane Millican took first while Rob and Francis Thompson placed second. Duncan and Graham Schaefer held on to third, leaving Mike McEvoy and Clay in fourth while Ellis and I rounded out the fleet in last place.
Regardless of the finishes this regatta was everything that people expect it to be. Davis Island did a great job, the race committee was world class, the hospitality was second to none, and the desire to return was there before you left. Next year will be another great event, guaranteed, but in two years, March of 2015, will mark 50 consecutive years of Fireballs at Davis Island for our Mid-winters. If you never been to Davis Island for this event mark your calendar now and plan on doing that one. The Mid-winters will be 50 in 15 and I’m sure Davis Island will be up for the celebration. Plan now to attend!!!