AYC’s Clay Poulson Fireballs the Worlds

Clay Poulson at the pin end of a very long starting line.

Clay Poulson and Mianne Erne at the pin end of a very long starting line.

I know the Fireball I sail with the Arizona Yacht Club is a bit of an oddball dinghy, and lots of Zonie sailors have tried to get me to sail with the Thistles, the Buccaneers, or such.

Honestly, I would have immediately joined one of the other fleets if I hadn’t been involved with something really cool.

The three photos show how cool Fireballs are. These are taken from the 2013 Fireball European and World Championships held a few weeks ago in Porto Roz, Slovenia. The 2013 Fireball Championships drew 79 boats together, from 10 different countries, for 8 days of exciting racing.

The photo with the long line of boats just off the start line lets you really imagine the action that was to follow. My World’s captain, Mianne Erne, and I are visible sailing on #SUI 15063. We lined up with the 75+ boats nearly 40 different times over the eight days of racing. Lots of aggressive sailors led to plenty of general recalls and then black flags. Then you had to negotiate a vast course with lots of fast moving boats. Some mid-fleet mark roundings were chaos as a dozen Fireballs would converge on the buoy at the same time. It was a truly awesome week of racing.

Porto Roz and neighboring Piran are ancient seaports historically linked to the Venetian Republic. These old Venetian ties give the entire Istrian Peninsula a very Italian flavor. The seafood is glorious and half the price of the Italian tourist restaurants far across the water. The marina at Porto Roz was beautiful, extending for nearly a kilometer along the shore with numerous restaurants, stores, hangers for the boats, chandleries, and rows of million dollar yachts.

Fireballs downwind.

Fireballs downwind.

The Fireball class is a really exciting international class to sail with. Fireball International has fleets in about 20 different countries. There are yearly regional, national, continental, and world championships. The last four Fireball World Championships have been held in Barbados in 2010, Sligo, Ireland in 2011, Mandurah, Australia in 2012, and Slovenia this year. The next three will be held in Thailand in 2014, Wales in 2015, and South Africa in 2016. Fireball International tries to find diverse venues and puts on a great show at all of these events. There are usually big sponsors with grand opening and closing ceremonies and then lots of dinners and parties in between.

Fireball USA generally holds three big regattas a year were we try and draw our far-flung fleet together. Our biggest regattas are usually held in Tampa, Florida; Cascade Locks in Oregon; and Rye, New York. We make an effort to work closely with Canadian Fireball to maximize the number of boats we are able to put on the water at any given event.

The Fireball, with its three sails and trapeze, is a great, fun boat to sail. The international aspect of the class makes for wonderfully interesting regattas. The Fireball class is definitely Fast, Fun, and Friendly.

Clay Poulson, AYC Portsmouth Fleet Captain
President, United States International Fireball Association

Fireballs churn the water at the Worlds.

Fireballs churn the water at the Worlds.