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WbW#13 – Gone but not forgotten – Cadets and Fireballs

This is a combo of two lovely articles – The Cadets – by John Cudmore and – The Fireballs – by Richard Leonard. The Cadet was the junior class for many years, until  gradually surpassed by the Mirror dinghy during the 1970s. The Fireball was the performance trapeze boat of that time. While both are gone from the club now they are far from forgotten by some…….


Way Back When – The Cadet Class – By John Cudmore

I used to think that sailing Cadets back in the 60’s and 70’s was much the same as the present Oppie scene I see today. On “mature reflection”, however, I now see that things were so different then and on so many fronts from the very boats themselves, to the sailing gear we wore, the level of parental input then and now, the safety concerns expressed (or lack of them!) and this is just the tip of the iceberg, if you’ll pardon the pun!! 

The author and his crew John Love. Note the well fitting cover and that the Cadet is on old car tyres – there were only a couple of “club” trolleys to launch all of the dinghies!

After a long winter of tender, loving care at home in the shed where the winter’s tasks involved sanding , painting and repairing such things as buoyancy bags was completed, the boats, all wooden of course, would be brought to Crosshaven . At that time, a boat would stay in a family like an heirloom, for years being passed from older to younger sibling as the older one progressed to a bigger class such as the Enterprise. The suit of sails would be as old as the boat and generally the purchase of new sails did not enter the equation. At the start of the season all boats returned and once in the dinghy park, the boats would be kept upright by two old car tyres, placing one on each side of the boat under the hull. As very few families had their own launching trolley, launching was achieved using the handful of club trolleys available when your turn came round.

Launching 1968 style. The tide is out so the timbers are uncovered – these timbers were at the bottom of the concrete slip which we still use today – at the time it was only about a third of its current width. In the photograph we have only identified a few – Fran O’Leary is facing the camera, David Lane behind her elbow and our very young author John Cudmore has his left hand on boat. Please help in comments with further names if you can.

Learning to sail was mostly an apprenticeship system which worked very well for the younger and less adventurous children. At first you would crew for an older sibling or friend and as you progressed, would be allowed to steer for a spell before the start or after the finish of the race. With passing time and improving skill, you then graduated to become a helm! In my opinion, this was a very good and highly effective system that worked well allowing novice sailors to develop confidence and skill over time and of course encouraged team work and fostered good relationships between the age groups. 

Learning how to set a spinnaker in 1968. Racing a Cadet is restricted to children up to the age of 17. Jack Holt designed it in 1947, the same year the first Optimist was built in Florida by Clark Mills. It is a two person boat designed not to fill when capsized (never remember this part working) which meant they had a tiny cockpit. In this picture we have identified some of the sailors – John Dunphy, Peter Kennedy, June Fitzgerald, Fran O’Leary, Tommy Barker, Rory O’Donoghue and one Anthony O’Leary (ok -just half included on right). Please comment below if you can help with more.

Racing always took place in the river itself and the idea that all the boats would be guided or towed out to the Curlane Bank for a properly laid Olympic course with a committee boat and safety boats was not even on the radar. One quickly developed the skill of mud hopping up the side of the river or catching the maximum current in the middle depending on the state of the tide. There were of course other little tricks and skills to be learned such as making sure the centreboard was up enough to clear the Ferry Slip which ran from the North Shore (opposite Crosshaven Pier) Another skill that proved useful was learning a few clear paths between the moored yachts to minimize the number of tacks to be taken on the beat up river. 

The club line that John is describing below. The flagpole and transit pole lined up with a metal pole buried in the mud on the Currabinny side and this was the start and finish of almost every dinghy race. Starts continued here for many years even after the marina was installed and cut the line in two! And a cannon was used to signal the flags.

The racing was in general organized by the sailors themselves with minimal input from parents. The course always started and finished from the club line which was the width of the river from the grass outside the present dining room to the Currabinny shore. The marks usually included a boat moored upriver, the green navigation buoy (“Nav”) at Crosshaven, and the red buoy at Currabinny (“Can”) so that the course would invariably read something like “start up river moored yacht“X” port, Nav port, Can port, Nav port, Can port, Nav starboard and finish.” 

The racing calendar consisted of two main leagues, the Midweek (Tues/Thurs) and the Saturday leagues and two trophy competitions called the Fitzgerald Cup and the Maher Trophy, the latter being a swap boat event where everyone raced in everyone else’s boat and so boat advantage was eliminated. In addition there were the usual club and town regattas in Crosshaven, Cobh and Monkstown. There were no regional events as there were only fleets in Crosshaven and Ballyhome. 

Sailing gear of its time! We note that Eddie Tingle has no lifejacket! Also seen are Peter Collins, Patrica Kiely, Pam Fitzgerald and Dave Delap. This pic from about 1972 badly needs names so please help in the comments below if you can. Edit 06/03/2020 – Also in pic are Shay Murphy, Eamon O’Neill, Michael McCann and Neil Love.

Now the clothes worn by the sailors were very basic compared to the high tech gear that the sailors of today have. There were no wet suits, dry suits, rash vests, splash vests, hiking pants or gloves. There was no Zhik or Rooster but more likely a pair of old jeans and a”lucky” tee shirt! 

We’ve seen this pic before in WbW#1 but it is too good to leave out of the Cadet article. This was probably taken during an Irish Yachting Association sailing course in the late 1960s. Apart from the Cadet activity there is a lot going on in the punts – families were larger and with generally one dinghy in the family you had to wait your turn!

Apart from the annual I.Y.A. summer sailing course, formal coaching didn’t exist. The I.Y.A summer sailing course was a three-stage programme run over three years and on completion of each stage the successful sailor would receive an IYA badge in the shape of a Shamrock with one leaf of the Shamrock coloured in green for each stage passed. Receiving the badge each year was regarded with great pride by all. 

Cadets on the river c 1970. The new pontoon is in place but the clubhouse is still in its original state. The white wall marks the edge of the concrete slip and also the end of the club grounds. The beach in front of the houses (which is now our dinghy park) was used to winter many of the big yachts which were pulled up by a winch until their bows were just protruding onto the road!

As there was no winter or frostbite sailing, at the end of August the sailing season came to a close. The masts were taken down and with our sights firmly fixed on the next season of sailing, all the boats taken home for another winter of TLC



Way Back When – The Fireballs – By Richard Leonard

The beginning of the Fireball era in the late 1960s coincided with the decline of the 505 fleet at the RCYC. The high performance 505 class had enjoyed a good stint throughout the 1960s culminating with a very credible performance by Harold Cudmore & Chris Bruen who finished runners up in the world championship in Argentina.

Finn Lyden and Kevin Lane towing the fireball fleet to Ringabella for an event. The boat was designed in 1962 and for a decade was the performance dinghy in the Royal Cork until the sailors were all enticed away to race big boat in events like the Admiral’s Cup.

Early sailors in the Fireball class included Chris Bruen with Hugh Gibson as crew, firstly sailing Screwball and then up grading to El Tiro, one of the first GRP hulled boats in the class. This duo competed in the world championships hosted by Tralee Bay Sailing Club in Fenit in 1970. That event was a catalyst for increasing the profile of the class in Ireland and probably for kick starting a club fleet at RCYC. Believe it or not we have a video of that event (thanks to Frank Miller)…..

 Prominent in the early years of growing RCYC fleet were Roddy Hogan crewed by Dave Walsh, Stuart Musgrave sailing ‘Electric Banana’  with Dick Gibson on the wire, Fin Lyden with Hillary Devlin crewing and Clive Landrick & Roddy O’Connor. This group were later joined by other graduates from the cadet class including Anthony O’Leary, Clayton Love, the Van Der Puil Brothers, Richard Harrington, Richard Leonard, Declan & Tom O’Mahony, Johnny Delap, Philip Scully and Stuart Brownlow.

The boats had great names. Here is Electric Banana, sailed by Stuart Musgrave and Dick Gibson.

Throughout the early 1970s regular summer league racing took place on Saturdays and mid week with seven to ten boats often competing. A number in the fleet also travelled to the regional events. The Munster Championship league was spread over events in the Royal Cork, a leg in Kinsale in June, Fenit at the August weekend and also in Baltimore. At that stage Baltimore had its own mini fleet which included Frank Guy, Naomi Hoare, Stuart Musgrave and Fred Kinmoth.

Memorable national championships were held in Dunmore East, Fenit and Baltimore. At the Dunmore East event, I will never forget the fresh easterly breeze and associated big seas which endured for the entire week. These conditions resulted in lots of swims, gear failure and early exits ashore for the less experienced of us.  

Unusually for that time, the fireballs were a traveling class – they even went to Monkstown! We have identified Hugh Gibson on the wire on 3827 but need help with the others.

Learning from the Dunmore event the Royal Cork contingent were better set up for inclement weather at the Fenit hosted Nationals. Here the ‘Scrubbers Club’ was formed as a refuge for the less enthusiastic fireballers. The ‘Club’ was complete with Caravan headquarters and flag staff flying its ensign in the curious shape of a double cupped garment.  

On a more serious note some RCYC sailors rose to the top of the class with Finn Lyden taking a national championship in those years.

Around that time we were all supporting the international campaign to have the Fireball selected as an Olympic class. Who remembers the red car stickers with ‘Fireball for the Olympics’ which we all displayed on our rear windows?.  Sadly the 470 class ultimately won selection.  

On the social side we had our RCYC annual dinners and a number of ‘Fireball Discos’ to improve the class and club coffers. In those pre ‘Social Media’ days, word of mouth insured a full house for the discos and not all attendees were fireball sailors or club members!  At one such event, with some late evening ‘high jinks’, the club brass cannons, which (up to then) adorned the floor of the bar, went missing. This became a major consternation for us organisers, at the thought of being hauled before the General Committee to explain the loss. An all night search ensued which fortunately ended happily when the antique artillery were found in safe and only slightly tarnished condition in the grounds of the (then) Grand Hotel.

Another Fireball in Monkstown that day. In the background to the left is a solitary Cadet!

The Fireball era obviously spawned some great Royal Cork sailors. The fleet however went into decline in the late 1970’s, when a lot of our number was ‘hoovered up’ by the growing offshore keelboat racing fleet and Admiral’s Cup scene, which itself opened up a new and international chapter for Club sailing.


The Cadet Dinghy has we believe completely died out in Ireland but is going strong still in many countries. One interesting fact is that our fondly remembered club coach of five summers between 2008 and 2012, Fernando Gwozdz, was Cadet World Champion in 2001!

The Fireball Class may be gone from the Royal Cork but is very active in certain parts of the country. This year the worlds are on in Howth and further information can be found in the Notice of Race 


WayBackWhen is being published as a regular series in the run up to the Cork 300 celebrations next July. The idea is to bring to life the rich history of the Royal Cork through stories and memories from the lifetime of the current membership while being relevant to today’s club. The publication team have been delighted with the level of engagement and help that they have received from members since the first post some seven weeks ago. We are slightly overwhelmed with the volume of material coming our way and promise to try to do it justice over the coming few months.


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3 Responses to WbW#13 – Gone but not forgotten – Cadets and Fireballs

  1. Roddy O Connor March 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm #

    Hi there,

    Fireball IR 1085 was helmed by Clive Langrick (RIP) and crewed by Roddy O Connor

  2. Roddy O Connor March 28, 2020 at 1:19 pm #

    Fireball IR 1085 was helmed by the late Clive Langrick and crewed by Roddy O Connor.

  3. Paul Sheppard October 17, 2021 at 9:39 am #

    Definitely not forgotten.
    I have a copy of the fireball original design signed by the designer hanging in my office. Reminded every day of the fun we had.

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