Until it crossed my FB feed, I didn't realize that the International Fireball class had held their World Championships in North America this past August; hosted by Pointe-Claire Yacht Club in Montreal, Canada. Winds really picked up for the last day of the championship when this photo was taken. Brits, Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff won with Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic and France representing a good mix of countries rounding out the top ten; .
I came into contact with the Fireball as a teenager in the late 1960's when my Dad moved the family to Youngstown, Ohio, a steel town in Northeast Ohio. In this most unlikely of sailing cities, there was an active Fireball fleet sailing on Pymatuning Lake, north of town. It was a fleet nourished by an even more unlikely sailor, Ken Turney. Ken loved the Fireball. He had his own boat shop in Youngtown's southern suburb, Boardman where he imported glass Fireball's built in Calgary. Ken was blue collar through and through. He had been a machinist at one of the steel plants and his standard outfit was a one-piece coverall, grungy, longitudinally striped in grey/black, with the neckline unbuttoned to reveal a grand tuft of silver chest hair topped with a broad Slavic face. Ken even raced Fireballs wearing this coverall. (One of my friends, in a not so charitable teenage side comment, remarked that it appeared Ken had a pet squirrel permanently tucked into the V-line of his coverall.) Ken would hold court at his cinder block boat shop, talking about Fireballs to one and all, building a small hot bed of performance dinghy sailing in this inland steel city; in a country not known for performance dinghies.
I actually didn't race the Fireball that much. I crewed several times on the Lake in very light winds. Unfortunately, I've never been on a Fireball in trapeze weather. Fifty years on, Ken Turney's legacy ticks along. A small group of Fireballs are still sailing out of the Pymatuning Sailing Club.
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