By Jabbo Gordon Peter Wirth (U.S. class president) and Peter Kelly, beach launch, departing for the racecourse, 2010 Worlds, Barbados. Photo by Pat Crump.
alk about going overboard to go sailing on a Fireball. And there she was, standing there, hoping to crew for someone in a local club race at Tampa’s Davis Island Yacht Club a couple of years ago when Patrick Crump came along and asked her if she wanted a ride on his Fireball. Jane Millican (nee Millman—she changed only two letters in her last name when she married Jason) readily accepted and the rest, as some say, is history. Together, they took second in the Fireball Midwinters at the same yacht club that March (and again this March), but from there the road to success has been interesting to say the least. Millican, who lives in Tampa, has loved racing since she started sailing Optimists in Wisconsin. After she moved to Florida, the certified sailing instructor competed on everything from J/22s and J/24s to her Ericson 29. And she was eager to try the Fireball. “I loved it,” she said. “I love the speed and the fact that it requires my full-time attention. And it is very demanding.” Her maiden voyage started well and turned extra demanding. A heavy, white-out squall came up suddenly and they couldn’t outrun it. Crump and Millican got
drenched and spent 10 minutes capsized until the squall passed by. Crump wondered to himself if he would ever see her again, but she came back the next week for more. And the same thing happened that following week. He wondered again, and yet another squall marked their third time out. He stopped wondering. Then one day, Millican was crewing on a Farr 395 when Crump flew by and asked for help. He had started out by himself because it was light air, but the wind very quickly picked up to 25-knot gusts, and his Fireball was a bit much to single-handle. “I was just moveable ballast and didn’t have a particular job,” she recalled. “So I went down below, changed into my Fireball gear and jumped overboard. “He sailed by, picked me up and we wound up winning the race that day.” It’s still tough for them to hold the boat down when it’s blowing more than 15 knots. Crump, 54, is 5-foot-7 and weighs about 150 pounds. Millican, 23, is 5-9 and a little lighter. Admittedly they have made some small mistakes, but basically, they race well together. More important, they never give up and they love it. Another challenge for Millican was that she had never been on a trapeze in her life before Fireballs. But she had videos on how other people did it and gave it a try. She took right to it. “I’ve been racing Fireballs for 39 years,” Crump said. “I have my ideas as far as rigging and setups are concerned, and I rig differently from a lot of skippers, especially as far as heavy air is concerned.” Originally from Long Island, Crump sailed Thistles, Lasers, 5-0-5s, Flying Dutchmen, Lightnings, Stars and on some keelboats before he moved to Tampa nine years ago. He became more than casually interested in the Fireball class early on, serves as U.S. chief measurer for the class, and now owns four—one wooden, two fiberglass and a half breed. Three are race-ready and the other is a work in progress. Crump will even sell one or two because he’s fleet building in the Tampa Bay area. Why Fireballs? They are fast, fun and friendly, according to Crump. In addition, they’re easy to build, relatively inexpensive and easy to transport. The Fireball is the largest two-person performance www.southwindsmagazine.com