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GJW Direct Firefly National Championship at Felixstowe Ferry SC - Day 5

by Edward Smith on 17 Aug 12-18 August 2017

Wednesday of Firefly Week is traditionally the day the class sails the long distance race for the Sir Ralph Gore Challenge Trophy. Competed for by the top half of the fleet, the race is sailed over 4 laps of a triangular course totalling 14 miles.

Once again, competitors arrived at Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club to a very gentle breeze, but it built during the morning until by the midday start time there was a fairly steady 10-12 knots from the south. Chris Kameen and Matt Read sailing Biscuit Buffalo got off of the line well and led at the top mark ahead of Guy Davison and Sally Wakefield in Lynestra and Alex Davey and Sally Wilson in Mustard. Overall leaders, Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson were some way back in around 8th place, but with over 2 hours of racing to go they had plenty of time to catch up.

Guy Davison and Sally Wakefield took the lead on the first reach, their slight weight advantage helping them surf on the building waves. Alex Davey and Sally Wilson sailed into second place before hitting the gybe mark and dropping to third again. Their excitement on regaining second place on the second reach was, however, short-lived, since on arrival at the leeward mark they learned they had been OCS. Behind the front three (now two) Mike and Debs Steele, Dave Chisholm and Hayley Goacher and Barney Smith and James Shepherd were all having good races, and consistent performers, Jenny Smallwood and Philip Aldous and Ed and Sophie Smith were also in the mix. Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson were making steady progress towards the front.

By the last lap, Jenny Smallwood and Philip Aldous and Barney Smith and James Shepherd had lost touch, and Dave Chisholm and Hayley Goacher's challenge had ended with a capsize at the third gybe mark. At the final leeward mark, Guy Davison and Sally Wakefield had a comfortable lead over Chris Kameen and Matt Read, with Ed and Sophie Smith in third place, just sneaking inside Mike and Debs Steele who were, in turn, just ahead of Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson. After about two hours and forty minutes of racing, Guy and Sally took the winner's gun, a first Gore win for both of them and, in Guy's case, a very welcome win after 45 years of trying. Chris and Matt held on for second and Nigel and Emily passed Mike and Debs and Ed and Sophie to take the final podium position.

While the top half of the fleet race for the Gore trophy, the lower half of the fleet compete for the Marlow Ropes Trophy. This used to be sailed over a shorter course, but since 2002 the results of the Gore / Marlow are included in the overall points series and therefore all boats race together on the same course. Hugo Burrows and Ben Nicoll from West Oxfordshire led for the first three and a half laps before being passed by clubmates, James Nicoll and Joe Scarborough, as well as Ben Green and Fi Edwards. Hugo and Ben fought back on the final beat, and looked to have the race won, but then misjudged the lay-line for the finish letting Ben and Fi through to take the trophy. James and Joe finished third, with only 11 seconds separating the top 3 after nearly three hours.

In the overall standings after five races with three remaining, Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson retain their top spot, but only by one point from Chris Kameen and Matt Read. Guy Davison and Sally Wakefield are one point further adrift in third, with a ten point gap back to Ed and Sophie Smith in fourth. Thursday is a key day with two races scheduled and with a fresher breeze forecast we should be in for some exciting racing.

Results after Day 5:

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