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Firefly National Championship at South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club

by Guy Davison 9 Aug 2018 06:45 BST 30 July - 3 August 2018
Early winners Davison and Wakefield in Lynestra 3318 pulling ahead in the 2nd points race in 25 knots during the Firefly Nationals at Abersoch © Frances Davison

After six weeks of sunshine, would the just under 40 entries for the Nationals get any wind this year was the question on competitors minds when they arrived at South Caernarvonshire YC, Abersoch, the North Wales rivieria at the end of July. Well after a weekend of abandoned racing due to 60 mph winds the fleet had the answer!

Still it gave time to complete boat measuring and scrutineering and for competitors to race tune and check their wood and GRP Fireflys for the challenging racing ahead. The early cancellation allowed for the fleet to see the sights of North Wales, or for the younger portion of the class, to start drinking very early.

The Firefly class has attracted over the last 5 years good numbers of youth entries from Universities and schools, with around 30% of the fleet at the Natonals being students. This makes for great socials apres-sail and sore heads as well... The class has a worthy reputation for being one of the friendliest around, and this week again showed that to be the case.

Day 3 Monday saw the winds ease a bit and the racing start, time to clear the heads after 2 days of inactivity. Practice gate starts were ordered by PRO Chris Hopkins for a 2 race day. After a successful gate start Desperado sailed by Cornah and Devereux, from a large and vibrant WKSC entry, pointed high and fast to take the lead at the mark, with Mensong crewed by Chris Guy and Jonquil Hackenberg (Castaways SC), and Kong, Lumby and Evans (Restronguet) in hot pursuit. Desperado retained the lead and took line honours for the Felixstowe Ferry Trophy. Promptly after followed the official Race 1 for the City of Plymouth trophy, with Lynestra, Davison and Wakefield (Llangorse SC) after a fast start mid fleet, establishing a small lead at the windward mark ahead of Kong. Kong sailed superbly fast downwind challenging Lynesta in surfing conditions. However Lynestra had good upwind speed and maintained the lead to win by 30 seconds. Monday night saw the carnage that is the crews union and the calm serenity of the helms dinner before everyone reconvened at the club for some very dubious karaoke. SCYC's own Peter Richards and Championship Co-Ordinator did a very commendable "Ring of Fire" version... Johny Cash would have been "surprised" by this cover.

Day 4, another 2 race day gave the fleet again suberb sailing and surfing conditions with a southerly swell and consistent wind direction. The first race started in a solid 20 knots and was led off by pathfinders Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson who were in need of some results to stand a chance of keeping their 2017 title. Nigel and Emily rounded first followed by Ben Green and Fi Edwards in Pandemonic, who flew up the first beat, closely followed by Lynestra who revelled in the conditions, whilst some struggled in blustery wind/waves. The downwind legs proved equally fast and some took a swim. Tip Top Too crewed by Wakefield and Saunderson (Spinnaker) closed up on the leaders but couldn't quite overhaul Lynestra, giving Davison and Wakefield their 2nd series win for the RAFSA trophy. In the battle behind Paul Kammen and Hannah Lennon in Biscuit Buffalo held of the very impressive West Kirby juniors Alex Colquitt and Ella Marston.

Race 2, postponed from Day 2, followed for the coveted Sussex Silver Firefly, a beautiful trophy which the fleet all want to win. Again Lynestra took an early lead with fast upwind speed, followed closely by Tip Top Too. Davison and Wakefield opened up a good gap on the fleet, with Skirmish sailed by Jamie and Jo Mc Ewan (Papercourt SC) also revelling in the 2m waves and F5 gusts (the finish boat read 29knots!). Lynestra's crew kept their cool and won the Silver Firefly with Tip Top Too and Skirmish respectively 2nd and 3rd. Niall Houston and Amy Parkes (Birmingham Univ SC) in Tigger were loving the conditions also and overtook Kameen and Hannah downwind to take 4th.

The big question was: Guy and Sally led overall after 4 races with 3 wins, could Guy finally take the title after 46 years of trying?

Big Wednesday, the much coveted Sir Ralph Gore Challenge Cup was up next for the Gold fleet and the Marlow trophy for the Silver fleet. The Gore is a endurance race, being 12 miles and usually 4 triangles and a beat. Some competitors heads were somewhat sore after excellent SCYC hospitality. Kong (Lumby / Evans) and Lynestra eased ahead from the following pack. On the first reach Kong revelling again in some rolling waves sailed over Lynestra to take the lead. Both reaches were full on blasts with total concentration needed to surf the waves and keep the mast pointing upwards. Close racing ensued with Matelot (Matthews and Shepherd) from WKSC and Desperado securing 2nd and 3rd positions at end of round 3. Legs and brains were being challenged by now in this renowned lengthy race. But Kong raced on opening a comfortable lead and at the line led, with Lynestra returning to 2nd place on round 4, and Desperado 3rd ahead narrowly of Matelot in 4th. Ben Lumby and Liz Evans now were able ashore to celebrate with the whole fleet their well earnt Gore win.

Further back the Marlow race was a battle royale between two previous Nationals race Winners and multiple event winners. Alex Davey sailing with his 11 year old son Thomas and Dom Johnson sailing with 9 year old Izzy. They were both being pushed hard behind by West Oxford juniors James Nicol and Joe Scarborough. Eventually Dom and Izzy took a brilliant 12th place to win the Marlow trophy, proving Fireflys are the ideal boat to sail with young children, even in the wildest of conditions. Izzy stated she recovered quicker than her dad anyway....

As is the Firefly class tradition, the prize giving was held straight after the race with great prizes from Marlow and bubbly spraying to cap off a fantastic, challenging day of Firefly Racing.

With still some decent blusters, day 6 looked a great 2 race day. The fleet weren't disappointed. In beautiful lighter seas and a very consistent Southerly direction breexe over Bear Grills island, St Tugwells, close racing was the order of the day. This was certainly a good day for Tip Top Too with Wakefield and Saunderson looking imperious from the start gun. However West Kirby's Matthews and Shepherd were chasing hard and looking as the week progressed more and more at one with the Abersoch conditions. But eyes were on also Davison and Wakefield who needed still a couple of single figure results to strengthen their possible winning position for the series. Again they did just well enough, climbing to a respectable 3rd place at the finish.

Race 7 proved to be a challenge for the PRO with 5 starts needed to get the fleet away. The series of premature starters meant the Black Flag had an outing. Two guns sounded as the 5th start commenced... who was over? It looked to be at the pin end where enthusiasm had taken an early hold at the start! Meanwhile Davison and Wakefield had had an infringement on port tack when clearing their wind from a mediocre start and did a 720. Matelot, Smutty (Kameen and Johnson) and Skirmish amongst others were early leaders along with 9 other black flagged boats. Lynestra had taken her penalty and was now in the early 20's. Davison and Wakefield had some catching to do albeit with 9 dsq boats ahead, but they didn't know any of this. Tactical runs, within the trapezoidal course gave hope to all, with exciting place changes occuring and leeward/jib mark positions being critical. At the finish, Matelot had 1st, Kameen and Johnson in Smutty 2nd and the McEwans in Skirmish 3rd. Lynestra climbed to 9th at the finnish line but was subsequently awarded 5th once the premature starters had been eliminated. However on the sail in, no-one at the time knew who had been black flagged so no celebrating was the order of the day!

However early evening Guy Davison and Sally Wakefield with the help of the Race official's results and a pen and paper, established that with 18pts they had established a low enough series score to be uncatchable with one race to spare. They were the 2018 National Champions at last. Celebrations began in earnest...

Friday dawned with a F 2-3 and with more well earned sore heads around the competitors too. From a 1st gate start, Desperado charged ahead followed closely by Matelot and Lynestra. The wind veered gently making the PRO and mark team work hard shifting the course right, and in the conditions making race positions easier to defend. Nevertheless the fleet closed up and many places did change due to varying pressure and lumpy conditions. Andy Cornah sailed brilliantly in Desperado and took 1st, whilst covering West Kirby club mate Owain Matthews in Matelot who came in 2nd whilst the McEwans overhauled Davison and Wakefield at the line to finish 3rd.

The Firefly Class would like to thank the whole amazing team at SCYC, Chris Hopkins the PRO and Peter Richards Event Co-Ordinator for making this such a great week on and off the water, you couldn't ask for more from any Championship's Club venue!

The Class and Organisers would like to thank especially the event sponsors: Hyde Sails, Marlow Ropes and Sailing Chandlery.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoBoat NameHelmCrewClubR3R1R4R2R5R6R7R8Pts
13318LynestraGuy DavisonSally WakefieldLlangorse5111235417
21930MatelotOwain MatthewsSophie ShepherdWest Kirby SC115525421230
3888DesperadoAndy CornahKate DevereuxWest Kirby SC19157374132
43615SkirmishJamie McEwenJo McEwenPapercourt SC94838113338
52659KongBen LumbyLiz EvansRestronguet SC3210151439742
62818SmuttyChris KameenJenny JohnsonImperial Poona YC631189102644
73007Top Top TooNigel WakefieldEmily SaundersonSpinnaker Club2510225139853
826Border RieverHamish WalkerPippa FieldRNSA71463910871163
93878Sea Ya!Alex ColquittElla MarstonWest Kirby SC41641661391668
102018Biscuit BuffaloPaul KameenHannah LennonBosham SC1083535539571
113095MensongeChris GuyJonquil HackenbergCastaways2231391314141479
123674FloAdam StoneAlistair SmithUniversity of Birmingham SC247146718131782
132246ScruffyAlex BaxterElla VincentWest Oxfordshire YC1413925111610982
143414TiggerNyall HoustonAmy ParkesUniversity of Birmingham SC2315741615152193
153671Purple DorisPhilip BevanLaura BevanGrafham Water SC81212121822391599
1632VadarDom JohnsonIzzy JohnsonWest Kirby SC22192225129610100
172649MustardAlex DaveyThomas DaveyRoyal Harwich YC1918181315121113100
181522PandemonicBen GreenFi EdwardsLymington Town SC2022171014211827122
193739WillowLucy BorehamRachel CrebbinChichester YC1317161135241725123
203801FredaDamian BorehamAlice GardnerChew Valley Lake SC186202517193919124
212803GrendelEd SmithSophie SmithPapercourt SC15113939356812126
222947 Jenny SmallwoodPhil AldhousUniversity of Manchester SC2125191421171618126
234125ThreshdarJames NicollJoe ScarboroughWest Oxfordshire YC2924251819201223141
242594BloodhoundSam RobinsonMorgan BromheadWest Kirby SC1220211720393920149
25261111Dirty 30Emily HeathAlex HoweUniversity of Birmingham SC3030241924232226168
263649 Torrin BlazebyLouis SpencerUniversity of Manchester SC2726232522272329173
273802SmartieThomas JamesIsabella MartindaleWest Kirby SC1621393935251924179
283571Racing DeemanJames ColquittAnna LedinghamWest Kirby SC1729323923302128180
292519PaladinDylan WeirAndy WeirRestronguet SC2627393935292022198
303120The Pink PerilToby SandersonJohnathan HoweUniversity of Birmingham SC3128263939262430204
312560Fuzzy DuckAlex OgilvieSarah FoordGurnard SC (RAYS)3232323926332934218
322925PigletGeorgie HoustonLuc HoganUniversity of London SC3631323927342633219
334Miss BehaveMatthew ThorntonJoshua SpeakmanUniversity of London SC3336393925282535221
341324VoyagerRussell DickinsonHannah OwenPilkington SC3433323935322736229
3567Dogs can't look upMatthew JonesSaskia GaigerRegal Aardvark YC3539393928312832232
363809Sound ChiefCharlie FitzgeraldJim BramleyWest Kirby SC2839323939393931247
373415LurcherChris JohnsonSue JohnsonGreat Moor SC3939393939393939273
373551Wight SpiritRichard White Bristol Corinthian YC3939393939393939273

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