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Catch the sailing bug with the Firefly class at the RYA Dinghy Show

by Fi Edwards 28 Feb 2020 12:44 GMT
The Firefly class is popular with recent graduates © Frances Daviso

No class embodies the theme of this year's RYA Dinghy Show: 'See where Dinghy Sailing can take you', like the Firefly. Over its 74 years, the often imitated, never equalled National Firefly class has been the launchpad for many careers, thousands of friendships, hundreds of families and even an Olympic medal or fifteen! Everyone knows someone who's caught the sailing bug from a Firefly and who knows the exciting futures awaiting the current crop of Firefly sailing youngsters!

But to have a future we have to look after our environment today. Sustainability has become the hot-button issue in sailing, but for the Firefly Class, it's in our DNA. The class was born out of post-war austerity and traditionally has a strong young following so our green credentials go beyond beach cleans and reusable water bottles. How many other competitive dinghy classes can boast that a ten, twenty, forty or even eighty-year-old boat can still hold its own at the front of the fleet!

For the last five years the Dinghy Show has given the Firefly class a chance to celebrate the work of their student sailors in making sailing more sustainable. University sailing clubs up and down the UK and Northern Ireland have been leading the charge to clean up boating in a wide variety of ways including; ensuring clubs have spill kits available, reducing waste at events, club cleanups, repair-don't-replace workshops and teaching the next generation how to prevent invasive species contamination. Their efforts are being marked in the fifth annual Green Blue University Sailing Sustainability Awards, presented at 1.15pm on Saturday in the Great Hall. The awards will be followed at 2:15 by a talk on 'Dinghy sailing for a Sustainable Future.' by The Green Blue - the environmental programme jointly funded by the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine to inspire sustainable recreational boating for cleaner, healthier waters.

In keeping with the future focus of this year's Dinghy Show, the National Firefly Association have chosen not to exhibit a new boat this year. Instead, Show visitors will be able to get up close and personal with two Fireflys reflecting the class's sustainable future.

Pride of place, and showing just how good an old boat can look, is the most successful Firefly of all time, F1954 'Pogie'. A stunning 1950s Fairey Marine brought bang up to date with new decks by Gosling boats and a modern fit-out thanks to class partners Ronstan and Marlow - and still very capable of winning races, as shown by her very close second-place finish at last year's Nationals!

Sharing the stand with her will be F4234 'Vadar', a 2016 Rondar GRP and part of a long tradition of parents introducing their kids to sailing in Fireflys. Manageable sheet loads and events that cater to families make the Firefly an ideal boat for developing confidence on the water and a passion for all things boaty. No doubt Vader's crews, Issy and Sophie, will one day add their names to the long list of top sailors whose love of sailing started in the front of a Firefly.

About the Firefly

With a quarter of a century of history, there's not a lot that hasn't been said about the indomitable National Firefly.

Probably best known as the 'weapon-of-choice' for team racing, the Firefly also has a healthy fleet racing circuit and a dedicated following at clubs across the UK and Ireland. Recent fleet resurgences have seen the class go from strength to strength particularly among recent graduates and young families attracted by how cheap and easy it is to get involved.

Fireflys offer extremely close and competitive racing in some classic venues. The highlights of the year are the South Westerns in Restronguet over the late May Bank Holiday (23rd -25th May) and the Nationals in Torquay (1st-7th August) where the class returns to the venue that played host to its 1948 Olympic Games appearance. The full 2020 events calendar is available on the Firefly Sailing Facebook group.

But it's not just about who wins the sailing; Firefly sailors are infamous for playing as hard as they race and for stubbornly holding on to traditional notions like "Nationals should be fun for everyone". The class is proud of its friendliness, inclusivity and lack of ego, and boasts whatever your age and experience, you can expect to feel part of the Firefly swarm. After all, there aren't many big classes where, at just about any event, you can find the front-runners in the boatpark before racing mucking in to help the rest of the fleet fix and fettle their boats and on the ceiling in the bar in the early hours drinking from a shoe!

So if you're looking for a class without cliqueyness and egos, which is brilliant on the water and lively in the bar why not come along and have a chat about how you can get involved and make 2020 the year you join the swarm.

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