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Firefly National Championship 2023 at Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club - Gore Day

by Fi Edwards 17 Aug 18:36 BST 12-18 August 2023

Avid followers of the Firefly Class will know that Wednesday of Firefly Week is known as Big Wednesday - partly as it traditionally follows the carnage of Crews Union and partly as it plays host to points race five - better known as the Sir Ralph Gore Challenge Cup or The Gore; an unshortenable thirteen nautical mile endurance race with legs no less than a mile that used to be the championship decider.

On Tuesday night the 62 Fireflies were seeded into either Gore or Kingfisher fleet to race for the two historic challenge cups. It says something about the quality of the fleet in Felixstowe this year as both fleets were packed with talent. To be seeded as Gore competitors needed to have a result 24th or above.

The fleet awoke to weather that was a complete change from the previous few days. Glorious sunshine and no wind. Competitors were held ashore for two hours waiting for wind before they could get out and race which gave the crews recovering from the previous night's Crews Union time for a quick nap.

Getting out over the bar was a challenge with the tide streaming but all boats eventually managed it. Only Hugh Tomkins tried to cut the corner and ended up firmly beached on the sand upside down in the bottom of the boat holding his rudder while his bemused crew watched.

The anticipation of waiting for racing (and for their crews) was clearly felt by the helms and the fleet was forced to endure multiple aborted starts. All the bobbing around left one or two crews feeling the effect of yesterday's Crews Union and a few helms tried to drop their worse-for-wear crews off with the rescue boats who apparently didn't want them either.

After what Nigel Wakefield described as "about a hundred" attempts at a start the fleet managed to get off under black flag. Arthur Greaves followed dad Steve over the line to a family black flag (or possibly revenge for beating him) leaving sister Abigail the last Greaves standing. In the forty minutes it took to get the race off the tide had changed from slack to full-on and a few of the parent/child boats were perilously low on sweets.

Event leaders UEA's Will Park & Steve Carver in F999 'Alarm' discovered that the boat doesn't have a light wind mode and, for the first time this week, struggled to keep pace with the leaders. They went from first off the pin to 35th in moments and were forced to battle back up the fleet to finish fifth.

The gruelling 13-mile race was eventually completed in around three hours and twenty minutes and the competitors were rewarded with a sparkling reach back to the club. It was a Lymington 1-2 with pre-event favourites Nigel Wakefield & Emily Saunderson in F3007 'TipTopToo' finishing first, Jamie & Ben McEwen in F3615 'Skirmish' second.

Speedy students Jamie Meadowcroft & Jamie Webb in F3414 'Tigger' hung onto third to complete the podium and also claimed the Mike Cocksedge Cup for Top Under 21 Finisher in the Gore.

The silver fleet was won by Will & Zoe Mason in F4000 'Atalanta'. The pair showcased their light wind expertise well in the conditions with an 11th place overall beating Thomas Davey & Cam Bowden in F3690 'Mutsy' in 17th and Andy McKee & Dan Cowley in F2900 'Guy's Doll', the third silver-fleet boat in 21st.

The traditional grand-prix style prize-giving straight after racing saw the first trophies of the week given out with champagne for the podium and a new suit of ropes kindly donated by new class sponsor Kingfisher Ropes.

Ollie Meadowcroft secured his, already pretty assured, evening Duckhams award by dropping the Cocksedge Cup and smashing the glass dome during the champagne spraying - a mere two minutes and fifty-eight seconds after being awarded it!

Kingfisher also generously donated a sizeable box of offcuts in support of the class's long-running initiative to support youth and newcomers to the class which were gratefully received by the fleet - particularly after the week we've had!

The evening saw a raucous Gore afterparty and double Craftinsure Buddies with strong student representation. The penultimate day of racing kicks off later with 20 knots forecast for two races.

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