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Firefly Open at Papercourt Sailing Club

by Jono Pank and Jason Aldous 5 Oct 2023 13:42 BST
Papercourt Firefly Open © Matthew Stork

A light and shifty forecast didn't deter thirteen Fireflys - Seven 'grown-ups' and five school boats from RGS - who made the journey to Papercourt SC for the final leg of the M25 series.

A few of the usual suspects were notably absent, with special mentions to overachievers Nigel Wakefield who was busy winning the RS100 Nationals and the Rutland team (Ben and Steve Tylecoate, Finn Morris and Ella Ashworth) who did the same at the Match Racing as well as to Arthur Greaves and Angus McEwen who were third in the 420s. The Firefly fleet were joined by four Enterprises and five Mirrors making for a very busy lake.

Race 1

Race one got away cleanly with the wind swinging left just before the gun. The front row of the fleet mostly tacking immediately onto Port. Having nailed the pin, the left shift put pondies James Ball and Freya Halsall in F3554 'Striga' in up on the fleet and in pole position heading up the lake ahead of Ed Smith and Izzy Bretherton in F2803 'Grendel'.

Pressure down the righthand bank allowed those from the boat end to keep in touch with Jono Pank and Lucy Smith in F1954 'Pogie' coming out of the right to join the tussle halfway up the beat. These three traded tacks all the way up the lake with the rest of the fleet in close contention. At the windward mark, Jono and Lucy snuck around first with Ed and Izzy just edging James and Freya.

Frequent shifts, puffs and vacuums tortured the fleet throughout the race with no gap staying safe plus the added spice of the mirror fleet to navigate through... but the front three head their places to the finish.

Race 2

Race two was sailed in similar conditions and three boats emerged at the front, although this time with Barney Smith and Kat Wolfe-Barry in F3023 'Forewood Thinking' joining the fun. Jono and Lucy looked to be heading for another win, but Ed and Izzy closed right up with the help of a personal gust on the long run down the lake and then just held on to an inside overlap at the final gybe. Despite Jono and Lucy's best efforts to find a way past, Ed and Izzy navigated the snakes up the last beat to take the win, with Jono and Lucy second and Barney and Kat coming home third.

The fleet headed ashore for a fantastic lunch laid on by the host club. This gave an opportunity to share tips with the RGS sailors who were eager to learn from the more experienced Firefly sailors.

Race 3

For race three, the start line had been moved towards the right-hand side of the lake and shortened quite significantly. This opened up the option of actually staying on starboard off the line as the shadow of the forest on the left bank was providing somewhat less of an obstruction.

A tightly packed line saw particularly hot competition at the pin end with James and Freya gybing around the buoy after the two hoots start. As the fleet set off up the lake, the individual recall flag still fluttered... A scooby doo ending was on the cards.

The frantic beat saw James and Freya holding the lead from Ed and Izzy and Jono and Lucy until the final stretch when the wind vacated completely, then returned with a bit of left, to grant Jono and Lucy an escalator straight up the middle of the course to sneak round the windward mark ahead of Ed and Izzy closely followed by James and Freya.

The fleet bunched on the run as the breeze repeatedly tested everyone's mental health, some gybing ensued but the front three held it together to maintain positions around the course.

Knowing that someone had been caught out on the start line made for some tense moments as the leaders approached the finish, hoping for a hoot, (which seemed to be struggling for tone and clarity as the day progressed)...

Jono and Lucy led and received a toot, Ed and Izzy crossed in silence meaning James and Freya were promoted to second with local heroes Jason and Imi Aldous in F2065 'Bonkers' claiming the final podium position from Jonny and Veronica Bickford in F3616 'Top Dolly' in fourth.

Race 4

For the final race of the day the fleet got punchy with a right-shifting wind leading to the first general recall of the day with the majority of the fleet at the pin end being led astray by the RGS team racing boats getting stuck in. The second start got away with an individual recall with James and Freya and Ed and Izzy successfully discharging their obligations! With space at the pin now cleared, Jason and Imi had clear wind to capitalise and lead the fleet to the middle of the lake.

With the afternoon breeze slowly reducing the threat of snakes and ladders increased. By the windward mark, the Fireflys had caught the Enterprise fleet and were increasingly munched. Jono and Lucy got slightly more pressure on the right and came through to lead at the windward mark with James and Freya and Ed and Izzy in the mix. The RGS team and been working on their fleet tactics and were firmly in the running at the top mark battling with Barney and Kat and the Bickfords. The run was lighter with small increases of pressure to be fought for. Jono and Lucy in first place got slightly swamped by an Ent allowing Jason and Imi to take the higher line and sneak through to take the lead, fortunately with enough pressure to clear an overlap and get clear ahead at the leeward marks.

The committee boat had moved to the windward mark for a shortened course so the pressure was for the leaders for the final leg. The variable breeze gave Jono and Lucy the opportunity to pull through to the lead with Ed and Izzy seizing the opportunity to undertake a hole-stricken Aldouses. Split tacks were the order of the day and a few prayers for some pressure on the left for Jason and Imi in the final stages of the beat. Jono and Lucy covered Ed and Izzy for the remainder of the beat having done the maths and left the Aldouses to roll the dice. The dice worked with Jason and Imi taking first place followed by Jono and Lucy, Ed and Izzy and James and Freya in fourth place.

This result gave Jono and Lucy the overall victory with Ed and Izzy second from Jason and Imi in third on countback from James and Freya.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1st1954Jono PankLucy SmithPoona S/C1‑2124
2nd2803Ed SmithIzzy BrethertonPoona S/C21(OCS)36
3rd2065Jason AldousImogen AldousPapercourt SC5‑6319
4th3554James BallFreya HalsallWest Oxford S/C3‑4249
5th3023Barny SmithKatherine Wolfe‑BarryHamble/Netley S/C43‑5512
6th3616Jonathan BickfordVeronica BickfordUpper Thames‑654615
7thRGS 2Tom StorkHigh BayneRGS886‑1222
8thRGS 3Jago HalliwellSam BayneRGS10‑127724
9th4040Josh InglesfieldHarry ShawRGS79‑12824
10thRGS 4Finlay Lomas‑ClarkTom DreyerRGS‑978924
11thRGS 1Harry SimmonsJosh HineRGS‑111091029
12thRGS 5Will BayneSam McDermotRGS‑1211101132
13thRGS 6Josh JacobsToby JonesRGS‑1313111337

This result means the M25 series ends in a three-way points tie with victory going to dad and daughter duo Jonny and Veronica Bickford on countback after their win at Tamesis. Jason and Imi finish second and James and Freya third.

The next event for the Fireflys is the West Oxford SC 2-day Open on October 14-15. The lake offers an excellent test of roll tacking and wind shift spotting skills and a lovely set of marks to round! Expect lots of challenges from a very friendly group of locals. Then afterwards well a new surprise...

Plan to stay for a memorable evening with food from the club galley and refreshments from their cosy bar and do remember to find somewhere to sleep. Luckily the Club allows camping so book early and get a pitch!

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