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Leaderboard FD July August September 2023

Firefly Travellers Series at West Oxfordshire Sailing Club

by Barney Smith & Jenny Smallwood 17 Oct 2023 13:07 BST 14-15 October 2023
Firefly Travellers Series at West Oxfordshire © WOSC

The Firefly Class travelled to West Oxfordshire Sailing Club over the weekend of 14/15 October. With ten races scheduled and a full social (and food!) programme, the weekend promised a lot and chief organiser James Ball and his merry band of club volunteers delivered in spades. The 15 competing boats were treated to a classic 'old school' open meeting run by a fantastic club that even ordered bright sunshine and a lovely breeze for both days!

The new format split the weekend into two halves - much like the rugby which the fleet was eagerly anticipating - on Saturday five longer races were to be run utilising many of the marks on the WOSC pond, followed by five 'sprint' style races Sunday morning to accommodate club racing.

After a welcome bacon bap, the fleet launched for two back-to-back races. The weather was sunny, although a bit chilly, and the wind was a steady (for WOSC) 8 knots from the NW. The racing was tight throughout the fleet, with places changing each lap as everyone figured out the best way to sail the long beat. Alex Baxter and Bea Burrows in F3625 'Squabbling Phoenix', with lots of home knowledge, managed to clinch victory, whilst Jenny Smallwood and Philip Aldhous in F4400 the new Ovington managed to pip Jason Aldous and Jo Mason in F2065 'Bonkers' to second on the final short beat to the finish line.

In the second race, Jenny and Phil managed to get ahead leaving a fight behind which left Jonny Bickford (single-handed at this point) in F3616 'Top Dolly' to finish second ahead of Jason and Jo.

After a tasty lunch of Thai curry, the fleet launched again for one race, now a long triangle over the whole length of the lake. Alex and Bea lead the race, keeping tight covers over Jenny and Phil and Jason and Jo.

The fleet then came in for tea and cake before a 'Le Mans' style start when the race officer sounded the five-minute signal as most of the fleet were still finishing their cups of tea. Fortunately, everyone made it in time for the start and this time it was Barney Smith and Kath Wolfe-Barry in F3023 'Forewood Thinking', who recovered their mojo as the afternoon progressed, and made a get-away leaving those behind to battle it out. The race got quite exciting when, on the long downwind, a large rain squall came through (not forecast by any known meteo company!).

The wind varied from 5 to 25 knots and a few boats lost control but everyone stayed upright. After a lap or two of strong winds, the wind fell to almost nothing and the fleet drifted round the final few marks to the finish.

Due to the excitement of the squall, the cold after the rain shower, the lack of wind, tiredness after the previous four races, the impending darkness for those needing to erect tents, and the collective desire for a pint, Roger the Race Officer made a superb call to cancel the final scheduled race of the day and bring the boats in early for (yet more) tea and cake as the breeze died.

With over half the fleet camping lakeside, Saturday evening took on a party feel. A hearty fish and chip supper was enjoyed by all competitors in front of a riveting Ireland vs New Zealand quarter-final match. This was followed by dance floor action and a cheap bar with £3 a pop pints (that's not a typo!). Highlights include Jason teaching Phil some classic Dad dance moves, and young Veronica Bickford dancing with not-so-young Veronica Burrows to the song 'Veronica'.

The sensible members of the fleet retired to their homes/tents/vans after the disco stopped; a select few carried on the after-party in "the lab" until the early hours with - allegedly - plenty of post-party party van rum (say that ten times quick!). The rum turned out to be a good plan to help the campers survive the almost freezing morning temperatures but the sunrise was stunning!

On Sunday morning, the fleet was excited for five short one-lap sprint races, with the starts becoming important and highly contested. The final scorecard was determined by who could keep the most consistent scorecard, and each place was fought for on each leg of the course.

Despite declaring his hatred for the format early on, Barney and crew Kath snagged two wins and a fourth from five races, dragging themselves up to third overall but were let down by a couple of other high-scoring results. Jonny and Veronica - clearly a sailing superstar in the making - also had a good morning with a race win and three other results in the top five.

Jenny and Phil and Alex and Bea traded blows all day with a win each and consistent results; Jenny and Phil were not willing to risk Alex and Bea getting a good result and so employed some defensive strategies on the startline in order to pull just ahead and hold on to take the overall weekend by two points.

Top juniors were Ben Nicholson and a combination of Max Tysom and Tristan Hogben and first singlehander Paul Deane.

Hand-written race results, a stunning chilli for Sunday lunch (£4 each), and a prize-giving involving wine, glasses, and chocolates completed an awesome weekend.

The Firefly class would like to thank WOSC for hosting a great weekend, in particular to James Ball for running the event, Jenna Ball and the rest of the catering team for providing fantastic food and drink, and RO Roger and the accompanying race team and safety crew for providing varied and interesting racing. All the visitors will be coming back for more in 2024!

Overall results:

1. Jenny Smallwood & Phil Aldhous (12pts)
2. Alex Baxter & Bea Burrows (14pts)
3. Barney Smith & Kath Wolfe-Barry (26pts)
4. Jonny & Veronica Bickford (26pts)
5. Jason Aldous & Jo Mason (30pts)
6. Sebi Schmidt & Belle (33pts)
7. James Ball & Eve (33pts)
8. Lucy Boreham & Rachel Crebbin (46pts)
9. Paul Deane (single-handed) (66pts)
10. Keiran Bowsher (single-handed) (70pts)
11. Ben & Veronica Burrows (70pts)
12. Al Vines & Fi Edwards (72pts)
13. Alex Nairac & crew (81pts)
14. Mark Jennings & crew (82pts)
15. Max Tysom & crews (95pts)

The next event on the Firefly calendar is the Inland Championships at Rutland this weekend 21st-22nd October - the final stage of the 2023 Vines Series - before the season wraps at Spinnaker for the Twisted Tube 4th-5th of November. Points are tight at the top with Jason Aldous and Jo Mason and James Ball and Freya Halsall neck-in-neck in the race to be crowned 2023 Firefly Vines Champion.

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