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Firefly Inland Championship 2023 at Rutland Sailing Club

by NFA 3 Nov 2023 11:54 GMT 21-22 October 2023
Firefly Inlands 2023 at Rutland © Ted Ashworth

Twenty-five Fireflys made the trip to Rutland for the 2023 Firefly Inland Championship, held 21st and 22nd October 2023.

A fearsome forecast plus a rescheduled 29er event in Garda and two student team racing events had drawn away some of the usual suspects but those who made the trip were not to be disappointed. The ten crews who'd opted to head up on Friday had been met with treacherous driving conditions thanks to Storm Babet. The previous weekend's hosts, team WOSC, were first to arrive. Self-appointed 'leader' Alex Baxter attempted to advise the rest of the fleet of a road closure due to flooding but - not being a driver - made an utter hash of it and then left his phone in the car so no one could call him (Spot the politician). Despite the bad directions everyone did manage to get to the club and rendezvous in the Wheatsheaf pub just around the corner to swap stories of attempting to tow a boat around roughly a million roundabouts in virtually no visibility, having to change a wheel in a monsoon and the world's most expensive fuel! In a move that wasn't particularly "on brand" for our sail hard-party harder fleet, a few opted to spare the rest a soggy walk home and be designated drivers. This led to the revelations that our publicity secretary Fi is actually really short and that Jenny Smallwood is an evil genius (instead of just a regular genius - she's recently earned her PhD) for quickly shotgunning the seat behind her while the 6ft+ Nicoll brothers had to squeeze in the remaining two back seats.

The fleet awoke Saturday morning to find Storm Babet had completely passed over a day earlier than forecast and conditions were sunny and calm - The exact opposite of what had been predicted. The mood in the boat park was relaxed and friendly and no one was surprised or disappointed when PRO Stog opted to hold everyone ashore for an hour to wait for wind. This gave ample time for more boat bimbling and a good dissection of the year over tea and bacon rolls.

Delta was raised exactly one hour later and the fleet launched into light but building breeze, eager for five short races.

Race One

The first start under U flag got off cleanly. Wiley pensioner Guy Davison and supercrew Sally Wakefield in F2539 'Dylan' led off the line and quickly disappeared into the distance. The light winds and lack of big shifts made the race quite processional and those who weren’t lucky enough to be at the favoured end of the line for the start struggled to pull anything back. At the penultimate mark, the leading pair were followed at quite a considerable distance by a tight peloton of Angus Cook and Lucie Hopkins in F3695 'Officer Dibble', Steve Tylecoate and Alice Lucy in F3037 'Grasshopper' and Ben Tylecoate and Ella Ashworth in F564 'eBay Flyer' with the rest of the fleet navigating the zephyrs behind them. Despite having held a commanding lead for most of the race, the Notorious OAP managed to claw defeat from the jaws of victory when he headed right on the final run. Guy and Sally were forced to watch from their glassy hole as local legends Steve and Alice glided past them to victory. They had to console themselves with second, Angus and Lucie crossed the line third in front of Ben and Ella in fourth. Fortunes were different for Grasshopper's sister ship F3040 'Arctic Roll' who over-rolled and capsized halfway down the run ending up dead last and a bit chilly.

Race Two

The wind picked up following the substantial shift in the dying moments of the previous race and PRO Stog and ARO Ted opted to make a course change. This took only a few minutes for the super-efficient Rutland race crew and the fleet was back racing again, making the most of the breeze. Adding to their woes from the previous race, Guy and Sally managed to be over the line after the 1 minute and were UFD.

A far less eventful second race saw Nigel "Ninja" Wakefield and Emily Saunderson in F3007 'TipTopToo' claim victory with Chris "CK" Kameen and Beau in F2937 'Smutty' second and Steve and Alice third. Places were far more hotly contested in the mid fleet with Al Vines and Fi Edwards reclaiming some dignity after their first race capsize with a tenth. Right behind them, a Nicholl-on-Nicoll battle ended in narrow victory to older brother James and crew Bea Burrows in F4125 'Threshdar' over younger brother Ben and crew Paddy Whelan test driving F4400, (the new Ovington prototype) for the weekend.

Race Three

Race three was a bag of snakes, with lots of holes and shifts to catch out the unwitting. Alex Ogilvie and crew Rosie Madin in Alex's new ship F3158 'Bullet Train' were the first of these, pulling the trigger too early on the line early to earn themselves a U flag.

The up-and-down conditions played to Steve and Alice's strengths and they were able to hold off CK and Beau, Angus and Lucie and Nigel and Emily to the line. Jason Aldous and Jo Mason in F2065 'Bonkers' and Mike Steele and crew in F3921 'Fizz' traded places to the final second to take fifth and sixth.

Race Four

Race four delivered a masterclass in light airs sailing from Jenny Smallwood and Phil Aldhous in the recently reborn F3625 'Squabbling Phonenix' (Shout-out to Nationals buddies sponsor Craftinsure for resolving the claim so quickly so they could finish the season and to Glassfibre Solutions for an ultra quick and high-quality turnaround). The West Ox pair demonstrated their light wind experise to great effect to take a convincing win from Steve and Alice and Nigel and Emily. In the midfleet, there were some comings together at the windward mark as people started to push the rules but these were quickly forgotten as the fleet rolled into the fifth race of the day.

Race Five

The breeze slightly picked up during the start sequence for the fifth and final race of the day - much welcomed by the fleet who were starting to look forward to warm showers and a bite to eat after a long and challenging day on the water. The start got off cleanly first time with an extremely even beat presenting its own challenges. After a handful of top-four results, Angus and Lucie were finally able to slip past their competition to take the fifth final race of the day. Jenny and Phil crossed the line second followed by Steve and Alice.

Racing done for the day, twenty-five Fireflys headed in for a hotly anticipated night of "lasagne and lash". Everyone was in great spirits as they tucked into generous portions of lasagne and apple and berry crumble after a good day on the water before, suitably refreshed, moving into the bar to continue the night.

The bar called last orders far too early to a riotous chorus of boos from the fleet. Quick thinking Jason Aldous and Bad Ken (Angus Cook) bought up all the beer behind the bar and the fleet retreated to one of the bunk rooms to continue the party to a more suitably Firefly-y hour. We were treated to insights courtesy of the Cambridge grads including how "the church is low-key kind of nonsense" and discovered that Phil Aldhous can sleep through anything including being sat on for a selfie and pelted with a bag of almonds.

In the morning the slightly dusty-headed boys dorms were delighted to discover that recent Plymouth graduates Sebi Schmidt and Marcus Richter had washed and refilled the empties with water the previous night thus allowing them to hydrate without leaving their beds. Ex tech sec Alex Ogilvie took this to extremes and only got up just in time to get dressed and meet his crew on the slipway.

Delta was hoisted right as promised and the fleet headed out into the main pool for another three races. Much to everyone's delight, the breeze had picked up overnight so the crews would happily now be on the side.

Race Six

The first race of the second day saw an extremely close first beat with lots of place switching at the front. Steve and Alice took advantage of a shift on the second beat to hop into the lead holding off Jenny and Phil and a resurgent Guy and Sally. Another Rutland boat, Andy McKee and Dan Carey took advantage of their local knowledge to claim a close 4th. The breeze swung and faded slightly at the end presenting a challenge for the boats in the back half and leading to some last-minute gains.

The second race of the day saw a massive clock to port halfway into the first beat, leaving the early leaders stranded on the bank side as the rest of the fleet pulled away. Nigel and Emily made the best use of the better pressure to take control of the race. The pair crossed the line first ahead of Steve and Alice whose second-place finish was enough to secure them the overall win. Alex Baxter and crew Helen in F2246 'Scruffy' took third from Jenny and Phil giving their clubmates more of a challenge to move up the leaderboard.

Job done, Steve and Alice headed in to give someone else a chance. Sailing in with Al and Fi in the other red boat.

Race Seven

The final race of this year's Firefly Inland Championship was perhaps the most close. Jenny and Phil weren't able to put enough boats between themselves and Nigel and Emily and ended up falling back, risking giving up the final podium step to Angus and Lucie who were only trailing by a couple of points. The West Ox pair battled back impressively to pip Nigel and Emily to a photo-finish win on the line securing third overall. Angus and Lucie came home third pursued by a cloud of locals - Andy and Dan, Ben and Ella and Harry Burge and Oliver McKee in F1979 'Winter of Discontent'. The Vines Travellers series leaders Jason and Jo were hot on their heels as they made a final play to secure the 2023 title from James "Jesus" Ball and crew Rafi Lanham in F3554 'Striga'.

Prize-giving took place promptly after racing to enable most of the fleet to get home (and Sebi Schmidt to go buy a Firefly - top lad). Event winners and our 2023 Inland Champions Steve Tylecoate and Alice Lucy from Rutland sailing F3037 'Grasshopper' were presented with the magnificent Silver Firefly trophy. Second place Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson from Netley and Lymington Town sailing F3007 'TipTopToo'. Third Place and top lady helm Jenny Smallwood and Phil Aldhous from West Oxfordshire Sailing Club sailing F3625 'Squabbling Phonenix'. Harry Burge and Oliver McKee from Rutland sailing 1979 'Winter of Discontent' were top youth and UEA's Steve Carver and Chloe Harding in 'Unicorn' were top Institution Boat.

The fleet was full of praise to the race team for setting excellent lines, perfect race length and not faffing around - racing that seamless takes a lot of skill. Thank you Rutland SC for a great weekend - we can't wait to return!

The next and final event on the Firefly Open calendar is the Spinnaker Twisted Tube on the 4th of November and Open on the 5th of November. Pre-enter at www.spinnakerclub.co.uk/booking/type/open-meeting

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