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1948 Olympic Firefly wins Concours d'Elegance at the RYA Dinghy and Watersports Show

by Mark Jardine 24 Feb 17:30 GMT 24 February 2024
1948 Olympic Firefly wins Concours d'Elegance at the RYA Dinghy and Watersports Show © Paul Wyeth / RYA

For the judging of the Concours d'Elegance, Mark Jardine, Editor of YachtsandYachting.com, was joined this year by the British Sailing Team 49er crew Fynn Sterritt, who has been selected for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Dinghies of all ages and styles caught the judges' eyes, with a Merlin Rocket, International Canoe, Tideway dinghy, B14 skiff and the new Switch foiler all being in the mix for the trophy. Purple seems to be the 'in' colour of 2024, with hulls, spars, go-faster stripes, deck grip, rigging and fittings found in various hues of violet, mauve and indigo throughout.

In the end though, the 1948 Olympic Firefly F503, Jacaranda was judged by both Fynn and Mark to be the winner of the prestigious Concours d'Elegance trophy. This boat was sailed by the British Olympic representative, Arthur McDonald in the event, which was sailed in Torbay.

After its discovery, the boat was lovingly restored by Alastair Vines, who was on the stand to receive the award and said:

"I am the custodian of the boat; it actually belongs to Jono Pank. It was discovered in Norfolk 25 years ago by Dave Chisholm, and it lived in Jono's garage for many of those years. I got it from Jono two years ago, with the promise that I'd spend some time on it and try to restore it. We rushed to find all the necessary bits and pieces to get it to the Uffa Fox 50 celebrations on the Isle of Wight two years ago, where she was a static exhibit. Then last year, I took her up to the Nationals, and we showed her off at Felixstowe Ferry.

"It's a thrill and tremendous honour to be able to bring it here this year. When the weather clears up we're going to sail, and my intention for the boat is that we'll use it to encourage people to get their old Fireflys out of garages and sail in related classic boat events.

"A lot of the boats are being converted into modern Fireflys, Mark 4s and what have you. But I think it's such a shame because a lot of this gear is still very serviceable, and those families who had a great time when they were younger - they've kept their boats because they don't want to sell them - would love it if their kids or even themselves could get out and sail them again. I'd like to use this as a flagship for getting those sorts of boats back on the water again."

Owner Jono Pank added:

"I've had a go at the Concours a few times, renovating Fireflys of the past, but this one was special. We found it 25 years ago and it took the right kind of person like Alastair to really take on going through it, buffing it, and making it beautiful. I'm super happy to finally get the boat to the show, looking awesome."

Fynn Sterritt said about the judging:

"There are some amazing boats here, obviously Jacaranda was the winner here today, but it was a close-run race. It's really nice seeing the detail that everybody goes into and the care and attention that people put into their boats."

On the winning Firefly Fynn added:

"She's really nicely presented and stunning, and the history is a huge thing. To see her at the show with classic sails and rudder, and the Olympic rings on the back, was cool - and fitting in an Olympic year. The trophy had to go to Jacaranda."

Perennial judge Mark Jardine concluded:

"It was great to walk the show with Fynn and take in the huge variety of dinghies. Deciding the boat of the show is difficult with such incredible diversity, but Jacaranda stood out to both of us: a stunning example of a classic Firefly, combined with unique provenance. A worthy winner! A huge thank you to all the dinghy owners and classes for presenting their boats so beautifully; it may make our decision harder, but shines dinghy sailing in the very best light."

The Concours d'Elegance has now been awarded for sixteen years at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show.

Previous Concours d'Elegance Winners:

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