Nineteen visiting Fireflies from around the country joined eight local crews to make up the 27-strong entry list for this year’s Firefly SW Championships, the prestigious annual event held by the Restronguet Sailing Club over the May bank holiday weekend.
Race Officer for the seven-race series was local legend Eddy Shelton ably assisted by members of the Restronguet Sailing Club.
Moderate westerly breezes provided ideal conditions for Saturday’s three races with a start line set off the St Just shore. Race One saw perhaps the most dramatic start with visiting helm Barney Smith executing a perfect port-tack flyer to cross the entire fleet. But the shifty conditions provided plenty of opportunities on the beats for boats to gain and lose, and not until the final beat was the lead settled with local sailors Ben Lumby and Liz Evans taking the win from Jamie and Jo McEwen (Papercourt SC) with Alex and Thomas Davy 3rd (RHYC) and another local pair Darren Williams and Verity Perham capitalising on their local knowledge to claim 4thplace in the recently restored Firefly Magic.
The strong building tide began to have significant influence on the fleet, especially crossing the channel off St Just shortly after the start. Again, local pair Lumby/Evans got among the leaders and at one point led the race, but a tight downwind leg to the finish resulted in National Champions Stuart and Jane Hudson scoring their first win of the series, with defending SW Champions Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson (Spinnaker SC) taking 2nd and Lumby/Evans 3rd all within a boat-length of one another.
The final race of the day went to Wakefield/Saunderson after a close three-way battle with Alex and Thomas Davy (2nd) and Ben Lumby and Liz Evans (3rd) who had enjoyed a very consistent day in the tricky conditions. The Hudsons finished 4th leaving the points very close at the top of the leader board overnight.
As has become tradition, the club hosted a tasty curry supper on Saturday evening, this time with the added spice of live action from the Americas Cup qualifiers in Bermuda.
Race 4 on Sunday morning saw the wind change to south easterly but still light and changeable. The strong tide pushed the fleet over at the first attempt to start and then the trusty black flag was used to keep them back. The race was tight and difficult to read but Barney Smith with his sister Amy Morris sailed beautifully to edge a small lead from Alex and Thomas Davey, Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson in third and Stuart and Jane Hudson in 4th.
Race 5 was started soon after and a 30-degree wind shift at the start made it a mad dash close hauled to the first windward mark. The leaders came from the pin end and another epic battle between the Hudsons and Wakefield/Saunderson. Because of time restrictions and other boats on the course, it was not until the last lap that the Race Officer was able to move the windward mark and create a proper beat. The front five were away and clear with Roger and Fin Morris following in third and local sailors Dave and Betty Sincock taking fourth.
Sunday afternoon in a dying breeze saw half a dozen Fireflies take to the water for the National Singlehanded Trophy a one off race, which Restronguet SC hosts each year. Two laps were sailed in a very light and variable wind. Chris Guy took an early lead but was overhauled by Jamie McEwen soon after and local challenger Dave Sincock followed in third. At the end of the second lap the lead pair were so engrossed in their battle, they mistakenly headed off for a third lap letting Dave Sincock through to take the race win and Mike Brown second. We do need crew after all ….!!!!
The fleet headed to the Lemon Arms in Mylor Bridge for well-earned local hospitality before lining up on Monday morning for the final two races.
The wind was back in the west making sure everyone stayed well and truly confused as to which is the right way to go. Wakefield and Saunderson led the way closely followed by the Hudsons, Steve Greaves and young Arthur came home third. Arthur and Madeleine shared the crewing duties all weekend and were consistently in the running. Fourth place was taken by Alex and Thomas Davey, Will and Polly Mason finished in fifth.
Race 7 - The decider!
The points at the top of the leader board were so close between Stuart and Jane Hudson and Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson that we were treated to an entertaining display of tactical sailing reminiscent of Ainslie and Scheidt all those years ago! When the five-minute gun went, the battle began with the aim being for Wakefield / Saunderson to be kept below ninth place. Both sailors showed tremendous skill and professionalism however the Hudsons prevailed and took the title. The race was however won by Alex Davey and his son Thomas with Guy Davidson and Amy Bowden in second and Jamie and Jo McEwen in third.
This was the 46th consecutive Firefly South West Area Championships to take place at Restronguet and I am happy to say as successful as ever with twenty-seven entries from as far afield as the East Coast. Many families make the trip down to Cornwall and now quite a number of the younger generation are sailing very successfully with their parents, a joy to see. The flotilla of Optimists and other leisure craft seems to grow each year with much fun to be had by all the family in the Carrick Roads.