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Nationals Final Day

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In a nail-biting final day, 2 races were sailed, and going into the last race, the final result of the 63rd Firefly National Championships at Hamble River Sailing Club was still completely open. Stuart and Jane Hudson were in the lead, until they capsized, at which point Ben and Jenny Vines took 1st, until they too capsized, followed by Jamie and Jo McEwen (who also binned it!). Rob and Mel Sherrington stayed upright right to the end to win the final race of the Championships.


Overall, in what was the most exciting championships in years, Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson won, followed by Steve Greaves and Caroline Edwards in second, Stuart and Jane Hudson in third, Alex Davey and Jonquil Brookes in fourth and Roger and Amy Morris in fifth.

Conditions were testing in 25 knots. Strong tides on the mark roundings and the short Solent chop caused many to capsize.

“It was one of the most exciting final days of the Nationals I’ve ever sailed,” said NFA Chairman Chris Guy, who was exhausted after the challenging conditions.

Wakefield and Saunderson have been sailing together for about six years, but have never won the National Championships before. Their highest national championship result had been third.

Consistency proved to be the winning factor for them — they didn’t win a race during the week, but notched up the lowest points through consistency by being in the top six in every race and discarding a 15th.

At the prize giving on Friday evening, Wakefield thanked his wife Sally for allowing him to sleep through the night and not have to get up to feed their new-born daughter Pippa.

It was a first for other top performers too — Greaves and Edwards have done several nationals together before but have never achieved such a high result.

Alasdair Alston and Joanne Bishop in 34th were the best improvers and won a Hyde jib. Alston, who has recently graduated from Sheffield University, increased his position by a whopping 27 places from the 2008 championships in Torquay.

Lizzie Edwards and Ruth Verrier-Jones were the highest ladies team at 14th. The much-coveted Ultimate trophy was won by Tony Thresher and Mike Radford from West Oxford Sailing Club.

The final day’s racing was particularly exciting after the overall result was thrown open when racing was cancelled on Thursday. Steve Tylecote and Sally Wilson, who had been leading the fleet all week, were unable to sail on Friday due to wedding commitments and so lost their strong position.

At the start on Friday morning, the top 8 in the fleet were in contention for victory.

The crew of a veteran Firefly helm was wearing the dress for the windy race for failing to make it home and sleeping with her dog in the car the night after the fancy dress party on Wednesday night. The car needed a thorough clean, and according to her housemates she was particularly relieved to have Thursday off to recover when racing was cancelled!

Millie Hughes was awarded the Duckhams dress on Friday after the prizegiving for falling asleep and then falling overboard as she was being towed in on Friday afternoon. Her exhaustion was attributed to the challenging racing conditions but was perhaps more to do with the late night the night before!

If this year’s conditions are repeated at Tenby for the 2010 Nationals, the Firefly fleet had better get in training!

In the meantime, the fleet is preparing for the next open meeting at Chipstead Sailing Club on September 6, followed by the open at Upper Thames a week later.

All 126 sailors at the Nationals were entered into the prize draw to win a brand new Rondar F4000 complete with spars and sails. All sailors (both helm and crew) that enter an open meeting in the 2009 Firefly calendar will receive raffle tickets for the competition.

The prizedraw for F4000 will take place at an end-of-season party in London on November 14. See the NFA website for details on how to buy tickets

Dramatic footage and photos as well as race reports from the 2009 Nationals are also available there.