On Wednesday 18 August the 63rd Sir Ralph Gore Challenge Trophy race, part of the Craftinsure Firefly Nationals was held.
The trophy was presented in 1947 shortly after the Firefly class was born. The trophy rules dictate that the course must be at least 12 nautical miles in length with mile long legs if possible. The race must also use a line start, probably because for many years the national champion was the winner of this single race. Another rule is that a previous winner may race for the trophy without qualifying, which for everyone else requires a high placing in one of the previous series races.
The 66 boat fleet required a fairly sizeable line though today had none of the problems with cross-tide that had done for previous attempts at a line start this week! After one general recall the fleet got away under a black flag. Running into the start sequence the right side of the line had looked favoured but once the black flag was lowered the wind shifted left and several of the boats who had started at the port end were able to tack and cross most of the fleet. Though there was slightly more breeze out to sea, as the fleet beat upwind back towards the town of Tenby there were some shifts to be had on the land side as the wind funnelled through the gaps in the cliffs.
Several previous winners were in the race today and ‘Bloodhound’, the boat that won last year (though this time sailed by George Yeoman and Georgie Akin-Smith), were first round the windward mark. F888 Desperado (Dave Chisholm and Alice Gardner) were second with Stuart and Jane Hudson in third. Other contenders were John Greenland /Ruth Verrier Jones and Andy Cornah / Katie Fairclough, the latter pair going on to win the Marlow Trophy for the silver fleet.
The reaches were tricky, gusty affairs. There was about 10-15 knots of wind which was enough to get the 12 foot dinghies onto the plane, and with surfing opportunities down the occasional roller there were many interesting battles for places throughout the fleet. An astonishing display of downwind speed was enough to catapult the Hudsons into the lead, and by the finish gun 2 hours and 10 minutes in they were several minutes ahead. Rob and Mel Sherrington, who had also come from outside the top three to take second place, now hold the lead in the overall points table.
The Marlow Trophy was taken by Cornah and Fairclough, with Will Mason and Anna Kennedy in second. The top four Marlow boats were awarded new mainsheets courtesy of Marlow Ropes, and the top 6 in both fleets were presented with champagne in the dinghy park straight after racing. Once the inevitable spray-fest had subsided, the fleet retired for a well-earned rest.
There are two very important awards made every night at the Firefly Nationals, a championship week famed for off-the-water activity. Last night the Buddies system met the Duckhams underachievement award in spectacular style. The buddies system is designed to give the top sailors in the fleet a chance to share their wisdom with those more recently acquainted to the class. Points are totalled at the end of each race and the team with the best score win a prize. It would generally be regarded as under-achievement to repeatedly clash with your buddy on the racecourse, especially with any blue language being involved. To do this at some length, and unknowingly, having failed to check the buddies name list, and furthermore to win the buddies prize at the same time will virtually guarantee you the joint-ownership of the Duckhams under-achievement award. In this case it was deemed that the more senior protagonist, who won’t be named (sailing F2803, Grendel) should wear ‘the dress’.
The Fireflies are looking forward to more champagne sailing tomorrow, with only 3 races left to decide the championship positions.
1 Fursty Ferret, Stuart and Jane Hudson (Weston SC)
2 Iris, Rob and Mel Sherrington
3 Pogie, Jono Pank and Lucy Smith
4 Atomic, John Greenland and Ruth Verrier-Jones
5 Biscuit Buffalo, Paul Kameen and Hans Lennon
6 Dido, Mark Tait and Sally Wakefield
1 Andy Cornah and Katie Fairclough
2 Walrus, Will Mason and Anna Kennedy
3 Footsie, Ned Mcnulty and Hannah Ratten
4 John Lye and Louise Wooton
5 Lurcher, Chris and Sue Johnson
6 Fate, Guy English and Katie Hall