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GJW Direct Nationals Race day 4

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  • 4 min read

‘Gore’ seasons in one day

As regular Firefly lovers will know, one of the highlights of the season is the fifth points race of the National Championships which incorporates the Sir Ralph Gore Challenge Cup. Originally the Championship race, the rules state that the course must run to at least 12 nautical miles or 4 hours minimum, and comprise a line start and mile-leg triangle course.

Once again Pwllheli sailing club did a fantastic job setting up the racetrack with an interesting forecast indicating a strong westerly all day with rain showers rolling through. As the fleet launched the skies darkened and the distant Welsh coastline was obscured by sheets of rain. A muffled clap of thunder signalled their arrival at the racecourse and the broken sun shone down on the fleet through towering cumulonimbus clouds. (ed. more racing news please)

Remarkably the fleet got away at the first attempt and beat to the west in 15 knots of wind. Smashing into a 1.5 metre swell left over from the previous night’s storm was unpleasant for some and of course the downwing legs were exciting, with the first reach turning very deep as the wind veered. Stu and Jane Hudson in the Fursty Ferret were ahead of the game as usual, goose-winging the jib and setting the whisker pole while they surfed deep down the waves. Behind them there was a fight for second with Keyhaven Yacht Club’s Rob and Mel Sherrington and two boats from West Kirby close behind. 

During the second lap’s second reach the wind veered further and as the rain arrived the fleet found themselves beating to the mark. Anyone who had surfed low on the swell now found themselves intermittently planing upwind (it does happen in a Firefly, but only with a following swell!). At what was now a windward mark it all started to get interesting mid-fleet and planing downwind in sunshine was a distant memory as the wind dropped to nothing and the hail set in to wash away any lingering hangovers. By an hour into the race the fleet found themselves totally becalmed  for half an hour, with the sun out again it felt like a totally different race. Many back markers found themselves catapaulted forward as various patches of breeze came and went, though Hudson hung onto the lead. Paul and Laura Kameen had recovered well from somehow capsizing Biscuit Buffalo on the first lap and recovered to the top five during the light stuff.

The wind eventually filled in first from the south east then completed a full lap of the compass through south and west. As the storms moved away the breeze settled down to a strong but comfortable 20-25 knots and the seas picked up again. The gruelling 13 mile race was completed in just over 3 hours and the competitors were rewarded with a sparkling reach back to the club. Stu and Jane Hudson finished first, Rob and Mel Sherrington second and Andy Cornah and Katie Fairclogh survived the kaleidescope of conditions to hang onto third ahead of their club-mates Paul and Laura Kameen.

In the Marlow trophy for the silver fleet (this year anyone whose best result was over 17th) was won by Jonny Bickford and Penny Hooper from Upper Thames. The pair translated their river sailing expertise well in the conditions with an 11th place overall beating West Kirby Boat Sound Chief who was the second silver-fleet boat in 18th.

The traditional grand-prix style prizegiving straight after racing saw the first prizes of the week given out with a Gore Trophy full of champagne for the winners and a new suit of ropes kindly donated by Marlow Ropes for the silver fleet winners