The fifth event of the 2018 Firefly Vines series took place at Chipstead on Sunday the 23rd September with the points close at the top of the series it is all to play for.
Torrential rain and gale force winds forecast meant it was touch-and-go if the open was going to go ahead. Despite the weather three visitors still ventured up from the South coast to join the four local boats who braved the conditions. The quality of the fleet couldn’t have been much higher with three past Nationals winners lining up on the beach and it was pretty clear 2016 and 2017 Walter Smith trophy winners, locals Dom and Issy Johnson, were going to have going to have their work cut out defending their title.
While the fleet were getting changed the weather gods appeared to have decided we hadn’t had enough rain yet and by the time the seven Fireflies came to launch the downpour had reached monsoon levels. Already cold and wet through, Claire and Emily Shea decided not to race and retreated to the galley to help in the noble task of keeping Team Firefly plus entourage supplied with tea. The cold and squally conditions also proved too much for Neil Banks and stand-in crew, and newcomer to the sport, Nadia (sailing together this season as Neil’s daughter and long term crew Jennie has recently had a daughter of her own – Congratulations Jennie & family from the NFA!)
The first start got off cleanly and the fleet powered off to the far side of the lake where the breeze was more consistent. Stuart and Robbie Hudson from Keyhaven in F3850 Fursty Ferret, Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson from Spinnaker in F3007 ‘TipTopToo’ and Dom and Izzy Johnson from Chipstead in F4234 ‘Vader’ were tightly bunched around the first mark with Peter Lanham and Wendy Seaton in F2095 ‘Aconite’ behind. Having started late Ben Green and Fi Edwards from Lymington Town in F1522 ‘Pandemonic’ were already playing catch up.
Mark two was more of the same with the Hudsons breaking out in front and the other the Johnsons and Wakefield and Saunderson jostling for position right behind. Green and Edwards had fought back to catch up with Lanham and Seaton and rounded in fourth.
From there the Hudson’s were firmly in control, taking an easy win. Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson followed them across the line followed by Dom and Issy Johnson in a close third and Ben Green and Fi Edwards. Peter and Wendy had managed a lap in the challenging squalls before following Neil and Nadia in.
The fleet split up the beat with the Hudsons and Wakefield Sauderson going left and the Johnsons and Green and Edwards heading to the right. The Johnsons rounded first followed by the Hudsons, Wakefield and Saunderson and Green and Edwards. The fleet stayed tightly bunched up the reach but were divided just before the second mark by the back-markers of the Comet fleet who were sharing the open with the Fireflies. The Hudsons and Johnsons took off while Wakefield and Saunderson and Green and Edwards were left dodging capsized Comets. There was no catching Fursty Ferret after that and Stuart and Robbie Hudson made it two in a row.
Two races in the bag, the Fireflies headed ashore to warm up with lunch and copious cups of tea and hot chocolate.
Over lunch the rain might have stopped but so did the wind! Race 3 got off in marginal conditions with the now more upright Comets continuing to provide entertaining moving obstacles for the fleet. Once again the Hudsons got out in front early and stayed in front. This time, taking advantage of their light weight and local knowledge, the Johnsons stuck to the Hudson transom and looked like they had second and second place in the bag. But, having fought their way through a ‘shower’ of Comets, Wakefield and Saunderson weren’t going to let either go without a fight. Skirting the edge of the lake they managed to pass the Johnsons and mount a last-minute challenge to try and stop Hud and Robbie making it three in a row, The three boats took it right to the line with the Hudsons edging out Wakefield and Saunderson for their third win. The Johnsons were third and Green and Edwards fourth.
With three wins Hud & Robbie were this years clear and deserved winners of the Walter Smith trophy. Nigel & Emily took second place from Dom & Issy who took the final podium place.
A huge thank you goes to Chipstead SC, in particular the very experienced race management team from the Chipstead Solo fleet who did a stand-out job to ensure great racing in tricky weather conditions. Thanks also go to the talented bakers of the Chipstead Firefly fleet who once again worked their magic to provide the ‘intergalactically famous’ Chipstead regatta tea. Despite weather-depleted Firefly numbers, the mountain of delicious cakes were scoffed in record time!
If you didn’t make it this year make sure you get Chipstead (Provisionally 22nd September) into your diary for next year and support the local Firefly fleet. It’s worth it just for the amazing cake!!!! If you’re from South London and looking for a convenient and cost-effective club to sail your Firefly, Chipstead SC has spaces available and is ideally located just off the M25 or fifteen minutes by bike from Sevenoaks Station.