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How to keep the sponsors busy: Thunderous Thursday at the Firefly Nationals 2023

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If Wednesday was ‘big’ then Thursday was bigger. According to outgoing Technical Sec Alex Ogilvie the motto for the day was ‘What would granny do’ It turns out granny would dump so much main she could’ve knitted a sweater and hung on for grim life! Craftinsure were going to earn their chops today and we’d be hitting the Dartmouth Gin hard in the evening. 

The fleet ventured over the bar to be met with a steady 20 knots and 2m waves wind with tide. Game on. 

Guy Davison and Sally Wakefield in F3318 ‘Lynestra’ had the heart-in-mouth task of being pathfinder.  The pair ended up buried in the pack as the gate boat bottled it and took off early nearly giving one of our favourite pensioners a heart attack as he was charged by twenty fully powered up Fireflies. The pair were forced to battle hard to claw their way back up the fleet. 

At the front, outgoing Chairman Ben Green and Chloe Harding in F3681 ‘Go Ballistic’ went ballistic up the first beat and rounded the first mark well in the lead. Big Breeze specialist Ben revelled in the boisterous conditions where others struggled it took a for to reel them in but eventually, some kicker drama meant that Will Pank and Steve Carver in F999 ‘Alarm’ slipped through at the gybe mark to claim yet another bullet. A slight hesitation at the mark meant Jamie and Ben McEwen in F3615 ‘Skirmish’ and Stuart Hudson and Amy Bowden in the new Ovington also managed to squeeze past and Ben and Chloe were relegated to 4th. Behind them Nottingham University’s Maddie Rickman and Emily James were the first casualties as the foredeck fitting of their borrowed MK3 pulled out. They were quickly followed by Exeter’s Ollie Meadowcroft and Ollie Fellows with a lost shroud. 

As Storm Betty took hold, the local(ish) boats made the decision to call it a day and Alex Davey and Dominic Bowden, Ben Tylecoate and Tom Onions, Andrew McKee and Dan Cowley nursed their boats back over the bar. Guy and Sally suffered only the second capsize of their partnership. The pair righted the boat to find Guy’s lucky cap – a veteran of more Nationals than most of the fleet have had hot dinners – was missing! Heartbroken the pair headed back to shore to raise a G&T in mourning to the historic headwear. Our Notorious OAP was over the moon when he got ashore and was immediately presented the dotaged dome-cover by Ollie and Ollie who’d heroically rescued it mid-recovery – Partial redemption after smashing the Cocksedge Cup!

Race 2 the conditions became more venomous. The breeze had increased and the waves had steepened to mountainous proportions with the tide change. the 50 surviving Fireflies gritted their teeth and dug in for another 60 minutes of tough beats, screaming reaches and perilous runs. 

Ben and Chloe again came out of the gate strong but were hit by a freak gust and capsized. They quickly recovered and the “beat seeking missile” tore off after the rest of the fleet at speed. Ben conceded that he might need extra purchase in his kicker but stopped short of a non-decorative cunningham. 

The leading pack of Will and Steve, Jamie and Ben and Nigel and Emily, Paul and Ludo Kameen in F2018 Biscuit Buffalo and Ed Smith and Izzy Bretherton in F2803 ‘Grendel’ took off into the distance with Steve Tylecoate and Alice Lucy in F564 ‘Ebay Flyer’ chasing hard to try to escape son Jamie and crew Harry Burge in F3764 ‘Grasshopper’. 

Several other boats were overcome by the conditions and forced to retire, notably Barney Smith and Katherine Wolfe Barry who lost their jib halyard and Jenny Smallwood and Phil Aldhous who suffered a split gunwale. 

Now free and clear, Will and Steve hiked their way to victory further cementing their Nationals title win. They were followed across the line by Jamie and Ben and Nigel and Emily, battling to the very end. Paul and Ludo Kameen capsized on the finish line forcing the boat behind them, University of Nottingham’s Joey Scarborough and Lucie Nunn sailing F3288 ‘Tinkerbell’, into a crash gybe to avoid hitting them. In a scene that could have been straight out of one of those mid-90s skiff videos, Joey and Lucie’s rig folded (their second mast of the champs – sorry Craftinsure) and the pair were flung into the water. As they returned to shore the shaken-up pair were commended for managing to avoid causing more damage to the boat. 

The fleet got on the (much needed after racing) drinks as soon as they got ashore, feeling a new trauma bond after such a hectic day. 

Racing was followed by a BBQ and infamous Firefly fancy dress party – this year Tube Stations by a near unanimous vote (probably should have just been changed to “dress as a phallus” as most of the fleet seized their opportunity to dress as Cockfosters). The students, as ever, overperformed with notable efforts including A giant can of Fosters, Shepherd’s Bush and Heathrow Terminal 5 (complete with planes). Amongst the “grown ups” a special mention must go to Angus Cook who went all out with his Ken costume (Barbican). 

A double Craftinsure Buddies was presented by Great Uncle Bulgaria (the Womble formerly known as Hon Sec Jason Aldous) with massive cheers whenever Craftinsure was mentioned after today’s on the water antics.

We leave you with some quotes from the slipway: 

Sorry mate I had absolutely no intention of going into that gap I was just going too fast to steer” 

Honestly I’d have been fully mounting those two ladies and I’m too much of a gentleman” 

You know it’s on the limit when the two horsemen of the apocalyptic (Izzy J and Ben G) are grinning like that on the slipway”  

Can we get a wetsuit sponsor if we’re doing that again.. for obvious reasons..” 

Final day kicks off at 10am. Follow the prizegiving live on Instagram from 4:30pm