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Cruising & Racing

Not Known

Fairey Marine

Build date
January 1946

Not Known

Hull Number

Deck Colour
Varnish Mark l

Hull Colour
Varnish Mark l

More Information

One of the initial four Firefly prototypes, built spring 1946 all purchased, at his own expense, by Sir Geoffrey Lowles, Commodore, Itchenor SC.

After extensive trials, various minor adjustments to the hull and rig were made before production began.

We are not too sure how these four Fireflies differed from the production boats, perhaps the transom was higher …. built to the Mark l layout, cotton sails from Ratsey & Lapthorn of Cowes, 45 lb galvanised steel centre-plate, the shroud positions were further forward in the hull and the kicker fastening on the boom further aft, both changed from cF550

Mahogany sides to the plate case, plywood from cF900 onwards, the reduction in hull weight caused by this change (hull minimum then 160lb decked and with buoyancy tanks and plate case fitted)) probably countered by a change of the planking’s weight, from birch, 3 layers of 1/16th ply to agba veneers, three veneers, 3/32nd each.

No buoyancy bags or self bailers. Inflated bags were available within a couple of years and bow bags were quickly imposed under class rules, but stern bags were not required until the late 1950’s.

All alloy mast, untapered and very heavy until cF650 when tapered spruce top-sections were introduced.

Self bailers from 1959, alloy (15 lb) plates from 1967.

Early hulls were probably painted, inside and out, perhaps in war surplus battle-ship grey or RAF blue noting shortages of marine quality varnish, and perhaps to mask the indifferent veneers available so soon after the war.

Extra Details

Additional Build Notes
Built date (approx)

Current Owner
National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, presented by Graham Henderson (Dec'd July 2019) and Felixstowe Ferry SC Syndicate

Known Owners
1946 - Sir Geoffrey Lowes, Commodore, Itchenor SC,
Vice Commodore Royal Thames YC
purchased at his own expense with F2, F3, and F4,
all initially based as Itchenor SC
Family connection - F150

c1953 - B Bowden and Dr DJ Carpenter

c 1962 - G Wilson, Hollingworth Lake SC.

c 1974 - Felixstowe Ferry SC Syndicate, c/o Graham Henderson.

c 2004 - displayed at National Maritime Museum, Falmouth

NFA 08/2019

Her first race is thought to be at an open event for 12 foot dinghies hosted by Henley on Thames SC, 5 May 1946, other competitors included National 12s and a local class. Reports suggest a cold and windy day, but a pleasing result for the Firefly against the best of the National 12 fleet at the time. Helmed by Charles Currey, partnered by Mrs Norah Chichester-Smith, wife of Major Colin Chichester-Smith, a director of Fairey Marine and presenter to the NFA of his trophy for the National Single-Handed championships.

C 1974, the boat was acquired by a syndicate of members at Felixstowe Ferry SC, Graham Henderson, Max Evans, Vivien Wilson and David White, renovated and carefully stored. Lent to the newly opened Falmouth National Maritime Museum for display c2004 and ownership formally passed to the Museum October 2010 in return for a donation by the Museum to the Eric Twiname Trust.

We are not quite sure how these four prototypes differed from the subsequent production hulls, perhaps in the transom height, and layout of planking.

Some very early hulls were fitted with alloy decks and buoyancy tanks, due to shortages of ply so soon after the war.

Over time, changes were made to the layout, lower shroud fastening blocks were moved aft for better support of the rig downwind, and the kicker slot on the boom moved forward from cF650. Sides of the plate case were changed from solid mahogany to plywood from cF900

Horizontal outer planking from CF2900,

Mark ll layout from cF3100 and GRP Fairey Marine hulls, F3172

Mark 111 layout from F3456

GRP Rondars from F3600

Terylene sails (from Ratsey and Lapthorn in Cowes to replace cotton cloth from January 1959.

Although available, it was not usual to add inflated buoyancy bags for some years, under the foredeck from the early 1950's became usual, but stern bags were not compulsory under class rules until the mid 1960's.

Cylinder self-bailers from c1959.

Initial steel plates weighing 45lb replaced by alloy plates, 15lb, c1967

Rotating in house manufactured masts (from tubing supplied by Reynolds Tubes) with a spruce wooden top (introduced c1950 to reduce weight and introduce a taper to the upper one third) until c1966 when production was moved to Proctor Metal Spars.

Fixed Proctor c Section from c1976

Early hulls were probably painted, perhaps in war surplus battle-ship grey or RAF blue, noting the shortages of marine quality paint and varnish, and perhaps to mask the indifferent quality of the veneers available so soon after the war.

There is a story that an unpainted hull, perhaps F12, was buried in the tidal mudflats at Hamble, and four more left exposed to the winter's weather at Upper Thames SC to test the strength and durability of the hull, they were said to have been rescued after a year, cleaned up, prepared, painted and sold ....

Residing Club

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