photos Alistair Mackay
Race 7 (words Hamish Walker)
The worst thing about ‘Big Wednesday’ is that unfortunately ‘also quite big Thursday’ inevitably must follow. For the majority of the sailors at the 2016 Firefly Nationals this meant tired hiking legs, very sore heads, the scattered remains of discarded fancy dress costumes and an unsociable 11am start. The hangovers were only mitigated by copious bacon sandwiches and the prospect of two more races in the champagne sailing conditions off the Pembrokeshire coast.
The offshore 10-15 knot breeze delivered Sugarloaf-esque shifts and some big holes to test the competitors. Revelling in the sunshine the fleet got underway with a clean gate start and a big split across the course. The majority of the championship contenders bolted early from the gate with Andy Cornah/Anna Boulton getting off to a flyer and leading the pack out to the left. Hamish Walker/Toby Lewis elected to break away to the right in search of a mirage line of breeze. In a topsy turvy beat both sides looked good at one stage but a late left shift at the top handed Cornah/Boulton the early lead, ahead of the Hudson and Vine pairings.
After an uneventful trapezoid the reigning national champs took the lead on the second beat but it would be the third beat that would prove crucial for the final result. Forced to tack away round the leeward mark Walker/Lewis and John Greenland/Ruth Guy benefitted from an early left shift to leapfrog the leading group and establish a top gun style two boat dog fight for the bullet. Hamish/Toby ‘the Mavericks’ led for the second trapezoid only for JG/Ruthie ‘the Jesters’ to overhaul them upwind on the last beat and set up a tantalisingly close final sausage leg to the finish. With the wind filling in from behind Hamish/Toby were able to cover heavily to put the leaders under pressure and claim the inside spot at the final leeward mark by the narrowest margin. In a late moment of drama both of the lead pair had sketchy moments in the final gybe (both unintentionally attempting to gybe without a centreboard!) before Hamish/Toby claimed their second victory of the champs by less than half a boat length.
Race 8 (words Stuart Hudson)
The race officer elected for a line start for the second race of the day. With no general recalls, and to everyone’s surprise, the fleet got away cleanly!
A starboard lift up the first beat meant that at the top mark Hamish Walker and Toby Lewis led from Stuart and Jane Hudson with Ben and Jenny Vines in 3rd.
The “Huds” had taken the lead by the bottom of the run and extended from there to win the race.
Jono and Sarah Pank blasted through to 2nd on the second beat, and the battle for 3rd was between Walker/Lewis, the Vines, Chris Guy and Tash Armstrong and Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson. In the end Walker/Lewis secured 3rd to add to their earlier race win. Guy/Armstrong gained on the left to get 4th, the VInes 5th and Wakefield/Saunderson 6th.
With their 3rd and 1st today, the Hudsons managed to secure the championships with a race to spare. The rest of the fleet look forward to another cracking day on the water tomorrow.