A veritable swarm of 40 boats from all over the country made the annual pilgrimage to paradise over the late May Bank Holiday weekend for the Firefly South Westerns at Restronguet SC. The forecast ahead of the weekend promised champagne conditions with glorious sunshine and gentle breeze – but then we’ve come to expect no less from our favourite venue!
The entry this year was packed with bright young things, with a large contingent of youths taking a break from their GCSE and A-Level studies to make the trip. There was also a big turnout of South Westerns newcomers, most notably a contingent of Cambridge graduates who were very proud that they’d remembered most of the essential bits for their boats this time!
Having been forewarned of roadworks by the locals, most managed to get ahead of the worst of the Bank Holiday traffic. The one or two of the Lymington contingent who had been forced to unhitch to turn at Bridport after an accident caused a road closure felt a bit smug when they learned that those who’d opted for the alternative route were even more delayed. With everyone mucking in together boats were quickly unloaded, rigged and stashed in the boat park ready for racing the next day. As evening drew in the fleet split for sundowners with the under 35s opting to set up their campers and wander across to Castaways and the ‘overs’ sticking with tradition and heading to the Pandora Inn.
Saturday began in the customarily relaxed fashion with sailors milling around in the sunshine – rigging and catching up – as the wind filled in ready for the 1pm first start. At the briefing PRO Peter Knight and ARO Patrick Clark announced they wouldn’t faff around this year – we’ll believe it when we see it!
Race 1 – The first race got away in light winds from the East to South East – the wind was unpredictable but forecast to clock right. Stuart “Hud” and Lizzie (Huddaughter?) Hudson in F2631 ‘Tanglefoot’ escaped from the Committee boat end. As the wind swung back, and it was the boats from the left that came out best. Light wind demons Ed Smith and Izzy Bretherton in F2803 ‘Grendel’ lead from Guy Davison and Amy Bowden in F3318 ‘Lynestra’. The Hudsons were the sole boat who managed to salvage the right side and rounded 6th. Ed and Izzy held the lead for most of the race but the unpredictable shifts meant that no one could be safe in this race. On the last downwind leg, the Hudsons came through to take the lead. To add insult to injury, Ed and Izzy learned that they had been OCS at the start and were disqualified. Their second-place finish was relinquished to Guy and Amy with Jono and Freddie Pank in F1954 ‘Pogie’ – fresh from Freddie’s victory in the Oppis – now third after an impressive charge back through the fleet following a less than stellar start.
Race 2 – Following the now traditional Saturday between-races-tour-of-the-Carrick-Roads-behind-the-committee-boat, race two got off cleanly under black flag on the second attempt.
The race was led from the start by a ‘Dad vanguard’ taking advantage of a flukey and fading breeze. Despite a valiant effort from the fleet’s very own celeb – Conrad Humphreys – and Jonquil Hackenburg in F3350 ‘Water Spider’, Ed and Izzy and locals Darren Williams and Verity Slater in F3173 ‘Magic’ and Dave and Betty Sincock in 973 ‘Spiderling’; the Dad dominance continued to the finish. Jono and Freddie Pank crossed the line comfortably in first followed by Alex and Stella Davey in F2649 ‘Mustard’. Mark and Beatrice Tait in F498 ‘Dido’ were third and the Hudsons 4th. Paul “PK” and Ludo Kameen in F2018 ‘Biscuit Buffalo’ in 5th rounded off the paternal pelaton.
For the rest of the fleet it was snakes and ladders to the finish. More than one boat discovered that their longed-for ladder was just a bundle of knotted snakes when the gust they were chasing switched off leaving them adrift and bobbing as the rest of the boats drifted on by. Izzy and Jenny Johnson in F4234 ‘Vadar’ and Sam Petty and Fi Edwards in F1522 ‘Pandemonic’‘s day’s racing ended in a dead heat after they fought up through the fleet only to become becalmed on the line. The result was decided in favour of the Johnsons as they had been fractionally ahead just before the finish.
The glam weather meant the challenging day’s racing was soon forgotten. Everyone headed back to shore in good spirits to enjoy the evening entertainment which – after two years of beach BBQs – would be the post-pandemic return of Restronguet SCs curry night.
Sunday morning started without a breath of wind. The fleet gradually drifted up from their pits and meandered down to the beach. A few were quite glad to have camped in Coastlands after a late night in the club bar and restorative breakie sandwiches from the galley were in order once the boats were on the beach.
As the signal was given to launch one helm was still notably absent. Having imbibed a third of a bottle of Kraken the previous evening (after the party), Jason Aldous was nowhere to be found. His crew, Jo Mason, eventually located him curled up in the foetal position in a dark corner of his campervan and managed to coax him down to the boat with the promise of pasties and bacon. Jason was overheard complaining that his Kraken co-conspirators Jono and Fi being so annoyingly breezy was actually much worse than the hangover.
Race 3 – The breeze for the third race was light and shifty with lots of holes. Alex and Stella Davey took advantage of the shifts early on and led around the top mark followed by a tight pack made up of the Panks, Taits, Sincocks and Hudsons as well as Chris “CK” Kameen and Erin Pank in F2937 ‘Smutty’. Team Hud headed a little to the right on the second beat and found good pressure and a starboard lift which propelled them to the lead with recently crowned 29er Youth Champion Finn Morris and crew Robbie “SonofHud” Hudson in F3146 ‘Spaghetti’ also benefiting. There was a further huge right shift on the last beat and the top three of the Sincocks, Panks and Hudsons rounded the last windward mark all together. The Hudsons managed to sneak through on the last reach leaving the Panks second and the resurgent Taits third in a finish described by Hud as “emotional!”. The Sincocks found an unlucky hole in the breeze allowing the Daveys and CK and Erin to dart by and pip them into sixth.
Race 4 – Race four served up more of the same. Two attempts to get a race off were thwarted by the weather before the Restronguet race team’s vast expertise and local knowledge paid off and the fleet was off again!
As quickly as it had appeared, the more stable breeze of the start dematerialised. By the time the 40 boats got halfway up the beat the conditions out in the Carrick Roads had become even more light and fickle. The Panks capitalised to take the lead and built on it until the finish; overtaking the Hudsons in the overall results to lead overnight going into the final day. The frustrating conditions gave Cambridge grads Alex Baxter and Nina Luckman in F2246 ‘Scruffy’ the chance to showcase the light wind skills that took Alex to third in Lyme Regis in 2019 (had you heard that Alex Baxter was 3rd in 2019!!). PK and Ludo came home third. A frustrated fleet trudged back ashore to dissect the day’s racing over a delicious and well-earned pasty lunch.
Single-handed Championship – An hour ashore enjoying the wall-to-wall sunshine on the club terrace then it was time for the Chichester Smith Single-handed Championships. Fourteen boats took part with four retirements. The wind had stabilised making for some of the best racing of the weekend. After a close race Jamie McEwen in F3615 ‘Skirmish’ emerged victorious. He was followed across the line by PK in F2018 ‘Biscut Buffalo’ and James Ball in F3554 ‘Striga’.
Once the boats were tucked away for the night it was off to the Lemon Arms for the traditional Sunday night Firefly takeover. This year it coincided with Ben Lumby’s birthday and a great time was had by all. A special mention goes to Restronguet local Guy English who kept the Cambridge grads entertained with tales of Cornish holy wells – the subject of his upcoming book. It remains to be seen if Mylor Well the secret to the Restronguet fleet’s legendary speed and if bathing in it works for healing hangovers!
Last sailors standing fell to Alex Baxter, James Nicholl, Ben Pym, Ted Ashworth and Fi Edwards who, despite being overheard promising their sailing partners that they’d only stay for one more, stayed until they were kicked out before stumbling back to their campsites.
After two light days the fleet were excited to awaken Monday morning to a stiff and building breeze. There was had a short wait ashore before they could play as the committee boat wouldn’t start.
Race 5 – The penultimate race started promptly under a black flag from the – still-disabled – committee boat. Jono and Freddie came off the line like a shot with Angus Cook and Cameron Bowden in F3695 ‘Officer Dibble’ in hot pursuit.
Many of the adult teams were relieved to finally be able to stretch out their legs and make use of their weight which showed in the results. Jono and Freddie just managed to hold off Angus and Cameron to the line. The “most bimbled Rondar in existence” became the filling in a Pank sandwich as CK and Erin stormed home to take third ahead of CK’s brother PK and nephew Ludo and strong wind specialist Dom Johnson and younger daughter Sophia in F3154 ‘Gemini Too’.
Race 6 – And so to the final race! A few teams opted for early showers (including Jono and Freddie who’d secured the event win with a race to spare) after a full-on race 5 that was enough to stretch any lightweight combo. Monday’s Race Officer Phil Slater posted the TWX3 course indicating one extra up wind leg – which he seemed intent on making as long as possible with the start line only just clear of the moorings off the club and channel markers at Mylor and the windward mark tucked right over near the St. Just side of the Carrick Roads!
The breeze stayed on and so the fleet readied themselves for a champagne finale – several over egging the first attempt at the start resulting in a general recall and another black flag to be flown. They got away at the second attempt evenly split across the line. Early runners were at the pin end – but that soon reversed on the shifts and so began the flip flopping nature of upwind sailing for the weekend – one minute looking golden to then looking fairly dicey versus a small armada arriving in from the other side of the beat. Several boats out to the left ended up over-standing the lay-line and then arrived fairly in sync with a bunch coming in from the right and struggled to find enough room to slot between the starboard takers – Ed and Izzy ended up doing turns. While CK and Erin secured an early lead Ted and Ella Ashworth in F3556 ‘Hush’ and Sophia Cracknell and Alan Hulbert in F2502 ‘Cyclone’ were having their best race yet, comfortably in the top five.
The reaches were entertaining with some nice gusts coming through and the fleet spread out down the two long downwind legs.
The Daveys and Angus and Cameron made up the remainder of the top five as the leaders rounded the first leeward mark for another lengthy march to windward, followed by a cluster of Ben Pym and Sarah Hickman in F2012 ‘KEM’, Steve Greaves and Jane Hudson in F1867 ‘Cumulus’, Ed and Izzy, Dom and Sophia and Alex and Nina all charging hard. By the top mark Chris and Erin were nicely in control in the lead followed now by Angus and Cameron both boats starting to pull clear on the run of the scrap that was building behind which made for an eventful leeward mark rounding for some as the breeze continued to hold strong.
By now some teams were beginning to fatigue and those teams that had reaped the rewards of being super light for the first two days were on the back foot and some heavier contenders were starting to eat up the distances – At the front, Angus and Cameron started to close down on CK and Erin upwind. Alex and Nina flew through the fleet – making it up to third at the last windward mark with Ben and Sarah going well to hang on to fourth and Ed and Izzy recovering from their early set of turns to pull themselves free of the bunch.
On the last triangle with some meaty gusts coming through it was a spectacle. CK and Erin kept a decent but not secure lead. Ben and Sarah lived up to their boat name, moving like a Kinetic Energy Missile down the reaches into third at the heels of the leading pair.
For the final beat up to the finish CK and Erin stood on a fair way on port tack opting not to cover – with everyone following as it clearly paid. Angus and Cameron made advantage to reel them in bit by bit. There were a few close crosses with three-quarters of the leg sailed – but the wind just stayed strong right to the end and continued to shift more wildly the closer you got to the top of the leg. Angus and Cameron kept pushing and were finally able to cross clear with about 200 yards to go to the finish. The pair sealed the race win to round off a great day on the water for them. CK and Erin crossed the line a close second – enough to secure a very well-deserved second overall for the event (and most importantly leapfrog CK’s brother in the overall standings!) Ben and Sarah retained third just ahead of Alex and Nina with Ed and Izzy rounding out the top five.
The battle for 12th and 13th was the most dramatic of the event resulting in a photo finish. Having lost out in the ‘battle of the bunch’ at the leeward mark the Ashworths and Steve and Jane were fighting hard to regain places. The bows of both boats reached the finish line side by side leading ARO Patrick Clark to call another dead heat. Race Officer, Phil Slater went back to the finish line video and decided in favour of the Ashworths as their bow reached the mast of the finish buoy a fraction ahead.
The fleet returned to shore in great spirits after a fantastic day’s racing where they helped each other to pack up and load double stackers before an energetic prizegiving. There were the usual raucous cheers for the local heroes before the all-Pank-and-Kameen podium were crowned. Freshly minted South Westerns Champion helm Jono used his speech to praise the kids sailing with their parents as well as the youths and the graduates sailing their first South Westerns and to thank the Restronguet team for yet another faultless South Westerns.
Photos were snapped and the whole fleet enjoyed a Cornish Cream tea on the terrace in the sun as they planned not one but two returns to RSC in 2024!