Ronstan Firefly Inland Championship at Rutland Sailing Club

27 boats arrived at Rutland Sailing Club on Saturday October fifth for the 2019 Ronstan Firefly Inland Championships. They were greeted by a gentle breeze on the picturesque reservoir and a promising forecast of gradually increasing wind. The fleet boasted quality as well as quantity, with six former Firefly National Champions all vying for the coveted silver Firefly trophy.

Day One – Light and shifty conditions test the fleet

Race one got away at the second attempt after the race officer used his U flag to restrain the slightly over-excited sailors. Guy Davison, sailing with Hugh Farmer in F2539 ‘Dillon’, found the best way up the shifty beat to round the windward mark in first, closely followed by Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson in F3007 ‘TipTopToo’. The rest of the fleet scrapped it out whilst the leading pair calmly extended. At the finish, Jono Pank sailing with Lucy Smith in F1954 ‘Pogie’ were heading for third place, only to be pipped on the line by Jamie and Angus McEwen in F3615 ‘Skirmish’ – to add insult to injury Jono and Lucy then discovered they’d been OCS! Next came Paul Kameen with Evie Snedker in F2018 ‘Biscuit Buffalo’, Ed Smith with another Ed, and Steve Tylecote with Alice Lucy in F3037 ‘Grasshopper’.

When considering the racing perspective from the middle of the fleet, the image was somewhat different from that of the front. The most notable distinction being that the fleet leaders all of a sudden looked much smaller as they disappeared over the horizon; something that spoke highly of the high standard of sailors at the event. Fleet newcomer Will James commented that, as someone who’s Firefly experience so far has been exclusively university team racing, it was a great thing to realise. The competition in the middle was in a word: close. This lent itself to tense and interesting racing, where every decision would make the difference. Locals Andy McKee and Annabel Caldecott in F1979 ‘Winter of Discontent’ came from behind to triumph in the battle of the midfleet, edging over the line in front of University of Nottingham’s Rachel Grayson and Mariamne Gordon-Pullar, Oakham School’s Tim Litt and Annabel Onions and Ben Green and Fi Edwards in F1522 ‘Pandemonic’ after a great call to bang the corner on the final beat, overtaking those who made a dash for the line.

In the second race Steve and Alice made the early running, but Jono and Lucy made amends for their earlier mistake by coming through for the win. Jamie and Angus sniggled second, followed by Nigel and Emily, with Steve and Alice fourth. Way back in the midfleet Ben Green and Fi Edwards in led for the first lap before a risky call on which side of the beat backfired and snaked them right down to the back of the fleet. This left locals Jamie Tylecote and Freya Pembury to lead the midfleet bunch across the line by a whisker from Nottingham University’s Rory Odell and Hannah Thompson and Will James and Ali Smith in F2710 ‘Reservoir Dog’.

The third and final race of the day was initially led by Jamie and Angus, before Chris Kameen and Jenny Johnson in F2937 ‘Smutty’ overtook on the run. The lead swapped back again, but then Jono and Lucy showed great downwind speed to pass both and take their second win. To rub salt into Chris’s wounds he was overtaken by brother Paul and crew Evie who snatched third behind Jamie and Angus.

The midfleet drama mirrored the front with Ben and Fi taking the first of the double-digit places from Lucy Boreham and Rachel Crebbin in F3739 ‘Willow’ before throwing it away at the top mark on a dodgy call which led them to infringe Willow and have to spin. Jamie Tylecote and Freya Pembury, Mike and Debs Steele in F3920 ‘Fizz’ and Will James and Ali Smith swept past both boats on the run. Jamie and Freya pushed all the way to the line in the dying breeze to edge past the other two while behind them the place swapping continued apace.

With a third and two seconds Jamie and Angus McEwen in F3615 ‘Skirmish’ were overnight leaders. The news made a momentary distraction from their post-race search for cake (RSC’s new caterers’ chocolate brownie thoroughly recommended). Will James and Ali Smith in F2710 ‘Reservoir Dog’ took midfleet honours and the dubious prize of having to provide the report details for the lower half of the fleet.

After packing up boats and some hot, if dribbly, (what’s with the lack of water pressure RSC!) showers the Fireflies convened in the wet bar to start the party early with post-race beers before sitting down to tuck into a very welcome pie supper and pudding (A delicious choice of apple pie or sticky toffee pudding both served with lashings of cream). Preferring the sort of dark and stormies that come in a tumbler to the conditions outside, the Firefly swarm held out in the bar until gone midnight. Unusually we didn’t quite manage to drink it dry but we did make a good effort considering a third of the fleet were under 18. (Dis)honourable mentions have to go to the five crews who stayed in the bar until kick-out time, particularly Alex Ogilvie and Josh Speakman of F2560 ‘Fuzzy Duck’ who, after starting drinking (and singing) in race two didn’t make it to bed… downstairs in one of RSCs bunk rooms!

Day Two – Sendy Sunday courtesy of Storm Lorenzo

Day two dawned with pouring rain and heavy and increasing breeze that heralded the imminent arrival of Storm Lorenzo. The slightly fuzzy-headed fleet decided to leave rigging for a bit, pulled two big tables together in the wet bar and swapped highlights of the previous nights antics over cooked breakfasts. One of the big strengths of the Firefly fleet is how genuinely friendly and inclusive it is and kids, parents, students, graduates and OAPs all exchanged friendly banter as they tucked in. The energy was going to be needed with the forecast looking fresh to frightening.

Before too long the 27 Fireflies were changed and back afloat, raring to go. The breeze was already pretty strong with some exciting gusts rolling through as the fleet reached to the course area at the far end of the reservoir under the dam. The students, many of whom had never experienced big breeze Firefly sailing without cut-downs, took advantage of the opportunity to go for a bit of a blast up and down the line as they waited for the stragglers to arrive.

The start got off first time and immediately the big breeze specialists threw down the gauntlet. Eleven or twelve boats made an early break from the rest of the fleet and streaked away into the distance. At the first mark Paul Kameen and Evie Snedker in F2018 ‘Biscuit Buffalo’ led from Steve Tylecote and Alice Lucy in F3037 Grasshopper and Jono Pank and Lucy Smith in F1954 ‘Pogie’. Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson in F3007 ‘TipTopToo’ came round next, followed closely by Chris Kameen and Jenny Johnson in F2937 ‘Smutty’. Right behind them the “almost-peloton” of Andy McKee and Tom Onions in F1979 ‘The Winter of Discontent’, Jamie and Angus McEwen in F3615 ‘Skirmish’, Dom and Izzy Johnson in F4234 ‘Vader’ and Ben Green and Fi Edwards in F1522 ‘Pandemonic’ stuck like glue, refusing to be left behind on the charge down the reach.

Lucy Boreham and Rachel Crebbin in F3739 ‘Willow’ made it to the windward mark well up in the leading pack but fell back on the reach allowing Nottingham University’s Rory Odell and Hannah Thompson and Guy Davison and Hugh Farmer in F2539 ‘Dillon’ to blast past.

The fleet condensed on the run allowing the peloton to close up to the leaders and providing the opportunity for Steve and Alice to edge their way past Paul and Evie on the second reach to take the lead.

As the race continued in ever increasing breeze the fleet spread out again. The gap between the leaders and the rest was growing. Battling students Rory and Hannah has adopted a “no guts, no glory” attitude and managed to hold on to the leading pack for the first two laps but lost touch as the wind picked up even more. Guy “Notorious OAP” Davison and Hugh Farmer fared even worse in the gusts, taking an unscheduled swim which ended their day.

The fleet crossed the line for a blistering third and final lap with home team Steve and Alice still leading a slimmed-down leading pack of eight. By the time this front pack reached the windward mark they had stretched out. Steve and Alice, Paul and Evie, Jono and Lucy and Chris and Jenny rounded clear ahead. The Johnsons flew round next followed by the McEwen’s who managed to slip in on port in front of Ben and Fi and Andy and Tom but then lacked the critical mass to make the bear away. Jamie made an acrobatic dive for the centreboard, saving the capsize but ending up dangling in the water. Angus’s despairing howl of “Daaaaad!” could be heard over the wind.

A screaming reach in a Firefly has an infallible ability to leave sailors with a massive smile on their faces and these reaches were deafening! Super students Rory and Hannah led the “Best of the rest” down an absolutely ballistic leg chased hard by the recovered McEwens, Mike and Debs Steele, Will James and Ali Smith and Jamie Tylecote and Freya Pembury. By now the gusts across the course were edging over 30 knots and things were getting really exciting.

At the front, the pack were still tight. A near capsize by Chris and Jenny (expertly saved by Jenny) as they rounded up for the final reach allowed Jenny’s husband and daughter Dom and Izzy to almost bridge the gap to the leaders with a flawless display of controlled sailing. Having fallen back after breaking their jibstick, seventh place Ben and Fi made the opposite choice and decided it was time to go for broke. Hoiking up the board into the box and powering up the rig, the pair screamed past Dom and Izzy and straight into the same sort of massive nose dive capsize they’d just seen Chris and Jenny narrowly avoid. The upturned hull floundering just before the next mark would provide an interesting obstacle for the rest of the fleet and a great advert for the brilliant workmanship of Tony Thresher!

Behind the leading pack, the ferocious gusts that swept across the racecourse led to lots of wipeouts on the gybe mark. There was a big cheer from recent Notts graduate Will James’s former teammates as he and Ali Smith took Reservoir Dog’s maiden swim in Ali’s ownership, snapping their jibstick and dislodging their rudder in the process.

After all those still going had crossed the finish line the PRO signalled racing abandoned, further signals ashore and the fleet headed back to the club – an epic reach in enjoyed by everyone except our Vice Chairman and Publicity Sec who, having spent a while swimming around their upside down hull, came in under tow with a “dishonour guard” of mark-laying boats. Not for the first time this year the fleet banded together to help recover the stricken Firefly.

Ashore it was decided by a popular vote not to go back afloat again. It was hard to be disappointed by the early finish considering how much fun the only race of the day and the amazing reach in had been. The fleet helped each other to pack up and hit the changing rooms to try and beat the Squibs to the hot water.

While the helms debated discards the crews were energetically comparing bruises (anyone got any arnica!) and experiences of having spent half of the final lap underwater. If anyone from M15 recruitment is reading this report and looking for some secret agents who make James Bond look like a dull wimp, our crews can drink like fishes and still be practically perfect on the water the next morning and we’re particularly resistant to beatings and waterboarding!

The prizegiving started at 1400 sharp with the presentation of commemorative medals to all junior competitors and chocolate medals to all under 18s. The prize for top under 18 helm went to Jamie Tylecote and Freya Pembury from Rutland SC. Top Lady Helm was another Tylecote, Fiona, sailing with Rutland junior Dylan Beatty who beat second-placed Rachel Grayson from Nottingham University by just a single point. Fiona and Dylan were beaten to the new trophy for top team racing boat by another Nottingham boat, Rory Odell and Hannah Thompson, after their absolutely ballistic final race performance. Nottingham also took top university and the hank of Marlow rope – much appreciated by the chronically underfunded students!

Fiona Tylecote, Firefly fleet captain at Rutland and Fi Edwards from the NFA then thanked the race committee and rescue and mark laying boats with some bottles of wine before handing over to Rutland Commodore Pete Ashworth to dole out the ‘Proper’ prizes. Pete started his presentation by highlighting how close the results were all the way through the fleet, with a tiny margin of just two points separating fourth place and the winners. With the huge difference in conditions between the days this was a testament to the strength of the fleet.

Fourth place and Ronstan T-shirts and some lovely glassware went to Steve Tylecote and Alice Lucy from Rutland SC sailing F3037 ‘Grasshopper’. Third place Nigel Wakefield and Emily Saunderson from Spinnaker Club in F3007 ‘TipTopToo’ took home a new Ronstan cunningham assembly which Nigel joked they could have done with earlier!

Second place went to Jamie and Angus McEwen from Papercourt Sailing Club in F3615 ‘Skirmish’. Angus was a bit frustrated at having to leave his lunch with the scavenge-y adults *again* but his Ronstan Orbit Jib ratchets made up for it – less tired arms next time we have big breeze! Before he could get back to rescue his chips from the greedy grown-ups, Angus was back up again along with Izzy Johnson, Tom Onions, Hugh Farmer and “Little Ed” to receive one of six fabulous Ronstan prizes for the top junior crews. Commodore Pete praised their enthusiasm and maturity, particularly in day two’s breezy conditions.

Finally, Paul Kameen and Evie Snedker in F2018 ‘Biscuit Buffalo’ from Bosham and Lymington Town SC were crowned (or more accurately Ronstan capped) 2019 Inland Champions and winners of the beautiful Royal Corinthian Yacht Club Silver Firefly.

The high standard and slick running from the organisers at Rutland SC made for an extremely enjoyable weekend and the fleet can’t wait to come back.

Thank you also has to go to our generous sponsors Ronstan/IMP for all the goodies they supplied for this weekend.

The next and final stage of the Vines Series will take place at West Oxfordshire SC on October 19th before the M25 Series concludes at Papercourt SC.

If that’s not enough to give you your Firefly fix yet this year, there are still two more non-circuit meets to go too. This weekend sees the short course invitational at South Staffs and the 2nd and 3rd of November will see the 2019 running of the Twisted Tube at Spinnaker Club.

Report contributors: Jamie and Angus McEwen, Will James, Ali Smith, Paul Kameen, Evie Snedker.