Shifts and shenanigans for Big Wednesday 2019

Wednesday in the Firefly Class is traditionally known as “Big Wednesday”, in part because it follows Tuesday night’s Crews Union shenanigans and also because it’s the day of points Race 5 – better known as the Sir Ralph Gore Challenge Cup and Marlow Cup.

Awarded since 1947 and emblazoned with names such as Stuart Morris, The Jardine brothers, Eric Twiname and Mark Rushall. The Gore is one of the toughest races to qualify for in sailing. Its little brother, the Marlow Cup, was gifted in 1959 and first sailed for in 1960. The Gore and Marlow are always sailed over a 12 nautical mile course and always on equilateral triangles. That’s a long way in a Firefly and it’s always an epic race!

This year the two historic cups were joined for the first time by a third, the Mike Cocksedge Cup for top Under 21. The Cocksedge Cup is one of the small silver cups which used to be presented to the winners of the Gore Cup in recognition of their win. It was donated earlier this year by 1959 Gore champion helm and former Marlow man, Mike who passed away in March.

“Gore Day” always starts an hour earlier but with the adrenaline of the race overriding the Crews Union induced hangovers everyone made it to the startline on time. After one abandoned start due to a large windshift, the race got off seamlessly. The only fluff up came from Bournemouth University’s Will Birchill in F3634 ‘Yellow Submarine’ whose enthusiastic attempt at a pin end start left him trying to sail holding the boom while his “only slightly hungover” crew sorted out the mess he’d created. Nonetheless they managed to get the bow down, follow the shifts and have a very respectable, very fast, first beat, coming round the first mark comfortably in the top 20 – clearly the way to survive the Gore as a student is to come into it still drunk!

At the front of the fleet Andy and Jenn Cornah in F888 ‘Desperado’ and Dan and Cameron Vincent in F3764 ‘TicTac’ went round the top mark first, followed by Jono Pank and Helena Lucas in F1954 ‘Pogie’ and then John Greenland and Ruth Guy in F2296 Falken. On the second beat Pogie got ahead of Desperado, but Dave and Betty Sincock in F973 ‘Spiderling’ had a fantastic beat sailing the shifts well to round just ahead of Pogie. However Pogie managed to find an overtaking lane down the reach and rounded the bottom mark just ahead of Spiderling. Up the third beat they extended their lead.

Even with the gap between them and the rest of the pack growing, Pogie couldn’t relax. They quickly discovered they hadn’t quite escaped Spiderling’s web. With the Sincocks breathing right down their necks, Pogie again found a lane down the reach to round ahead at the bottom of the triangle. The Sincock’s bit back, sailing a blinder, nailing the three big shifts to push Pogie all the way to the line.

In the Marlow, Rob Vincent and his nine year old son, Toby in F3674 ‘Flo’ finished 14th to scoop the Silver cup, ropes and sparkling wine. This is Toby’s first Nationals and Rob was quick to thank the generosity of Nigel Wakefield for lending his boat – now he’ll have to buy one of his own to go with his new main and jib sheets!

Second Marlow boat home was Ali Smith and Nottingham University’s Hannah Thompson in F2710 ‘Reservoir Dog’ who edged ahead of third place Oli Burrows and Nicole Perris in F792 ‘Rissa’ on the final beat and romped home in 19th.

The Cocksedge Cup was won by Cambridge University’s Alex Baxter and Manchester University’s Ella Vincent in F2246 ‘Scruffy’. Runners up were London University’s Matt Thornton and Laura Bevan in F3671 ‘Purple Dorris’ with Alex Colquitt and Lucy Storey in F3878 ‘SeeYa’ in third. Prizes for all 12 podium boats were generously supplied by sponsors Marlow Ropes and Lyme Bay Winery.
Gore and Marlow day in the Firefly Nationals at Lyme Regis – photo © Frances Davison

After the champagne spraying, Jono used his winners speech to celebrate the ethos of the class. This week, as every Firefly Week, there are a number of sailors in boats borrowed from friends and universities. The boat park is always busy with boats being repaired and bimbled, but that in itself is a team sport with the leading sailors lending their time, spares and expertise to get the maximum number of boats on the water.

As darkness fell the fleet celebrated finishing the course with a massive blowout after-party which continued until nearly dawn. This year’s party was a triple celebration as, as well as results to celebrate, the Firefly class marked its 70th Sponsorship Anniversary with Marlow Ropes (and the 60th year since the deed of gift for the Marlow Cup was signed) *and* the inauguration of the Cocksedge Cup. In honour of the occasion the fleet invoked the spirit of 1959 in their smart casual / yacht club threads and a great time was had by all.

Many sailors took up Gore winners Jono and Helena’s invitation to get a selfie with the famous cup. This included Peter and Dawn Langdon who popped up from Restronguet to soak up the atmosphere – Firefly retirement clearly not going then!

After John Greenland and Ruth Guy – who just missed out on a Gore podium coming in fourth – and Marlow third place finishers Oli and Nicole were awarded the Ronstan buddies T-shirts for the day; the Oar of Gore made it’s annual appearance accompanied by lots of enthusiastic chanting. Lyme Regis SC’s ceiling beams got another structural inspection (Verdict: top notch) and there were a few rousing, and surprisingly tuneful, choruses of the Dubliners “Wild Rover”.