Ed Dubois and Firebrand sail to victory in the Pendennis Cup. David Glenn was aboard…
Yesterday I stepped off the 200ft Athos aboard which the most
stressful tasks I undertook were watching people press buttons and
listening to a multitudinous afterguard make tactical sailing decisions. That was day one of the Pendennis Cup and despite the
incessant rain it was a very enjoyable one indeed. But I got off
feeling, well, short of exercise…
Today was different. For a
start the sun made a watery appearance, sailors were able to see the
Cornish coast for the first time and onboard the 43ft Firebrand I was
put to work trimming this ex-Admiral’s Cupper’s big overlapping
headsail. And we won our class which prompted the uncorking of
Firebrand is owned by naval architect Ed Dubois, who
spotted her in the 1990s while he was delayed on a flight out of Miami.
He picked up Wooden Boat magazine, recognised the famous Sparkman &
Stephens-designed, Lallows-built wooden ocean racer in the brokerage
pages and within the hour was standing on her deck in a local marina. A
few days later she was his.
Fresh from winning her class in the
Round the Island Race, the timber-built Firebrand just made it to the
Pendennis Cup in time, plugging into the low pressure weather that has
dogged this dank summer.
Apart from the yacht’s pedigree, being
aboard was a bit like stepping back in ocean racing history. Ed Dubois
has been involved with more grand prix race campaigns than you can shake
a winch handle at. There was Adam Ostenfeld on the foredeck, a
legendary point man who, after serving in the Vietnam war as a
helicopter pilot, discovered sailing, since when he’s competed in four
America’s Cups, served in many campaigns with the likes of Tom Whidden
and Dennis Conner, is still very much on the grand prix circuit and
still finds time to grace Firebrand‘s foredeck, producing a masterclass
in his ‘trade’ in the process. His après sail sartorial elegance is also
John Boyce not only trims main but has that
natural instinct for what’s happening on a race course, anticipating the
shifts, hugging the good tide and before the start building up a mental picture of how the race is going to work out. He was one
of Graham Walker’s main men with the Indulgence campaigns back in the
80s, got within a whisker of competing in the Olympics with a Star
campaign and coached Stuart Childerley in his Barcelona Olympic Finn
We had a young family of Russians aboard who had never set
eyes on Firebrand, a charming Pole and a couple of journos one of whom
had local knowledge and was impressive with a chart plotter.
I say it we didn’t put a foot wrong all day, getting out into the
stronger ebb tide on the first beat and seeing off the lovely S&S
Tomahawk, Mikado, a Fife design built originally as a Clyde Linear 30
and the 6 Metre Pinuccia which had to give us time.
quite how hard it is to trim home a biggish overlapping headsail and
while my Polish trimming buddy did the hard work with the winch handle
it took me back to the good old days of the 1980s when we almost sweated blood short tacking yachts like this in the Solent!
to Mr Ostenfeld’s impeccable preparation and instruction we ‘got round
corners’ in a very acceptable manner, sailed conservatively and even
pulled off a pole-less gybe with a reaching A sail style kite using a
All day Tomahawk seemed attached to our
stern as if with a piece of elastic, sometimes drawing close then
dropping away. It stayed like that to the end with the corrected
finishing order reading Firebrand, Mikado, Tomahawk and Pinuccia.
sandwiches and some story telling in the cockpit, once we were
alongside, rounded off a most pleasant day on the water. P.S. If you’re
trying to contact John Boyce by phone please be patient. His mobile
went for a one-way swim in the marina on our return….
And in the big class Unfurled, Adela and Breakaway were the podium stars….