Itchenor Firefly Craftinsure Vines Trophy Event 3 28/6/06

The Firefly fleet flocked to Itchenor Sailing Club in Chichester harbour over the weekend of 24-25 June for a huge birthday party to celebrate the 60th Birthday of the legendary one-design first raced at the club in 1946.

On the water two times national champions Antony Gunstone and Lucie Hopkins from Castaways went home with the coveted Itchenor Burgee, triumphing over a high-class fleet of 34 boats after three tight and tactical races. Five times Champion Stuart Hudson sailing with Sally Wilson on Saturday and Frances Davison on Sunday were second with Alex Davey and Jess Green from Royal Harwich on the East Coast coming home third. Event sponsors the marine insurance company Craftinsure supplied some ace prizes to the top three helmsmen and crews.

Off the water, a party atmosphere prevailed all weekend. Itchenor hosted a gala dinner on Saturday night where over 100 guests enjoyed fantastic food and a series of speeches from Firefly sailors from across the years. One of the speakers was Pepe Stratton who 60 years ago was one of four young ladies from Itchenor who took possession of Fireflys Fe, Fi, Fo and Fum, boat numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. Number 1 is now in the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall but Pepe was able to see the latest example of a Firefly, number 3894 finished by owner Andy Hewitt the evening before the event. 3894 is the 50th Firefly to be built in the last 12 months, not a bad statistic for a 60 year old class.

Firefly Class Chairman Will Mason commented “We knew we had to return to Itchenor during the Firefly Classes 60th year and the club have pulled out all the stops to make this the highlight of the year so far. The class would like to thank all at the club involved in running the weekend.”

A large number of other Firefly legends made their way to the Itchenor during the weekend. Chief among them were a large gathering of the Currey family whose senior member Charles was responsible for putting the Firefly class into production in 1946. Sadly Charles, now 90, was unable to make it across the water from his Bosham home but his wife Bobby came over to cut the Birthday cake at Sunday afternoons prizegiving.

Everyone had a great time with new friendships being made and old renewed. Special prizes were awarded by the club to many of the fleet with the highlights being the awards to legendary twins Richard and Harvey Bagnall, also celebrating their 60th Birthday this year, who took home a prize for the most original boat. Class newcomer Hermione Turner, with just a little help from her crew Andy Prince won a prize for the most beautiful restored boat and everyone went home with a slice of birthday cake.

The Firefly 60th Anniversary party still has six months to run and with five opens in July at South Staffs, Budworth, Hamble, Lymington and Felixstowe there’s plenty of opportunity to get some practice in before the big event of the year, the 60th Anniversary Nationals at Abersoch from the 5-11 August.