The Firefly Odyssey is nearing its end and a fleet of six Fireflies has finally been assembled. The only remaining question is will the fleet be race-ready for the first Derbyshire Youth Sailing booking on Feb 26th 2022?
The process of looking for a fleet of six Fireflies began early in May 2021. Bryn Abendstern initially went to inspect six bargain priced boats at a sailing club in Northampton, but what he reported back to the committee wasn’t altogether encouraging. He thought they probably would not be a very good long-term investment. Looking for six boats in the next price category up was, therefore, the next stage in our strategy. We eventually identified six boats that would be coming up for sale from the Royal Hospital School near Ipswich. Ralph and Denise extended their homeward journey from their summer holiday on the Broads to go south to view them. These boats were not yet on the open market so we thought there was no immediate rush. Delay though proved our undoing. On the eve of the planned second viewing someone beat us to making the school an offer and the trip was called off.
Concurrently, in order to reduce the cost burden on club funds we wrote a grant application to the John Merrick Sailing Trust. The Trust gave us money to buy our very first Topper dinghy to be used for junior training in 2005. Only one week after learning that the Ipswich boats had been sold, we were informed by the John Merricks trust that our grant application had been successful. This presented us with somewhat of a dilemma – a nice one to have; our search intensified. This involved a number of discussions with Keith Sammons from KSail who proved extremely helpful in navigating the Firefly market. Keith keeps a Firefly fleet register, and has his ear close to the ground on what fleets are currently and might be coming onto the market. Unfortunately, his information was that he knew of no fleets that would be coming onto the market in the near future so we decided to cast our net further afield.
We fortunately located six boats that had been for sale for a number of months in Ireland. These had not been snapped up because they had been locked up in a 40-foot container on some playing fields near Dublin. The boats had been there for 7 years, but now the sports club wanted the container removed so there was some urgency for the college to find a new home for them.
It is approximately the same distance from Whaley Bridge to Dublin as Whaley Bridge to Ipswich but with one notable difference. Notwithstanding this, after hours of research Richard and Ed decided to go over to Ireland to look at the boats on November 10th, accompanied by Henry White.
The hulls were fundamentally sound but each had some superficial damage and some essentials were missing like a mast and a mainsail, and several rudder stocks were broken. However, the price being asked plus delivery was not dissimilar from that being asked for the Ipswich Fireflies. Overall they were OK for the money and the rest of the committee gave the green light to go ahead.
On December 1st Ed, Richard, Henry and Ben set off to bring them back in a race against spiralling Omicron cases and a rumbling threat to revoke the Irish Protocol. First though we had to learn how to apply for an EORI number, hire customs agents, work out the correct commodity codes needed for small sailing dinghies and sort out what road trailers we would need to bring the boats back. With helpful advice from Duncan Fife the former was solved by expending a great deal of time and effort, the latter through the generous help of West Kirby Yacht Club who lent us one of their triple stacker trailers.
The weather was kind while the boats were loaded onto the trailers and the trip was fairly uneventful up until the ferry left without us on the way home. Boarding closed earlier than the emailed time leaving some very frustrated people in Dublin for a lot longer than they had planned. Compensation came in a sort of all you could eat midnight feast. We should have arrived in Holyhead in the early evening, instead we arrived after 1am with a 3-hour drive ahead!
So where are we up to now? We are working hard to get all the boats operational for as soon as possible – certainly for the beginning of the season. They are currently with Peak Dinghy and Woodwind boats having mostly cosmetic work done on their hulls and providing that there are no unforeseen problems this should be finished by the end of January.
boats and equipment.
Nothing is ever easy or straight forward. The double stacker had developed a suspicious crack. Martin, Callum, Richard and Bryn rallied to lift the boats onto road trailers to go to Toddmorden.
Bryn and Richard Abendstern helpfully towed a boat to Todmorden not least to see the winching up.
The main items needed were masts, rudder stocks and a mainsail. Unfortunately, 2 masts were found to be damaged as well as the one missing. Looking for replacements we found what we needed at KSail and Jane and Richard travelled down to Wiltshire before Christmas to collect 3 masts and 6 rudder stocks of the sturdier type now especially made by KSail for team racing. On the way back we stopped off at Tony Thresher’s workshop to pick up 6 sets of second hand sails beautifully rolled.
Work is going on to get the boats ready. Chris Barnes is on standby, just in case any of the centre boards need straightening and Chris Gay is tackling one of the rudders that is in need of some attention.
But there is still much for the club to do, such as, fetching the boats back again, polishing the hulls and sorting out control lines. With a month to sort everything out, the plan is still to get the boats ‘on station’ at Combs by the end of January/beginning of February. If this is possible, it will mean that the date for a DYS training activity might still be achievable.