Welcome to the website of the Firefly Class Association
This site lets you know what the association does, and the role it plays in maintaining the Firefly as one of the strongest two person racing fleets in the UK. Important facts you need to know about the Firefly include
The Firefly is the one of the cheapest two person dinghies in the UK, race-ready secondhand boats can be picked up for under £1000, a new boat is under £4000.
The Firefly is 12′ long, suits a crew weight of 17-24 stone, and has no spinnaker. For more details of the Fireflies amazing history follow this link
The Firefly has great fleet racing, where inches count all the way round the course. The week long National Championship held each August is the highlight of the year. For more details of Firefly events click on the Events tag on the left
The Firefly is the ultimate team racing boat used at 2 ISAF World Team Racing Championships in the last 6 years, as well as being used for over 50 years at the world-famous Wilson Trophy, the British Open Team Racing Championship. The Firefly calendar includes more “bring your own boat” team racing events than any other class in the UK. If you like cheap close racing, the best team racing. excellent socials and a friendly class, buy a Firefly, join the class association, and come and join us!
The class membership secretary, Chris Kameen, can be contacted by following the email link in the contacts section.
Best wishes and good sailing. Barney Smith Firefly Class Chairman
NFA Organised Events
The Firefly Classes major events include
The National Championships – held over a week each year on the sea, normally in August; A great week of sailing and social events which aim to cater for all ages. Do not be put off, although the racing standard at the top of the fleet is high, there is a wide range of ability on show each year! It is not necessary to have a new boat. The 2001 Championships was won by Firefly 1954 ‘Pogie’, which was built in 1961. Details of the 2003 Championships to be held at Brixham YC can be found by clicking on the Events tab
The Youth Championships – which take place over a single day
The Ladies Championships – which takes place during the Nationals
The RNVR Trophy – the class championships for 3 boat team racing
The M25 Trophy – The other of the classes two travelers trophies, contested over a series of Open meeting held at clubs around the M25 motorway. Series runs August to August with the trophy awarded at the National Championship.
The Vines Trophy – the major class travelers series, contested over a series of Opens around the country. Series runs August to August with the trophy awarded at the National Championship.
The rest of the calendar comprises a mix of fleet racing opens and team racing events.
Firefly Class Association
Membership Services – To ensure members get full value from their membership here is a list of some of the services the class provides. To join the association please contact Chris Kameen.
Technical and Rules advice – The class technical officer is very happy to deal with rules queries, particularly with regard to rebuilding boats.
Boat searches – if you’ve just bought an old Firefly and want to know about it’s history the class record keeper will be pleased to help.
The Firefly Bulletin – the class newsletter, produced 4 times a year. A glossy 12-16 page format that is the envy of other UK classes.
Cheap sails – If you’re a class association member, you can buy discounted sails through the class.
Regional Firefly Activity – the class has three area reps who can provide details and advice on what’s happening in your locality.
The Firefly website – This site incorporates the Firefly Chat page, a hot bed of gossip and intrigue, or just a good place to buy and sell boats and bits. You don’t need to visit it, you’re already here!
New boats – Rondar would love to hear from you if you’d like them to build you a boat (or six!). Ring Paul Young on 01380 831138 or visit the Rondar website (www.rondarboats.com). Paul will be especially pleased to hear from you if you wish to buy a set of Fireflies for club or University use. Fireflies make perfect boats for everything from youth training to team racing and at under £4k each or £25k for 5, they are the cheapest two person boat on the market in the UK!
During 1938 sailors connected to Oxford and Cambridge Universities asked Uffa Fox to design a dinghy similar to the National 12, but one design and more suitable for team racing. Uffa completed this design in 1939 and called it the Sea Swallow. Then came the war and nothing happened.
During this time Colin Chichester-Smith, who was a director of the Fairey Aviation Company, often thought about a production dinghy based on the principles used for the manufacture of wooden Mosquito aircraft fuselages, which were formed on a mould and cured by electrically heated bands holding the laminate in position.
Early in 1946 Uffa Fox was asked by Chichester-Smith, in conjunction with Stewart Morris, to design a one-design twelve foot dinghy. About this time Charles Curry joined Fairey to develop the marine section at Hamble. It was easy for Uffa to design such a dinghy; he just scratched out the name ‘Sea Swallow’ and replaced it with ‘Firefly’, so named after the famous Fairy aircraft.
The initial boats were 1/16″ birch plywood and, through aircraft connections, Tony Reynolds was asked to produce a metal mast with spruce for a wooden top.
The initial cost of a boat was just £65, and the first four were bought by Sir Geoffrey Loules, Commodore of Itchenor Sailing Club, and Christened Fe, Fi, Fo and Fum.
There were a few tweaks after the initial batch of boats were produced, which lead to the boat being selected for the single handed class at the 1948 Olympics to be held at Torbay. After a very windy week the boat proved a handful for just one, and was replaced in 1952 by the heavier, more expensive Finn class.
However the class grew rapidly as a two person class, winning favour with schools, universities, the forces and many team racers. None of the early development and success would have been possible without the backing of Sir Richard Fairey, Chairman of the Fairey Aviation Company, who had a lifelong interest in sailing and was a distinguished helmsman. The points cup for the overall National Champion bears his name.
The Y.R.A. as it was then, gave its full support to the class, and Sir Ralph Gore, chairman at the time, presented the trophy for the Individual Championship Race.
In 1959 Terylene sails were introduced, as cotton sails were virtually out of production. These gave the boat a slight increase in speed, but were more durable and required less attention to avoid deterioration in performance.
An interesting quirk of the early days was the production of around 100 boats with aluminium decks. This was caused by the unavailability of 6mm marine grade ply!!
By 1965 the Firefly looked dated compared to the new classes that were springing up. Consequently the need was felt for a revised deck layout, named the MkII. The side decks were reduced to 4″ and the foredeck camber was increased, removing the need for a spray deflector. Performance was unchanged. Another important change introduced in 1967 was the introduction of a light alloy centre plate to replace the galvanised iron plate. This did effect speed, making the boat slightly faster down wind, but also much easier to handle out of the water.
A further important change was made in 1968, the introduction of G.R.P. construction. Although wooden Fireflies had only required minimal maintenance, it was felt any further reduction would benefit the institutions.
The Fireflys were responsible for one or two other historic innovations. The gate start invented by Bee McKinnon, a master at Eton College, was first used during the Firefly Championship Week at Torquay in 1955. This was a highly operation, and is used toady throughout the world.
To further improve the one design characteristics, and reduce costs, the class moved to sails made from Ratsey and Lapthorne’s Vectis sailcloth. These changes were made in 1970, and at the same time the Reynolds mast was replaced by a one piece rotating mast from Proctors.
Following negotiations the end of 1972, Vic Lewis Boats were appointed as sole builder from January 1st 1973, thus ending the Firefly’s long association with Fairey Marine. Vic Lewis worked with Craft Mouldings and the class to produce a new G.R.P. mould. A boat available with either G.R.P or wooden decks was introduced in 1976.
In 1975 with inflation rampant, the cost of producing a rotating mast specifically for the Firefly became prohibitive. It was decided to adopt a fixed mast of standard design that could be purchased anywhere in the country.
In 1976 Knight and Pink Marine started producing wooden boats again, the first since Fairy stopped production in 1973. The new boats were cold moulded, and the side decks changed in design, but not width, to be named the MkIII.
In 1982 three changes were made. Dissatisfied with the consistency of Ratsey’s sails, and the quality of the boats produced by Craft Mouldings. Hyde Sails were appointed as sailmakers, and the class association bought the Firefly moulds from Craft Mouldings. This proved to be essential in the longevity of the class. They were given on loan to Omega Boats to produce a foam sandwich GRP boat. Finally in 1982, a deep rudder was allowed in place of the swept back design, to give more stability down wind in waves.
Porter took over production of the G.R.P. boat up until 1995. It was decided that the boat needed an overhaul. The cost for Porters to do this would have driven the boat away from its low cost principle, so it was decided to work with another builder.
After development with Hyde sails windows were allowed in sails for the first time in 1997, increasing visibility and hence safety whilst sailing up wind.
At the Firefly’s 50th anniversary National Championship the first plug from Rondar Raceboats was seen. In 1997 they took over production of the boats. As with all good one design’s, subtle evolutionary changes are made to keep the boats relevant, and this was no exception. Buoyancy was increased and the mast height was increased very slightly in 1997. This negated two of the Firefly’s bad points in one go, allowing novice sailors to sail without worry of sinking, and larger crews to sail the boats comfortably. A slightly more contentious issue was to replace the slot in the boats alloy centre plate, with a hole. This was to prevent the plate falling out of the bottom of the boat when upside down. This was passed by the class association in 1998.
Since these changes the Firefly has seen a great revival, becoming the boat of choice for team racers across the land.
Roll on the next fifty years!!
Tuning the Rondar Firefly
Following a lucky couple of seasons I have been asked to write an article about tuning the Rondar Firefly of which perhaps 30 have now been turned out. The basic hull is still the old Porter model which seems competitive in most conditions although the better wooden boats have an edge upwind.
Below are few tips for the Rondar which I hope you’ll find useful.
At Felixstowe in 1997 our mast was in the furthest possible position forward – the back mast pin being 46.5cms from the centreboard bolt. At the 1998 Nationals we sailed the 2nd half of the week one hole further back but had to adjust the mast gate further back to keep the rake the same – both seem fast but I am favouring the back setting at present.
Set the spreader length with 2 holes showing – this should make them about 32cms from the mast to shroud. Set the spreader rake at 140mm measured from back of mast to a line drawn tight between the spreader tips. This is a nice neutral position for the spreaders which I still prefer. (Note – if your mast position is further back your spreader rake will need to come further forward to about 130mm to compensate).
Your shroud settings may be different between Port and Starboard because of the way the boat comes out of the mould – mine is 2 full holes different and higher on Port. To check this let the mast lie forward so it is resting on the front of the mast gate with the mast on level ground on a light wind day, start with the shrouds slack and then increase the tension until they are both just taught with the mast still touching the front of the mast gate. This is a good all round setting for your shrouds.
Mast rake is difficult to measure but with the new long masts if your boom is anywhere near the transom on the Rondar you’re probably be raked too far back and the mast should actually look quite upright in the boat. Another guide is that with my rake adjuster set in the right place it’s very hard to attach the jib halyard to the hook. Once you’re happy with the settings for jib halyard /rake adjuster in a Force 2-3 mark it off (i.e. – where the hook comes to on the mast) and pull the adjuster on to this reference point in all conditions. This means that you have to pull the adjuster on more in stronger wind to take up the stretch that occurs in the jib halyard. Some people advocate doing the opposite but I haven’t found that works very well for me.
Shrouds too tight in light winds – slot becomes too closed – brakes applied
Spreaders too long will have the same effect.
Jib sheet too tight will have the same effect.
If your crew weight is heavier (we are 19.5 stones), or you are lacking power try,
Rig more upright – also may improve pointing, although books will tell you different.
Spreader rake further forward
More shroud tension – only above force 2-3 for reasons given above.
Spreaders longer – only above force 2-3 for reasons given above.
Finally there’s more then one way to skin a cat just as there’s more than one way to set up a Firefly and go fast. Other people’s ideas will differ from mine but I hope the above information is of some help – it should certainly be a good place to start.
Good Sailing and Good Luck!