Firefly thinking - again!

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davidh
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Firefly thinking - again!

Post by davidh » Fri Jun 06, 2008 5:19 pm

Seeing that there is talk on the 'Events' string about the possibility of more than one Firefly coming to Netley......okay, some other thoughts on the boat!

Firstsly, will anyone be at the Firefly Nationals at Torquay this year? I may well be attending at some point, having now just finished the research and writing up of the Olympic event - from the Firefly perspective, in the 1948 Games. There is a chance, no more than that right now, of the material being used in a presentation, if not the August edition of the mag should feature a fairly lengthy article.

But, getting around to the point now, did Uffa design the Sea Swallow/Firefly as a single hander, that then morphed into a two person boat, or was it the other way around. The record is not clear on this......

D
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Ed » Fri Jun 06, 2008 11:13 pm

mmmmmmmmmmmm good point!

I am sure I have read some good stuff about early history and early design....maybe (most probably) in one of the Uffa Fox books.....but I am sure you have read it.

To be honest, I think it is more likely that I will try and bring the old canoe as I enjoyed sailing her at Netley very much last year.....otherwise, maybe the 14.

My only problem with the canoe is that she is rather old and slightly delicate, so may not want to sail too much if it gets a bit windy.

cheers

eib
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Rupert » Sat Jun 07, 2008 10:57 am

The design was as a 2 hander for university use. However, I'm sure (not sure why, though) that changes were made between SeaSwallow and Firefly, dispite what some people have said rather dismissively about it. The construction plans are obviously totally new, and as she will have been somewhat lighter in her current form, it wouldn't surprise me if her lines were tweaked a little too. Having never seen Sea Swallow plans (do any exist?) I would love to know the differences. Do you go into this?
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by davidh » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:06 pm

Rupert,

sadly no - at least not in this article.

I've lots more detail than space available so may do another one later

D

PS - on an unrelated issue (Netley!!) can you email me direct please?

D
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by davidh » Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:08 pm

To all you happy chappy Firefly sailors.......

If you want to jump over to
http://www.bearfacemedia.co.uk
there may just be some detail and pictures that will interest you.

And it is now confirmed - designed as a two man boat initially!!


D
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Rupert » Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:37 pm

Nice to see some pics. I especially like the one of the bailing. Seems familiar, somehow.
BTW, David, I tried PMing you after the last message. What was it you wanted to know?
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by davidh » Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:30 pm

Rupert,

Can you try again please! Amongst other 'topic's' is the thorny issue of handicaps!

But onto nicer issues............ the Firefly (but then again, maybe not)

The choice of the Firefly for the 1948 Games was not one that received universal support. In fact, once the decsion was made public, there yachting pages were fairly 'alight' with comments, many about the relative seaworthiness of the boat (when sailed as a single hander)

This was well before the days of self bailers, instead competitors for the Games were issued with a large galvanised bucket. One capsize could be recovered, two was pretty much 'it' - as the UK boat found out in the final race.

The other issue was that of bouyancy! I've also got a shot of Richard Creagh-Osbourne, taken at the local trials (at Hayling Island). He's capsized and the boat is just floating, with 'just' being the operative word here. Basically the hull is below the water, with RC-O's weight on the hulls there is no more than a 3 or 4 ft length of gunwale showing about 6" above the surface. This is not a righting job but a recovery/rescue.

As far as I know, Herbulot (famous of course for designing so many of the French post war dinghies) suffered a similar fate....except that in his case the boat was classed as 'sunk'!!!

D
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Rupert » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:06 pm

email sent to your hotmail account, David.
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by davidh » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:32 pm

Rupert!

Em'd you back.

I've also realised that we've scored a first!! This is a bit like a google query that only brings up one reply!

We've a Firefly topic running.....and no comment from Mr Briggs!!!!!

Michael.....were are you.....speak up!

D
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Michael Brigg » Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:50 pm

Hi David.

I have the same photo's of Richard C-O with the cheery pathe news style caption so I presume your scource is "The Yachtsman Annual." (1948/9)

The same book has an impressive list of other old One Design Dinghies, many of which must certainly be lost.

I was trying to glean information for your article at Itchenor but coudn't get much. As you know most of the members there have gone Gin Gaga. (Well the Firefly sailors have anyway.)

My only helpful scource told me the best person to speak to might be Bobby Curry (Charles' wife,) but I'd have to set aside an afternoon at least.

There is quite a long article as well in the latest Firefly bulletin.
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Michael Brigg » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:10 pm

It's time for a brief respite from Handicapping which I can only guess is a bit like the Grand Prix Qualifying, coming up as a hot topic before Netley.

I had wanted to have my Firefly there, probably in an "advanced" state of tune but the Boatyard keeps finding other jobs to do. (Perhaps I should pay the final bill to act as a hint.) I hope I will have eventually a selection of "Hot" rig, all new Selden spars for the Class meetings and the original Reynolds if I can staighten it and find the cash to fit a new topmast. I have no Cotton sails, only 30yr old Ratsey's but who knows what may appear on E-bay.

Enough however of me.

Browsing through the 1948 Yachtsmans Annual I came across this in the section on "Other Centreboard Boats & Dinghies" section:
"Cambridge University C.C. 12-ft One Design Dinghy Class"

Dimensions: Length O.A., 12ft 0in.; Beam 4ft 6in.; Sail Area 90 sq ft.

"This class was designed a couple of years before the outbreak of war, by Uffa Fox, and the specifications render them eligible to race in the National 12-ft Dinghy class. The rig is a sliding gunter, with mast stepping in a tabernacle. They are clinker-built and may be regarded as a parent design of the National Firefly, which are now raced at Cambridge.

Sailing Ground ; Cambridge University Cruising Club, and at Eton and Harrow.
The conventional wisdom suggests that Uffa designed a "Sea Swallow" for Cambridge university and when the War intervened and prevented it's development he revived the design after the war when required to quickly produce an Olympic design, simply crossing out "Sea Swallow" and writing "Firefly" instead. Iwonder if this little paragraph in the Annual suggests a different story, Perhaps Uffa simply didn't like "Sea swallow" as his initial suggested name or was persuaded to change it to a more Marketable name. After all "Firefly" perhaps had a rather more relevant, patriotic feel about it, and fitted better with the Swordfish, which at the time also seemed to be the more fancied Boat. Perhaps he also had inside information that "The Swallow" was to be the Olympic Keel boat and changed the name so as not to have the dinghy's name eclipsed by the Keel boat.

The prize of Olympic Dinghy selection was considerable; the winning design was given special priviliges with regard to the building restrictions placed on pleasure craft due to post war wood shortages generated by the need for new Housing. I am sure that Uffa who was a canny businessman would have worked to gain any possible marketing advantage.

Furthermore, was hot moulding available for boat construction before the war? The Firefly is certainly credited as being the first production dinghy of this type and it seems hard to believe that a small commision such as Cambridge University would have afforded such a novel prototype development.

I think it is very likely therefore that a consderable tweak to the original CUCC OD design is the true ancestry of the Firefly design given the apparent absence of any prototype drawings, or does anybody know any different story?
Michael Brigg

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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Rupert » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:07 am

The Fairey Marine boats were almost all named after planes, Micheal, hence the name change. Cambridge uni had nothing to do with the Firefly, the YRA asked for designers to submit plans, and Uffa submitted the design he had done for them. There is a brief snippit on page 88 of the Uffa Fox book of sailing about it. The swordfish plans are not far off being a Firefly with the stations oved a little further apart, and came into existence as the 15 foot national class, again under the umbrella of the YRA.
Do any of the old Sea Swallows exist today? And how do they differ from the Uffa King, the other boat that can claim much of the Firefly's ancestry?
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Ed » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:54 am

To the best of my knowledge there was no moulded veneer construction (hot or cold) before the war. I thought it was developed for aviation use during the war.

The Merron Dinghy is often quoted as being the first moulded dinghy. However I have always thought this unlikely, but don't have any actual dates to prove or disprove.

There used to be 2 Merrons in Bristol Harbour Dinghy Park, both gone now. Often confused with Ducklings.

Of course the lines of all Uffa's dinghies are rather similar. In fact the Jollyboat is also pretty similar to a pulled out Firefly, which is how he describes coming up with the idea for the boat in the first place.
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by Michael Brigg » Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:16 pm

DavidH said:
But, getting around to the point now, did Uffa design the Sea Swallow/Firefly as a single hander, that then morphed into a two person boat, or was it the other way around. The record is not clear on this
Oh but it is!! Read on....

So to get back to the begining of this thread again, I guess this refers to how the Firefly was picked as an Olympic single hander.

We have all seen last year how political intrigue and National lobbying can bring about Olympic Committee decisions that are not always what the public expected.

I would find it hard to believe that there was not similar intrigue and lobbying at the selection committee for the 1948 olympics given the events of recent history and the endemic culture of deferrence that existed in the post war Politics. After all the potential financial gain resulting from selection would be considerable in addition to opportunities to develop an export business and in the case of Fairey Aviation, the chance to continue, and expand their manufacturing base. We know that Uffa had submited designs for Cambridge University so there's an obvious connection to to the Old School Tie network that no doubt would have been heavily represented on any Olympic committee and I would presume Jobs for the boys would have been high on everyones agenda. Uffa would also have been in very good books with the Big Brass one presumes from his work on the Airborne lifeboat which presumably also put him in close assotiation with the aviation industry, hence the early adoption of this "new" construction technique, in addition to the new detail of making his mast more aerodynamically efficient.

So my guess is that Uffa was "Given" the Olympic Single hander as a kind of "thank-you" from the Committee, and that he or perhaps the committe decided that the Firefly would be the best boat available both financially and as a means of advertising British manufacturing capability.

Rupert said:
Do any of the old Sea Swallows exist today?
As far as the "Sea Swallow" is concerned I thought that this never got beyond the Drawings because the Outbreak of War buried it. By the time hostilities ceased, the original order from Cambridge had presumably lapsed so Uffa was left with a design to sell, ...which he did presumably to Fairey aviation where perhaps (as Rupert suggests) an aeronautical name might have been suggested.

The Idea of using Aviation hot moulded ply is credited in the class history to Colin Chichester-Smith, a director at Fairey marine where Sir Richard Fairey was also an enthusiastic yachtsman. Sir Richard as a sailor perhaps would have seen the buisiness potential in Boating and leisure. Interestingly immediately before the War Charles Currey (who was taken on by Fairey to develop their marine section) had himself also been involved in producing a "Chichester One Design" 12foot dinghy very similar to an Uffa King, though I think it was undecked in the style of an i14. (Although the Chichester bit was referring to its location and nothing to do with Chichester Smith)

The first Firefly was reported in Yachting World sailing on May 5th 1946 competing in the "Henley Challenge Cup" against National 12 dinghys. Helmed by Charles Currey and crewed by Mrs Chichester Smith. They came 2nd by some distance behind the boat helmed by.....Jack Holt!! (in his boat "Laughter" crewed by Beecher Moore.)

So there can be no doubt that the firefly started life as a two hander, and 2years before the Olympics. The original rig is reported to be a "Deck stepped light aluminium mast" with no mention of the wooden top mast in spite of some discussion about the pros and cons of its fixed goosneck and rotating arrangement. 3 rig alternatives are given including the racing bermudan rig of 90sq ft, and a Gunter rig of 75sq feet! Presumably the Reynolds mast was produced at a later stage and Hog stepped as a refinement with the development of things like the Kicking strap.

With so many "big names" in the industry building the Firefly I find it hard to believe that the original Sea swallow drawings were not tweaked. I would not put it past Uffa to have conveniently taken all the credit for the design in a book authored by himself.Perhaps the lines are his but the construction must surely have been the result of collaboration in the same way perhaps that the mast seems to have evolved after the original prototype.
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Re: Firefly thinking - again!

Post by davidh » Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:39 pm

Michael,

I'd love to sit here and write down all that I found out in my research but I cannot as to do so would be to lay myself open to all sorts of nasty claims: nor is this site the place to bang on a drum about events 60 years ago.

But...buy me a quiet drink and I might just be tempted to confirm some of your suspicions, deny others and correct a few along the way.

I guess that in the end the question is more a case of.....
"did the choice of the Firefly materially impact on the results of the Games?"

Again, this is very hard to say, whereas one can be pretty certain that the unseasonable weather played a huge part is determining the results. The weather, then Protests lost and won 'did' for some front runners, but it is hard to see how anyone else would have won the Gold under those particular circumstances.

There is though one caveat to this. Is is more than likely that had there been a different UK helm.......then yes, things could have been different. So it was, in the end, more about the people than the boats they sailed in, which is just as it should be

Will you be at Torquay? Can you ensure that only soft fruit is thrown? Are you there to bandage up the post presentation wounds?

Beers all round I think!

D
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