The 14th United Kingdom Firefighters Sailing Challenge (UKFSC) took place from the 8th to the 11th of May 2017 and provided another action-packed, fun-filled regatta along with a number of record-breaking moments for this annual yacht racing event between emergency service crews from across the UK.
Once again the venue was the challenging waters of The Solent on the UK’s south coast off the Isle of Wight. All 30 of Sunsail’s identical 40’ racing yacht fleet were chartered this year to provide boats for a Record 29 crews and a committee boat for the race officers to organise the races. Crew numbers on each boat were between 8 and 10 and in total a Record of around 260 people took part in the event with support crew, sponsors and organisers included.
This year saw a Record two all-women boats competing, with the newcomers, Hampshire FRS’s Magenta placing first fire service boat, second in the event overall and first Hampshire boat in the passage back race at the end of the event.
Magenta’s all-women crew included firefighters and non-uniform staff from Hampshire FRS and a trio of elite sailors, Libby Greenhalgh, Helena Lucas and Mary Rook, whose skills and experience brought a competitive edge to the crew and clearly demonstrated that gender is not a barrier to success on the water. The Magenta Project is striving to increase inclusion and diversity in performance sailing and to support other women to create change in their industry and UKFSC hopes to see them back next year to defend the trophy.
Siren Sisters returned this year and was crewed by women firefighters from many different fire and rescue services brought together through the Women in the Fire Service network (WFS) and skippered by the very able Lou Barden from Nomad Sailing.
Another record-breaker, round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari was the guest speaker at the gala evening and she gave a fantastic talk about her adventures on the high seas. Dee has sailed around the world five times, is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world a total of three times. She had everyone captivated with tales of her extraordinary life at sea.
This year, over 15% of the firefighters sailing in the event were women, a Record UKFSC is very proud of.
There were other top sailors in the event this year as in previous years, there is now a Record 5 Clipper round the world sailors who have participated in UKFSC. The links between Clipper Ventures and UKFSC are strong, with at least 5 sailors either progressing from UKFSC to sailing round the world with Clipper, or having sailed round the world, getting the bug and competing in UKFSC as part of an emergency services crew.
Racing was very competitive this year as the standard keeps going up. Met Police 2 were clear leaders in many of the races, and they won the event overall. But there were many other boats swapping places close behind. Magenta were close behind Met Police 2 and won first fire brigade boat. Team Cosmo did extremely well, skippered by Gordon Alder, the crew brought together sailors from 5 different fire and rescue services to win the White Sails class and place 11th overall. Silver Sponsor, W H Bence won the first race and came a very credible 4th overall.
The last race of the event is the Passage Back race from Cowes to Portsmouth. This is a handicap race that starts boats at different times according to their results over the previous two days, with the slowest boats starting first and the fastest boats starting last. There was very close racing over the 4 or 5 hours of the race with the later starting boats climbing up through the fleet to produce final results of Hampshire 4 winning the Spinnaker Class and M J Quinn, the event Platinum sponsor winning the Non-Spinnaker Class.
Fire Sport UK attended the final prize-giving event this year to honour Mick Stead with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his creation of the event some 14 years ago and on his announcement of his retirement from sailing. UKFSC thanks Mick for all his hard work an enthusiasm and wishes him well in his retirement.
UKFSC supports a number of charities with the help of its sponsors, supporters, crews and friends and family. The event has raised more than £85,000 for charitable causes over the 14 years the event has been running. This year saw donations going to The Firefighters Charity, The RNLI, Sail 4 Cancer and The Magenta Project.
UKFSC is supported by a growing list of sponsors, including MJ Quinn, Barrus, W H Bence, FIUK, Boddingtons Electrical, Big Choice Group and Skilltrack Marine. A whole host of other companies offer support to the event and help raise money for UKFSC’s charitable causes.
Information about our sponsors and how to become a sponsor can be found on the UKFSC website. After many years supporting the event, M J Quinn is stepping down as an event sponsor, and UKFSC would like to thank them very much for their incredible support to the event and its charities over the years. There is currently an opportunity for a new Platinum sponsor available for the 2018 event and beyond.
A great deal of effort is required to run this event annually and the organising committee is made up of a group of serving and ex-firefighters from London Fire Brigade. All keen sailors, they work tirelessly behind the scenes to make this special event enjoyable for everyone. The UKFSC patron is Mike Golding OBE, a round the world yachtsman who was a firefighter in his previous career and now one of the world’s most accomplished and successful offshore sailors.
If you would like to find out more about UKFSC, or you would like to help organising, or sponsoring, or you want to have a go at sailing next year please make contact through any of the links below, a committee member will answer your query or put you in touch with someone who can.
For more information, go to www.ukfsc.org.uk