This year’s United Kingdom Firefighters Sailing Challenge (UKFSC) took place on 13–16 May with the largest entry of emergency services crews in its 16-year history.
As the name suggests, UKFSC is a firefighter sporting event, and a great number of serving and retired firefighters take part every year, but there are many other participants from other emergency services who compete alongside them. Crews from the Ambulance Services, Police, RNLI and others regularly join the action to help raise money for charity while having a great time sailing.
This year, the event again required all of Sunsail’s Match 40 yachts to be chartered, but for the first time in its history this wasn’t enough for the UKSFC appetite and eight Beneteau 37 yachts were chartered in from Fairview to bring the total fleet up to 32 yachts racing and additional boats for the race committee, support crew, photographers and sponsors.
Along with returning crews from past events, UKFSC was really pleased to welcome to the event the first international entry for several years, Biale Mewy from Poland. It was great to see the Polish crew really getting into the spirit of the event both on and off the water.
The event proper started on Tuesday with a fantastic day of racing on the Solent off Cowes, which continued with more races on Wednesday followed by a final passage race back from Cowes to Portsmouth on the Thursday. The top three places in the F40 Spinnaker class were:
1st • The Northern Keelers
North West Ambulance Service Skipper – Pete Walters
2nd • Met Police
Metropolitan Police Service Skipper – Andrew Moore
3rd • Hampshire Bulldog
Hampshire FRS Skipper – Adrian Murphey
The White Sails class was also won by a crew at the top of their game, Siren Sisters, the all-women crew, skippered by Sue Antonelli, won their class for the second year running. The top three places in the F40 White Sails class were:
1st • Siren Sisters
Women in the Fire Service
Skipper – Sue Antonelli
2nd • Team Cosmo the Third
Firefighters from various FRSs
Skipper – Gordon Alder
3rd • Teddington RNLI
London Lifeboat Crew
Skipper – Tim James
With the introduction to the event of the Fairview 37s, everyone was keen to see how they would perform and if the race committee could keep the two classes of yacht together during the racing and avoid it feeling like there were two separate events going on. The top three places in the Fairview 37 class were:
1st • Warwickshire Police
Warwickshire Police Service
Skipper – Henry Scutt
2nd • Biale Mewy (Poland)
Skipper – Przemek Florczyk
3rd • Absinthesis
FIA company representatives
Skipper – Peter Clarke
On shore activities included a buffet pontoon party with a selection of local drinks brought in by crews from across the country, eagerly consumed while the fire service band Snatch Rescue got everyone up singing and dancing. The spirit of the event was captured by the crew from Poland, who seemed to go everywhere dressed up as seagulls and had a great time, as did everyone else.
The Gala Dinner and prize-giving evening included guest speaker Jono Macbeth, the three-time America’s Cup winner and current INEOS TEAM UK crew member, who gave a cracking presentation about the next America’s Cup and the UK yacht development and crew preparations for it. We wish them all the best for continued success.
UKFSC supports a range of charities with the help of its sponsors, supporters, crews and friends and family and has so far donated in excess of £110,000 to charitable causes. This year donations were made to The Firefighters Charity, the RNLI, North West Ambulance Service Charity (nominated by winning crew The Northern Keelers, Winchester Neonatal Unit (nominated by guest speaker Jono Macbeth) and Prostate Cancer UK.
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 retired emergency services personnel. 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 is now one of the world’s most accomplished and successful offshore sailors.
For more information, go to www.ukfsc.org.uk