Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Firefly Revisited

Four years ago, we heard from Bayard Storey, from Los Angeles, CA, who was building an ultralight Firefly II from the drafting board of Ken Basset. Recently Bayard wrote to me with an update.

It's always good to hear from old friends...

Bayard is currently finishing another ultralight double rowing racer, which is an indication of how long it's been since his build of the Firefly II. He and his brother raced the Firefly II last summer in the Blackburn Challenge in Gloucester, Mass and took gold in the Touring Double division (20+ miles in 3 hours, 56 seconds).

It's interesting that, even though he describes the Firefly II as "a plywood tub, if an elegant one", it turns out that the lighter, purpose built racer wasn't up to heavier seas and the worthy Firefly II was the boat that won the day.

Here is his story (no pun intended), in Bayard's words:
"(the Firefly) came out to about 85lbs without row rigs, and 120 with. My brother and I raced it this summer in the Blackburn Challenge in Gloucester, Mass and took gold in the Touring Double division (20+ miles in 3:00 hours 56 seconds (a wrong turn kept us just over 3 hours). Great race, great group putting it on and participating, highly recommend anyone try it if they can."

"Getting the boat from L.A. to Gloucester was a real logistical challenge. I had to get it to a trailer about an hour away from me, and they brought it to Ohio (for club nationals). I flew to Oak Ridge, TN to meet my brother (co-rower, ultra-marathoner with some rowing experience), we bodged together a Home Depot bits and pieces rack (Gorilla Tape is amazingly useful -- we went through two rolls) for his SUV, then drove north to Ohio to pick up the boat. From there we barreled northeast to Mass. The trailer to Ohio was the missing link I only belatedly discovered - I've been meaning to get to that race for years."

"The white boat (pictured to the left) is a new design from a guy who has won the Blackburn in a single version of it in both the fixed seat single and sliding seat touring single divisions (he just built a sliding rig and boom, won)! We worked with a terrific guy in Austria (gotta love boat forums) to get the lines plans optimized for the double version and I had an amateur canoe builder used to strip building build the bare hull about 3 hours from me, all via internet. I added the decks, rigging, etc. later. It's got the usual red cedar strips up to the waterline and then very light paulownia from there to the sheer. Decks are 1.5mm aircraft ply backed by Depron foam in spots to stiffen it. Some carbon tubes, cedar and paulownia were used for the internal furniture. So ready to row it's about 85lbs. Despite the shape, it's the same length and max beam as the Firefly2 and is also meant to fit the design class for FISA coastal rowing 2X (although because there is a weight minimum there, some 35 pounds would have to be added -- however, lead along the keel would only further stabilize it). At this point, though, I don't plan to race FISA."
"That was the boat which we meant to take to the Blackburn as it's about 1-1.5mph faster over the long haul than the Firefly which is, relatively speaking, a plywood tub, if an elegant one. But when my brother came out (to LA) for a long weekend to practice ocean rowing, in white caps and a small craft warning, we discovered that the white boat is speedy in fairly calm water but rolls a lot in serious seas. That's due to too high seat/oarlocks, and the wing riggers being at gunwale height. So I need to rework the riggers to lower the oarlocks, and also lower the seats and feet (especially in bow) to get the center of gravity a few inches down.

"In the end the back-up boat, Firefly2, went weirdly fast (average 7mph even with breaks) so I have a newfound affection for it. And it's stable as hell and can handle any weather thrown at it."

That's an impressive claim to make for any craft. Kudos to Bayard and the Firefly II. Though this blog is not about racing, it is certainly about being able to weather any and all conditions, with style. 
Thank you, Bayard. (his photo essay can be found on Flickr)

 All photos courtesy of Bayard Storey.

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