Schools Championships was started in 1953 under the name of The Public Schools Firefly Invitation Championships. Its aim was to promote inter-schools sailing competition and the encouragement of young sailors. There was a very attractive winning school prize of a complete Fairey Firefly 12ft dinghy; probably a first of such a large scale prize in the UK. This was a pioneering idea of Colin Chichester-Smith and Charles Currey both of the dinghy manufacturing company Fairey Marine. They both sailed International 14 footers at that time from Itchenor and asked the Club to run the event which soon became a UK prestigious match.
Fairey Marine went on to present a complete Firefly until 1971…..some 19 years. To reduce their financial commitment in later years Ratsey & Lapthorne, the sole sail makers, presented the sails. The Firefly first prize was replaced in 1972 by today's engraved plate The Sir Richard Fairey Challenge Trophy
Leading facts and changes in the history have been:
The 12ft National Firefly was the single-handed boat in the 1948 Olympic Games in Torquay, Devon, UK.
In its second year, 1954, there were 40 entries, and since then an average of 35 has been maintained. During the 50 years some 90 plus different British Schools have participated.
In the early years the compulsory rule of both crews having to alternate per race in the helmsman position was dropped and is now no longer part of the event rules.
Itchenor Sailing Club members, especially in the early days before the schools purchased boats, loaned their own Fireflies. The members also throughout its history have accommodated all competitors and sailing masters in the Club and in their private homes.
The extension of the invitation to all schools and allowing more than one entry per school.
Dolphin Computers, the only event sponsor, assisted the event for a few years.
In 1985 the change of boat from Fireflies to International 420s to encourage the development and fun of schools using a spinnaker and trapeze boat.
Lenham Dinghies from Spain and Tani Bassadone presented a complete International 420 to the winning school boat in 1997.
The Astral Trophy was presented for the first all-girl crew.
Teams from USA schools also participated in late 90's and early 2000's. They were over in the UK participating in other International school/university events.
Lasers Radials, as a single handed boat, was included as a separate class in the 1997, 1998 and 1999 event. This did not catch on.
The format was changed in year 2000 to include 2 days of training prior to the event. This proved popular and produced a higher standard and closer racing throughout the fleet of very varying school abilities.
The format of the event is now to have one day of training followed by two days of fleet racing with Fireflies and International 420’s. The race format is adjusted year by year to best fit the aims of the schools each year, but typically comprises a number of back-to-back races to encourage good boat handling and fast learning for less experienced sailors whilst maintaining a high standard of competition at the top of the fleet.
In recent years the event has been sponsored by MTGY(details at http://www.mindthegapyear.com/?agent=MTgw)
In 2012 the regatta celebrated its 60th running, with 36 Fireflies and 19 International 420’s from 20 schools.
Previous winners have included double Gold Medallist and Silver medallist Rodney Pattisson, double Silver Medallist Ian Walker and International sailor Phil Crebbin