The Firefly is a two-sail, wooden or GRP sailing dinghy with no spinnaker, designed by Uffa Fox in 1938. The first four boats from the production line were named Fe, Fi, Fo and Fum. Number one, Fe, is now owned by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Although designed as a double hander, it was selected as the single handed class for the 1948 Olympics but was subsequently replaced by the Finn class. The class then became popular as a double hander, as was originally intended. It has become particularly successful as a team racing boat in the UK, thanks to its high maneuverability, easy handling, and low cost. Another benefit is the use of smaller mainsail which enables sailing in stronger winds. The class has become particularly popular for the British Universities Sailing Association team racing events, thus a large number of universities that team race have a fleet of Fireflys, taking advantage of the benefits above. The Firefly ideal was to produce a one-design dinghy at a low cost; this is why the class celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006 and continues to grow. The Firefly appeals to all ages and is raced by both men and women. A more detailed history will be found on the class association website.
Most modern hulls are made from GRP/fibreglass and hulls have to be ordered in advance for a batch of them to be made. E.g. universities getting together to procure entire fleets of boats. Being made of GRP with aluminium spars makes the dinghy very light and thus fast in the right hands, thus emphasizing more on crew skill. They are also designed to be very simple, thus all parts are uniform, e.g. shackles and pulleys, helping to cater for a wider range of clients. All boats are the same with the exception of sail colour (some universities have team colour-coded sails) and certain accessories such as sheet colour and edge protectors. However some owners have, contrary to class rules, modified certain aspects, such as the U-bolts. This is a particular design fault because the hull is constructed of a lower half created in a mould separate to the top deck. This is then glued/screwed together after manufacture and then the 2 u-bolts that anchor the shrouds are fixed in place by 2 nuts. However when being sailed by heavier crews and strong winds, the u-bolts have a tendency to pull through the bottom section and not the upper, consequently tearing a hole in the bow tank. Therefore many competitive boats have carbon blocks put in between the hull and 2 securing nuts thus spreading the forces over a larger area.