The members of East Down Yacht Club in Strangford Lough welcomed the GP14 fleet back for the 2016 Ulster Championships on the 25th and 26th June with their enthusiastic and warm hospitality. This was the fleet’s first return to EDYC since the Club hosted the successful World Championships in 2014. It was good to be back. Racing was brisk for the 22 strong teams on the first day with the Race Officer pleasing every one by getting the full programme of three races and solid Olympic courses. The black flag was pulled out on a few occasions to keep manners on those pushing the line. The wind picked up in strength as the day progressed with the last race sailed in a spirited 20 knots of breeze. Download results below.
Shane McCarthy and Damian Bracken put in a devastating performance with three convincing wins followed by the McGuinness brothers with three second places. The thirds were shared equally between Curly Morris and LauraMcFarland, Keith Louden and Alan Thompson and the Gallagher brothers.
The second days racing was a little less frantic with the winds having dropped to a more relaxed 9 knots. That said, the lovely clear waters of the Lough have lots of tricky little tidal secrets that took the day for some but not all to unlock. With three more races completed, McCarthy and Bracken held on to their first place lead to become Ulster Champions. Louden and Thompson took second when they won the last race with the McGuinness brothers dropping to third overall. Steven Nelson and Brenda Preston, who also won race 4 in some style, won the silver fleet. Michael Cox and Josh Porter were second in the silver fleet with Gareth and Richard Gallagher taking third. The two Derry lads put in an impressive performance all weekend ending up 7th overall. They were also crowned the Ulster GP14 Champion Youth winners. The Bronze champions were Youghal youth sailors Adrian Lee and Edward Coyne with Thomas and Paul Sexton from Sligo in second and Robson Ogg and James Ogg from Donaghadee taking third bronze.
Finally an impressive new trophy to mark the achievements of ace crew Andy Thompson from Larne was presented for the first time to winning crew, Damian Bracken. Andy has, over the years, notched up title after title in the GP14 and other classes and it is fitting that the GP class in Ireland recognise his unparalleled achievements. Well done Andy!
#strangfordlough – Strangford Lough is one of Ireland's most important sailing locations, yet it is surprising how few sailors from other areas have savoured its unique attractions. W M Nixon tries to explain why this is so, and delves into the racing enjoyed this week by two very different classes of boats on an alluring and secret water.
Strangford Lough is a very private and hidden sort of place, whether by sea or land. Prehistoric voyagers through the Irish Sea will only have guessed and wondered at the possible existence nearby of this huge salt water lake if they happened to be near the approaches to the narrow entrance during the six hours in twelve when the ebb flows, pouring out of the lough with such vigour that the turbulence can push two or three miles out to sea. And on land, even with today's road system much of Strangford Lough remains hidden from sight.
For sure, you can have fine clear views if you happen to be driving along the road on the lough's eastern shore between Newtownwards and Kircubbin, seeing clear across the water to the lough's islands and rolling coastal hills, and beyond towards the purple peaks of the Mountains of Mourne.
But those vistas only flatter to deceive. The most intricate interaction between sea and land is largely unseen. This is along the lough's western shore, where the drumlin country which defines much of County Down becomes a remarkable pattern of sea and islands. Very occasional glimpses of the sea – inevitably with some boats moored on it in a sheltered and private looking spot – is all that the curious sightseer on land will get for his trouble.
This continually surprising if occasionally frustrating inlet is 15 nautical miles long by six miles wide. The Narrows, which feed it twice daily with a huge surge of tide from the Irish Sea, are 8 miles in length, but less than half a mile wide at their most constricted section at Bankmore Point, where the streams can run at better than eight knots and the neighbourhood whirlpool, forming just when you're thinking it doesn't really exist, is called the Routen Wheel.
While the similarly swift tides which flow through the entrance of the Morbihan in southern Brittany can become something of a small boat playground in summer, Strangford Narrows has a more serious image as the overfalls on the ebb to seaward are a much more challenging proposition. Nevertheless it's fun to sail much of it on the fair tide, and in going into the lough with the tide under you, even in ancient craft you find you're beating at better than ten knots over the ground, the VMG is jet propelled, and soon you're swooshed into a miniature cruising paradise with a myriad of islands – 365 of course - and a wide range of overnight options.
The secret place – despite its substantial size, Strangford Lough remains a mystery to a surprisingly large number of sailors. Courtesy Irish Cruising Club
Strangford Lough's western shore provides tantalising glimpses of sea and islands, usually with boats moored in a snug spot. Photo: W M Nixon
But even when you arrive at the lough by this much-preferred option of being on a boat, there's still that slight sense of intruding on a private place. While Portaferry on the east side of the narrows may present a traditional welcoming façade, and Strangford village to the west is its own charming little self, of the other towns on the lough only Kircubbin halfway up the eastern shore has anything vaguely resembling a waterfront. The lough's biggest township, Killyleagh on the west shore, may have a modern recently-developed waterfront. But that's a private enterprise thing, the town's main street is at some remove from the shore, while other urban centres in the Strangford Lough area such as Downpatrick, Killinchy, Comber, Newtownards and Greyabbey may be near the sea, but they're not of it.
The lough's premier club is the Strangford Lough YC at Whiterock, where this "new" building has been serving members' needs for a dozen years now. Photo: W M Nixon
The view from within. Though the SLYC building may present a utilitarian appearance, its main room is successfully multi-purpose as lounge, dining room and bar, and the view from it is of a comfortable anchorage ready for sailing. Photo: W M Nixon
Yet the lough is home to hundreds of boats, serviced both by private facilities and something like eleven different boat, yacht and sailing clubs. But most of them are along that complex western shore where, in choice locations, the big landowners who had made their money in Belfast's boom days from 1850 to 1912 were so keen to preserve their privacy that they made sure there were no road signs on the few narrow public roads approaching their substantial houses near the shore.
Some years ago, there was an official attempt to liberalise this with a sprinkling of signs, but a visit this week showed that many of them had somehow disappeared, or become invisible under the verdant growth which is fundamental to this heart of the County Down. So more than a smidgin of local knowledge is needed if you wish to access the sailing in this maritime wonderland. But if you can do so, the sport is wonderful if racing around islands and in wayward yet manageable currents is your thing, while there's enough open space in mid-lough to provide a clear venue for major open events, even if it can involved a bit of a sea trek from the shore base at some hidden club.
A Flying Fifteen in action at Whiterock off Strangford Lough YC, which has produced F/F Champions to world level.
The active sailing scene in Strangford Lough has produced champions to world level over the years, most notably in the Flying Fifteen class where Strangford Lough sailing surnames such as Carson, Brown, Andrews and McCann have been inscribed on the top trophies down the decades. Thus there's a sense of history in the making with this year's Irish F/F Championship being staged in six days time from August 22nd to 24th by Portaferry Sailing Club at the southeast corner of the lough, where it will be interesting to see how far north they have to go in order to get clear of the fierce tides which flow close past the club's headquarters near Portaferry Marina beside The Narrows.
Meanwhile, this week we'd the chance on Strangford Lough to suss out the racing in two classes which may seem very different, yet each emerged from a clearcut initial requirement which now seems very remote.
The River Class boats at the lough's premier club, Strangford Lough YC at Whiterock on the west shore near Killinchy, really are the area's best kept secret. This is quite an achievement in an ultra-private place like Strangford Lough. Everyone involved with the Rivers knows so much about them that they assume the rest of the world does too. But surprisingly few outsiders know that in the inner reaches of Strangford Lough, they race a class of handsome Alfred Mylne-designed 29ft one design sloops which yield to no-one for classic good looks.
The Mylne-designed 29ft River Class combine classic good looks with real sailing power. Photo: W M Nixon
As usual, River Class champion Kenny Smyth has to look astern to see how the opposition is doing. Photo: W M Nixon
Their origins date back to 1919, when some northern sailing people started exchanging ideas about the need for an easily-handled simple sloop "which could be sailed by a man and his daughters". At first glance, this seems like a welcome and liberal requirement, fuelled by the emergence of the suffragette movement seeking votes and rights for women. But in fact, it's the bleakest design spec you ever read. The Great War of 1914-18 had resulted in the deaths of so many young men from the north of Ireland, with scores of them boat enthusiasts who had been active sailors before its outbreak, that the only way the sport could resume in any meaningful way was by moving on from the labour-intensive gaff rigs, jackyard topsails and multiple headsails of the pre war days, on into a simple rig which faced the harsh new reality.
The essence of Strangford Lough – a River Class sloop sailing well, and the timeless view beyond across County Down to the Mountains of Mourne. Photo: W M Nixon
If dodging tides by going close inshore is your thing while using every little twist to the wind, then racing Rivers on Strangford Lough is just for you. Photo: W M Nixon
In harmony with her surroundings, a River Class sloop makes her elegant way afloat. Photo: W M Nixon
When there's a bit of bite to the breeze, it's impressive how much power the conservatively-canvassed River Class sloops can develop. Photo: W M Nixon
But though the rig may have spoken volumes – it's believed to be the first Bermudan-rigged one design – there was no way that the great Alfred Mylne, the man who reputedly drew the lines of Britannia in 1892-93 as a trainee naval architect in G L Watson's Glasgow office, was going to design anything other than a good-looking boat. Admittedy, with her cockpit well aft, there can be times when a River seems to sit on her stern if her crew are more interested in comfort than boat trim. But when she's sailing on her designed lines, she's a joy to behold, and with her heavy but harmonious hull, she can carry her way in impressive style, making tacking a nicely judged and elegant manoeuvre if it's done right.
In all, a dozen Rivers have been built, most of them before 1923, while the class started racing in 1921. At first, they shifted their racing venues between Belfast Lough and Strangford Lough, as the owners were mostly members of Royal Ulster YC at Bangor. But from time to time they liked to moor their boats off their shoreside big houses on Strangford Lough, usually with their estate gardeners being roped in for additional duties as boat delivery crews sailing between the two loughs along the often rough North Channel coast of the Ards Peninsula. The very thought of it might easily turn anyone into a firebrand revolutionary.
The River was designed by Alfred Mylne in 1920, and shows some family resemblance to the Mylne-designed Dublin Bay 21s (1902) and Dublin Bay 24s (1937), while still being very much an individual in her own right. Photo: W M Nixon
Thanks to an adequately-sized rudder of only moderate rake, it is possible to race the Rivers at close quarters with confidence. Photo: W M Nixon
As the Rivers don't set genoas, the correct trim of the little jib is absolutely key to racing success. The class has strict rules about replacing sails only as a group in order to maintain one design performance. Photo: W M Nixon
Be that as it may, gradually the focus moved completely to Strangford Lough, and for a while the class had such a preponderance of aristocratic owners that you could be forgiven for thinking it was P G Wodehouse's take on yachting. Typical were Lord and Lady Londonderry (they pronounced its London-dree), with their seat at Mount Stewart on the lough's eastern shore.
They argued so much aboard their River that they had to get another one so that Lady Edith could race against her husband. In the late 1930s, when she began to favour a policy of Appeasement with the resurgent Germany and flirted with Hitler's Nazis, she invited the Nazi big cheese von Ribbentrop to stay at Mount Stewart and sail with her in a race off the house aboard her River, which was duly T-boned during the event by her husband in his boat.
That was about the height of international excitement and celebrity for the Rivers. By the end of the 1930s, the class had become based at Whiterock with the new Strangford Lough Yacht Club, and the only time they subsequently emerged blinking into the outside world was in 1951 when they sailed as a group to race in the Festival of Britain Regatta Week on Belfast Lough, where the supreme champion by a mile in the River racing was the young Barry Bramwell sailing his family's boat Roe. His subsequent stellar sailing career included winning many dinghy championships, and he skippered a boat for Ireland in the Admiral's Cup.
Although the River Class have not sailed outside Strangford Lough since 1951, their close competition at home has produced some notable performers in other boat types. Photo: W M Nixon
Rivers on the run, and looking very handsome with it. The class has decided that having a kicking strap would not be in the spirit of the design, so having a crewman seated on the boom on a dead run is standard practice. Photo: W M Nixon
With the crew up forward under the deck, and only the helmsman aft in the cockpit, Brian Law's Uladh (10) is perfectly trimmed for best performance to windward. Photo: W M Nixon
The Rivers meanwhile returned home after the Festival Regatta Week, and since 1951 the nearest they've ever got to the open sea is the annual visit to the time-honoured Narrows Regatta between Portaferry and Strangford for a few days in July. Otherwise, they might sometimes be seen at local regattas at the Quoile, Killyleagh and Kircubbin. But for the most part, they stay in stately seclusion at Whiterock and enjoy a compact annual racing programme. This may seem to be only relatively few races to those from other hyper-keen local one design classes. But after 93 years, the Rivers have become such an integral part of the fabric of sailing at Whiterock, and such a central part of community and family life for those involved, that you don't need a huge number of races for each season to be a success, what's needed is the savouring of the moments afloat on a summer's evening, and then an analysis of each race in loving detail in the friendly clubhouse afterwards.
With the GP 14 Worlds coming up on Strangford Lough this past week, there was an ideal opportunity to contrast two forms of sailing there. I'd already tried to get some River Class photos on an evening earlier in the season by signing up to sail as fifth hand aboard Brian Law's Uladh (the von Ribbentrop boat). But when we all assembled, it emerged - in typically Strangford Lough style - that the helmsman was delayed by the need to get his wife and daughter's vintage horsebox through its MOT test, so I was stuck on the Tiller That Von Ribbentrop Held.
Despite that, the boat was a joy to sail in a light summery shirt sleeves breeze, but it resulted in damn all worthwhile photos on the disk. So this week, Brian and another River owner Kenny Smyth, Vice Commodore SLYC, arranged for Chris Boston, whose hobby is being a sort of Honorary Boatman at Whiterock, to take me out to buzz around the racing fleet on an August evening with a decent though fading northwest breeze, and Chris did a super job.
My camera is just a clever little Lumix, which is a Leica lens with a sort of digital Box Brownie stuck on the back. So please excuse the fuzzy telephoto shots, but the photos speak for themselves – the Rivers are good looking classic boats which provide great sport. These days, the Smyth brothers Kenny and Graham are setting the pace, which suggests sailing enthusiasm of a high order. Their day job is running the characterful little boatyard immediately south of Whiterock, an establishment created by their legendary father Billy who introduced his family to cruising through extensive ventures in the former Manx fishing boat Aigh Vie (see this blog on 29th March 2014). Whatever way Billy Smyth did it, he imbued his sons with such enthusiasm that they can spend their working day being busy fixing somebody else's boat, then go out and sail their own boats with equal dedication in the weekly evening race. And they're more than generous with helpful tips to their opponents on tactics and tuning.
When they talk of "twilight racing" in the River Class, they really mean it......Photo: W M Nixon
Having spent an entertaing and very complete evening with the classics that were designed so that they could be sailed by a man and his daughters, next morning found me contemplating a hundred dinghies to a 14ft design which was originally envisaged as a useful and versatile little boat to provide "affordable fun afloat for Pa, Ma and the kids".
Like the River, the GP 14 emerged in a post war situation, but in 1949 the mood after World War II (1939-45) was much more egalitarian than it had been in 1919. The General Purpose 14 was the brainchild of Teddy Haylock, the Editor of Yachting World magazine in London, and it was one of the first in a series which became the YW Build Her Yourself boats, mostly designed by Jack Holt with DIY plywood kits supplied by Bell Woodworking Co.
Haylock still carried his wartime title of Group Captain E F Haylock after a "good war" with the RAF, but he had a very clearcut view of how things should go in peacetime. If his projects sometimes seemed to be delivered in a slightly patronising tone, there's no doubt his heart was in the right place, even if some of his posher advertisers weren't at all pleased by his glossy magazine devoting so much energy to people who hoped to self-assemble their own boats rather than buy a complete and expensive one from an established yacht builder.
To say that the GP 14 succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams is under-stating the case. Though the 14,000-plus boats built worldwide have been used for general purposes, they're primarily racing boats these days, and it was this which brought a hundred of them to the well hidden East Down YC in behind Island Taggart on Strangford Lough's west shore just north of Killyleagh.
Back in 1970, most folk thought that just about every possible sailing club site on the shores of Strangford Lough had been earmarked and developed. But the founders of EDYC discovered this place, which was accessible by land only along a narrow unpaved track going so close to the edge of a farmyard that it almost goes through it. In those days before 4X4s were ubiquitous, you really did need a Landrover to get to the new waterfront location with any certainty. But over the years the club has expanded its clubhouse and its facilities ashore with an extensive dinghy park, while the keelboat fleet linked to the club includes former Commodore Jay Colville's First 40 which took part in this year's ICRA Nats in Dun Laoghaire.
East Down YC, venue for the GP 14 Worlds 2014. Photo: W M Nixon
Somehow or other, the founders of EDYC in 1970 managed to shoehorn their substantial clubhouse with its large dinghy park into a previously unused waterfront setting accessed via this narrow lane. Photo: W M Nixon
All that GP 14 sailors require is somewhere to pitch their tent........Photo: W M Nixon
...or park their 'van. Photo: W M Nixon
Graham Wright of EDYC gallantly took on the challenge of chairing the Organising Committee for the GP 14 Worlds 2014 with just two years to go to the off. Photo: W M Nixon
The kind of headlines that any organisers dread. Yet EDYC were quite rightly so confident about their proper handling of the weather problems that they subsequently displayed this newspaper spread in the main marque. Photo: W M Nixon
Taking on a Worlds is a formidable challenge for any club, and when it's the Worlds of a dinghy class which is as important in Ireland as the GP 14, the pressure is greater still. It was as recently as 2012 that East Down was approached by the Irish GP 14 Association as they realised other avenues were being closed off in their search for a willing club for their allocated staging of the Worlds in 2014, and the club deserves an award for courage in taking it on, setting up an Organising Committee under Graham Wright and getting the show on the road.
I'd a telling instance of just why the GP 14 is so relevant recently while heading through Youghal, where three dinghy masts were visible above a harbourside wall. On the other side of the wall was one of those little mud-filled docks which are such a feature of Youghal's waterfront, and sitting serenely on the mud were three GP 14s.
What else could they have been? As I was to discover at EDYC, the GP 14 is central to building up the sailing club at Youghal, and at many other clubs all round the country too. While some members may try more glamorous boats from time to time, the GP 14 ticks most boxes in terms of versatility while setting a spinnaker, having an effective class structure, and providing racing at all levels.
My own links to the class go back to the 1960s when the sailing club at Queens University in Belfast suddenly found itself supplied with funds for a new boat or two provided the boats were built within a specified time. Although club captain, I was already a dedicated keelboat man except for the annual foray into Fireflies racing against other colleges in Dun Laoghaire and England & Wales. In other words, I knew nothing. However, our Honorary Secretary Mike Balmforth was a very switched on guy who had built his own Enterprise with his father. But as QUB already had a couple of old GP 14s, he soon decided that we could get the boats built on time – and they'd be GP 14s as required - by a relative newcomer to boatbuilding called Gerry Duffin, a former housebuilder and carpenter who had his workshop in East Belfast and was starting to fulfil his dream of building boats.
The sign of success – the home firm builds the best GP 14s in the world. Photo: W M Nixon
The "Duffin dip" in the transom of the newest boat for the Lough Foyle fleet. Photo: W M Nixon
"If you want to be sure it's done properly, then you have to do it yourself" Top contender Ian Dobson putting in some work on the hull finish. Photo: W M Nixon
One rainy day we went across town in Mike's rickety Austin 7 (its wooden frame was supported by Spanish windlasses utilising electric cable instead of rope), and there in the shed was the first of the new boats. It was a very old shed, and there were several leaks which prompted Gerry to quip that he really should get the builders in. But to our young eyes, there was nothing to see but this lovely new GP 14, an early product of a line which continues to the present day, for at East Down YC this week all the main contenders, and indeed the majority of the fleet, were Duffin built, with Duffin Marine for many years now being run by Gerry's son Alistair.
Like the Smyth brothers up at Whiterock, his enthusiasm is almost certifiable, as he not only builds the best GP 14s for everyone else, but he also races keenly with the class. And though the rules are strict, he is always trying to find ways of innovating his products, which are more like collector's furniture than boats.
In recent years, he has tried to persuade the class to let him take out most of the transom in modern style, but when an open transom was declared verboten, instead he introduced the "Duffin dip" in the afterdeck. When asked why, his answer was that he just keeps trying to reduce weight. Whatever, people certainly love his boats. I was at East Down briefly in late afternoon on the layday on Wednesday, and though there were few folk around, down at the end of the dinghy park was top contender Ian Southworth beavering away at his beloved Duffin boat.
The mood was distinctly relaxed with the club and the class well recovered from he unexpected wall-to-wall attention they'd received on the Monday. A couple of nasty squalls – yet another by-product of the slow progress of former Hurricane Bertha across northwest Europe – had resulted in between ten and twenty boats having some difficulty in coping with being capsized. But the Championship safety team were handling it competently when it was declared an Emergency Situation by some Powers That Be. Almost immediately those narrow roads and single track approaches to the club were jammed with ambulances and a fire brigade as helicopters gyrated overhead.
While some newspapers sought only to have shock headlines, it has to be said that when the scale of the over-response became evident, it was heartening to see how the better strands of the media responded to it all with an intelligent and friendly interest in what was going on. They were fascinated by how an event which was classed as a World Championship was being staged, and staged so effectively too, at the end of a tree-lined single-track lane in remotely rural County Down. In the end, the clear egalitarian nature of GP 14 racing and the calmness of the people involved reflected very well on the image of our sport. And as for the multiple rescue and emergency services, they had all the benefits of a "for real" exercise which might prove to be very useful in the unlikely event of a passenger jetliner ever coming down among the islands of Strangford Lough.
The atmosphere may have been serene in the late afternoon of the layday, but next morning with three races scheduled in a brisk nor'wester, the club compound was hectic enough for anyone. And the layday did the trick – as one of the International Jury remarked, it is very unusual at any Worlds to see the entire fleet put to sea two thirds of the way into the event, but they poured down the slip and away out round the island, and at the end of it there wasn't a boat left ashore.
But by that time I'd had every opportunity to observe the spirit of the GP 14s, and it is formidable. Ireland has a great record in the class, with Bill Whisker of Ballyholme becoming a World Champion, while others like Paul Rowan of East Antrim and Pat Murphy of Clontarf were in the international frame for years.
Yet these days the class is as keen as ever in encouraging new blood and establishing a firm foothold at new clubs. That glimpse of a nascent GP 14 class at Youghal well illustrated the point, and it was Norman Lee who told the story. I'd spotted the famous vintage camper van which is the campaign base for GP 14 legend Norman Lee of Greystones, who is crewed by his brother Ken and supported by Norman's wife Una and their two collie dogs - dogs on campaign are very much a GP 14 thing.
The Lee team from Greystones with their vintage campervan are Ken (left), Norman (right) and Una. Photo: W M Nixon
If you're going to have a GP 14.........Photo: W M Nixon
....then you have to have a pooch. Photo: W M Nixon
...and while most breeds are allowed, a collie variant is preferred. Photo: W M Nixon
The Lee equipage was in fine form, having taken a useful second in one of Tuesday's races, but as soon as I mentioned the presence of the Geeps at Youghal, all that was forgotten as Norman enthused about the growing club there, and what he and the class are doing to get Youghal's GP fan Adrian Lee (no relation) and his group further down the road.
Getting a hunded boats away is a formidable challenge..... Photo: W M Nixon
....and the last thing you need is somebody deciding last minute adjustments are essential.......Photo: W M Nixon
....when they're still joining the queue at the top of slip. Photo: W M Nixon
"Don't these guys holding us up realise that they're delaying a whole line of renowned international athletes.....?" Photo: W M Nixon
Suddenly, they're gone – every last one of them. This is one very keen class. Photo: W M Nixon
Or more accurately, further up the river. Norman and other GP 14 sailors are fascinated by the possibilities of the mighty Blackwater River which reaches the sea at Youghal. Already, they have had a trial distance sail from the estuary right up to Cappoquin, and this has fired them up so much that they're going to make it a major event when they repeat it in the last weekend of August in order to give Youghal SC a proper re-launch. Their enthusiasm has so fired up others that top GP 14 racers like Ger Owens from Dun Laoghaire have said they'll go, as have crews from the growing fleets on Lough Foyle, which is wellnigh as far as it's possible to be from Youghal without leaving Ireland.
It may all seem a bit far-fetched. But believe me, when you're in a large dinghy park at the end of a small farm track in the depths of County Down, and when the event photographer has just gone aloft in a small aircraft because that's the best way to get snaps of a major dinghy event out in the middle of Strangford Lough, then long distance dinghy sailing events from Youghal to Cappoquin seem eminently feasible.
#gp14 – Normal service resumed after Monday's 'Major Rescue' for the second day of the GP14 World Championships at East Down Yacht Club on Strangford Lough yesterday with English crews occupying the top three places in the 14–foot dinghy class event. Nantwich pairing Sam Watson and Andy Hunter have established a three point overall lead from Royal Southern's Robert Gullan Jack Holden. Third overall after yesterday's lighter winds were Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe from Burwain SC on 18 points.
Top Irish in the 90–boat event is Greystones and Clontarf combination Shane MacCarthy and Damien Bracken on 20 points. Current Irish GP14 champions Gerald Owens and Melanie Morris of the Royal St George are four points further adrift in sixth. Racing continues today.
GP14 World Championships. Top ten results after three races below
1 8 14132 EG Sam Watson Andy Hunter Nantwich/South Staffs SC 5 2 1
2 11 55 G Robert Gullan Jack Holden Royal Southern Yacht Club 4 4 3
3 18 14023 G Ian Dobson Andy Tunnicliffe Burwain SC 1 1 16
4 18 14118 G Richard Instone Jim Toothill Blithfield SC 3 7 8
5 20 14158 GO Shane MacCarthy Damien Bracken Greystones SC/Clontarf YC 6 5 9
6 24 14076 GO Gerald Owens Melanie Morris Royal St George YC 8 10 6
7 35 14110 G Ross Kearney Jane Alexander RNIYC/South Staffs SC 2 21 12
8 36 14145 G Adam Parry Phil Hodgkins Derwent Reservoir SC 10 11 15
9 39 13801 CG Dan O'Connell Callum Mahar ? Swords SC 13 13 13
10 42 14155 AGT Graham J Flynn Adam Foggatt Chase SC
#gp14 – Following the 'major rescue' incident during the GP14 Worlds at East Down Yacht Club on Monday afternoon, championship organisers issued the following statement to 'reassure' members:
'Today was the first day of the event with race 1 starting at 12.00 in wind speeds of 17 knots. 88 boats were "Tallied Out" (This is a safety system that ensures the event organisers know which boats are on the water and who is in each boat). Towards the finish of the first race the Race Officer decided that due to worsening weather conditions the second race of the day would be cancelled. The signal for race cancellation was displayed and the safety boat crews were informed that racing for the day was finished. The fleet started to head ashore when a strong squall of 31 Knots passed over the race area. The effect of this was that some of the GP14 Boats capsized, this is not an unusual situation and crews are trained on how to "Right" their boat. Unfortunately a further stronger squall registering 37 Knots followed the first, capsizing a further number of the fleet.
Apparent media reports of 80 boats being capsized would be incorrect as there would have been no more than 10-12 Boats capsized at any one time. The capsizes where being successfully handled by the competitors and the team of 13 safety boats that had been accompanying the racing fleet. The Race officer then made the correct decision, as a precaution, to contact the Coast Guard should the weather conditions worsen and in fact the weather conditions improved after 15 minutes.
As regards injuries apart from 2 competitors with suspected broken limbs no one in the event was seriously injured other than minor scratches, cut and bruises, consistent with the sport at this level'.
#strangfordlough – There is good news from Strangford Lough after a major incident during the GP14 Dinghy World Sailing Championships this afternoon. More than 200 people have returned to shore after 87 sailing dinghies were hit by stormy weather and gusts of up to 60mph. Apart from a few minor injuries – all crews from the 105 competing boats are safe and well after a squall capsized many of the world championship fleet in the first race of the week long event.
RNLI sources report that up to 20 sailors had been in the water with another 67 clinging to their boats.
The fast response of the emergency services is being widely praised. It is a normal part of dinghy racing in strong winds for capsizes to occur and all racing crews are familiar with righting techniques and in most cases largely capable of self–help.
BBC report at least ten people have been injured during the incident.
A major rescue effort was under way after about 80 sailing dinghies were hit by a sudden squall.
It is understood some boats capsized and up to 100 people, including children, may be involved. The Belfast coastguard said they believe all those in the water have been accounted for.
However, rescue units at the scene, including the helicopters and lifeboats, are carrying out further searches.
The injured are being treated by ambulances at the scene.
The Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard rescue teams, the Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter along with the helicopter from RAF Valley have been sent to the scene.
Belfast Coastguard was first contacted just before 2pm reporting that some of the boats had capsized, while others were struggling to cope in the strong winds and squally showers.
The Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Teams, the Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter along with the helicopter from RAF Valley were sent to the scene, along with PSNI and ambulance crews.
10 people were injured, with some of them showing signs of hypothermia.
Liam Colquhoun, Watch Manager at Belfast Coastguard, said at 1600 hours:
"We have now been told by our rescue units on scene that everyone has safely returned to shore and that no one is missing.
"We believe 20 people ended up in the water after their boats capsized this afternoon, 10 of them requiring medical attention.
"The weather conditions on scene have been pretty treacherous, with winds gusting up to 60mph. We're very thankful that everyone has now safely returned."
This biennial event will see one of the biggest fleets of single class twin crew dinghies assemble in Northern Ireland this year. With an international following the event has attracted around 200 competitors (Helm and Crew) some from as far away as Australia. Hosted by East Down Yacht Club (EDYC) the event will take place on Strangford Lough with races being held daily over the week-long event. The main sponsor of the event is Down District Council with Exe Sails the title sponsor and to mark their involvement Exe Sails are offering a promotional discount on their GP14 Sails especially for the event.
With previous World Championships being held in locations such as Sri Lanka (2011) and future Championships planned for Barbados (2016) this it is a brilliant opportunity for Northern Ireland to showcase Strangford Lough and the surrounding area. Designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty and an area of special scientific interest, Strangford Lough is one of Northern Ireland lesser known "Hidden Gems" Strangford Lough while almost totally landlocked is completely tidal, providing a sanctuary for seals, porpoises, terns, horse mussels, and many other species of wildlife. With moderate currents and sheltered from ocean swell, the mid-lough provides some of the best waters for dinghy racing anywhere in the world.
The Exe Sails GP14 world Championship event will consist of two races held each day, and with approximately 100 boats jostling for starting position this should make for some fantastic and exciting racing. This will be an amazing spectacle especially when the fleet has hoisted their multi-coloured spinnakers on "a run" between marks. Prizes will be awarded daily and on the final Friday the Grand Prizes will be awarded prior to the Gala Dinner event held at EDYC.
Much preparation has been ongoing behind the scenes with volunteer teams dedicated to logistics, accommodation and catering for both competitors and organisers. A dedicated fleet of around 10 safety boats (RIBs) will also be on the water each day, all of which should provide for a smooth successful safe and enjoyable event.
The good news is it's not too late to enter as the closing deadline has been extended to the 1st August 2014 Application forms are available from the GP14World Face Book or East Down Yacht Club web site. Each Crew will be given a registration pack on arrival and having seen a sneak preview there are some nice goodies in there.
Lying in the shelter of Taggart island, a couple of miles north of Killyleagh at the south end of the lough, East Down Yacht Club provides will provide superb facilities for the expected 100 plus GP14s, with hard standing for 150 dinghies, a wide gentle slip, bar and dining facilities, along with grounds for camping this will be one great event. Contact East Down Yacht Club directly for accommodation availability at the club or at nearby facilities.
The GP14 Dingy was designed by Jack Holt in 1949. The idea behind the design was to build a General Purpose (GP) 14-foot dinghy which could be cruised, raced or rowed, capable of being powered effectively by a small outboard motor and able to be towed behind a small family car and able to be launched and recovered reasonably easily. Such was the effectiveness of the design the GP14 Class has continued to this day with active fleets in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and parts of north-eastern USA.
For more information and promotional offers, along with daily race results, photographs and video of each day's events you can follow the 2014 GP14 World Championships on twitter @GP14World or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/gp14world
#gp14 – A great weekend event was hosted by East Down Yacht Club (EDYC) ahead of the upcoming GP14 World Championships on Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland writes Shane McCarthy. Olympic sailor Matt McGovern was on hand to share his knowledge and experience. A total of fourteen GP14's took advantage of the prospect of some early gate start practice but were initially uncertain if they would actually get on the water due to poor weather i.e. no wind and that mizzle rain "The sort that really soaks you". The correct call was made at 3pm to "go for it" with wind speed increasing for most of the afternoon. The fleet of 14 sailed out from the club and after a slow multi tack course out of the Dorn reached the practice area some 30 minutes later!
The first gate start was a gentle affair with everyone picking their spot and crossing behind the gate launch without issue. However as the confidence of the fleet grew along with the wind speed and clearing cloud providing welcome sunshine, more aggressive starts took place with individual crews picking their favoured spot. About 10 starts were made giving great practical experience to all involved including the gate launch and the guard boat teams who on this occasion did not have to "plough" through any wayward GP14s, much to the dismay of the guard boat crew! After a wing mark was laid and a few more starts were completed the fleet returned to EDYC for debriefing, with Matt McGovern again giving some expert advice and tips whilst reviewing video footage of the day's events.
The evening finished with a superb BBQ that consisted of a more than healthy portion of burgers, sausages and chicken accompanied by lashings of salad, garlic potatoes and various delicious side dishes all supplied by the hard working catering members of EDYC.
Day two (Sunday): This was a complete contrast to the previous day with wind blowing at a steady 22 knots and gusting well beyond. Some of the previous days crews made the decision not to set sail however a respectable 10 boats made up the fleet and prepared to battle what could only be described as a very disturbed sea within the lough.
Leaving the relative calm of the sheltered north side of the Dorn (even this managed to capsize one boat and its crew on the way out) where the fleet had mustered, the fleet where escorted under the watchful eye of the EDYC safety boats and crew to the designated competition area.
Out on the open Lough the fleet met the full force of the day's weather conditions and a further series of gate start races began. This was in total contrast to the gentlemanly starts of the previous day with the conditions forcing the fleet to hold a line much further back from the gate & guard boats compared to Saturday's starts. The testing conditions claimed several crews, with capsizes not uncommon. However no crews unfortunate enough to experience the clean water of Strangford Lough required actual physical assistance from the safety boats on hand despite the testing conditions - a tribute to the skill and experience of those making up the fleet.
Listening to the crews on return to shore whilst enjoying further hospitality from EDYC in the form of soup, rolls and more burgers (thanks again to the catering members of EDYC) it was obvious that those who made up the fleet on both Saturday & Sunday experienced what Strangford Lough had to offer, both on a calm day and also at the limits of sailing conditions for the class. Sunday proved to be another great days sailing and much appreciated experience was gained by both competitors and EDYC gate start teams. It would be an accurate conclusion to state that of all of those who attended this event no-one left disappointed.
It's only right and fitting that a big thank you goes to all who either participated or assisted in a very successful and enjoyable weekends sailing.
Special thanks to those who helped organise the event including both on- the-water and shore side staff along with EDYC for hosting.
East Down Yacht Club (EDYC) has extensive facilities for both cruising and racing. It is located on the western shores of Strangford Lough, Co Down, Northern Ireland. The Club is situated on a 9-acre site, which includes a modern clubhouse, car parking, a boat-park, caravan and camping park, pontoons and slipways. Support services and amenities are available in the near by town of Killyleagh, only one mile from the Club. The barbecue and picnic areas provide additional space for relaxed hospitality (weather permitting). The upstairs function room and well stocked bar encourages a relaxed comfortable atmosphere. For the chocoholics, a tuck shop is available.
East Down Yacht Club is mainly a self help club. Members are expected to assist with the running of the Club. To this end, rotas for race duties are published by the Sailing Captain and for bar duties by the House Captain. From time to time, work parties are arranged and members are requested to report to the Site captain for about two hours of work.
Please write to: The Secretary, East Down Yacht Club, Moymore, Killyleagh, Downpatrick, Co Down BT30 9QZ, N. Ireland
(Details courtesy of East Down Yacht Club)Have we got your club details? Click here to get involved