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Paul Rowan, Renowned GP14 Dinghy Champion

25th January 2021
Paul Rowan (EABC) and Ricky McArthur (Coleraine YC) at the GP14 Worlds in Howth in 1988 Paul Rowan (EABC) and Ricky McArthur (Coleraine YC) at the GP14 Worlds in Howth in 1988

Paul Rowan was a renowned member of the GP14 class, a staunch supporter of East Antrim Boat Club at Larne and a talented helmsman sadly passed away on Saturday (23rd Jan).

Paul was a highly successful sailor despite carrying a weakness in his shoulder muscles on one side, a legacy of childhood polio. Paul had a number of coping mechanisms to overcome this - such as using his whole body to heave in the mainsheet.
Paul's prowess in the GP14 world came to prominence in 1965 when he and crew Graham Gingles won the Northern Ireland Championship. He was runner-up in the British Nationals in 1968 and 1973.

In '68 a broken kicker on the last beat while lying a close second may have cost him the Championship which was won by John McWilliam, also from East Antrim. In 1971, they were Irish and N I champions.

In '84 and '85, sailing with Mark Nolan of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Paul reached the pinnacle of sailing competition in Ireland winning the then Helmsman's Championship of Ireland. The duo also finished fifth at the '85 World Championships in Mumbles, Wales.

His business career took him to the position of Managing Partner in Price Waterhouse Coopers, the merged company of Price Waterhouse and Coopers Lybrand in Belfast.

Paul Rowan GP14 team AustraliaPaul Rowan pictured fifth from left at the 1979 GP14 Worlds in Perth, Australia. Courtesy: GP14 Ireland Facebook

Fellow GP14 helmsman and 1975 World Champion Bill Whisker from Bangor holds Paul in high regard. " Without Paul, the International GP14 Association wouldn't be a strong as it is today. He was President between 1979 and 1982 and a Trustee also". Bill continues "As Treasurer he set up the financial system for the GP14 Association still in use today and introduced boat insurance for the owners. The financial system was the making of the class". He introduced the then very novel direct debiting system for membership which has helped to maintain Class members and income.

Paul was indeed a great organiser. In 1992 he was host to the late great Sir Peter Blake when Ballyholme Yacht Club was lucky enough to have him speak on his sailing career to a large gathering at a Price Waterhouse sponsored seminar in the Club after a mini – regatta in which Peter Blake sailed on Jimmy Mackey's MGRS 34, Twenty Twenty – enormously different to winning the 1989 – 1990 Whitbread Round the World Race.

After giving up GP14 sailing Paul and clubmate Des Nixon sailed and raced a small cruiser – with Paul as crew, offering of course advice, which I hear Des never paid any attention to! He never lost his indomitable spirit as displayed on a foray in Fiona Hicks' RS Elite at Bangor. Word is that after racing he and crew Lee Stevenson and Bill Whisker stormed into the harbour entrance under spinnaker!

Fellow EABC member, long-standing GP14 sailor and current President of GP14 International Curly Morris has great memories: "Paul and I had an intense rivalry on the water, which through Club racing at least twice a week propelled us to the top of the Irish Fleet. (It was kept under control after '67 when I started sailing the Finn dinghy, aiming to go to the Olympics.) We nevertheless maintained respect for each other's abilities on and off the water and if united in a common cause worked together well and closely. One example is the first dinghy racing committee of the newly formed Irish Sailing Association when we served together with Adrian Bell, Maurice Butler and Johnny Hooper". Curly adds "In the mid' 70s my wife, Ann started sailing with me. Having Paul just in front of us was the greatest incentive for her (and me) to sit out harder as he was one of those people who we just didn't want to be beaten by - especially if it was windy! (If you need to know Pat Murphy was the other)."

Sincere condolences to Paul's widow Rosie, and daughters Julie and Nikki.

BA

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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