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All Sailors Accounted For as GP14 World Championship Fleet Capsizes in Strangford Squall

11th August 2014
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All Sailors Accounted For as GP14 World Championship Fleet Capsizes in Strangford Squall

#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."

Published in GP14
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The GP14 is a popular sailing dinghy, with well over 14,000 boats built.

The class is active in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and parts of north-eastern USA, and the GP14 can be used for both racing and cruising. 

Designed by Jack Holt in 1949, with the assistance of the Dovey Yacht Club in Aberdyfi. The idea behind the design was to build a General Purpose (GP) 14-foot dinghy which could be sailed or rowed, capable of also being powered effectively by a small outboard motor, able to be towed behind a small family car and able to be launched and recovered reasonably easily, and stable enough to be able to lie to moorings or anchor when required. Racing soon followed, initially with some degree of opposition from Yachting World, who had commissioned the design, and the boat soon turned out to be an outstanding racing design also.

The boat was initially designed with a main and small jib as a comfortable family dinghy. In a design philosophy that is both practical and highly redolent of social attitudes of the day the intention was that she should accommodate a family comprising parents plus two children, and specifically that the jib should be modest enough for "Mum" or older children to handle, while she should perform well enough to give "Dad" some excitement when not taking the family out. While this rig is still available, and can be useful when using the boat to teach sailing, or for family sailing, and has some popularity for cruising, the boat is more commonly seen with the full modern rig of a mainsail, genoa and spinnaker. Australian boats also routinely use trapezes.

At A Glance – GP14 Dinghy Specifications

Crew 2
Draft 1,200 mm (47 in)
Hull weight 132.9 kg
LOA 4.27 m (14 ft)
Beam 1.54 m
Spinnaker area 8.4 m2
Upwind sail area 12.85 m2

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