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GP 14 Sailor Curly Morris at 75 Proves Sailing is “A Sport for Youth of All Ages”

19th February 2019
The eternally youthful Curly Morris The eternally youthful Curly Morris Credit: W M Nixon

Curly Morris of East Antrim Boat Club in Larne has sailed in a number of boats over a long period, but the GP 14 has always been the love of his life writes W M Nixon. And in the GP 14 Nationals 2018 at Sligo in August, he was on top of his form, well in the frame and within sight of the overall title which was eventually taken by Ross Kearney.

"GP 14s from all over Ireland staged a mid-winter regatta to mark Curly notching the big 75"

Thanks to judiciously-timed joint replacements (he’s a surgeon himself), the veteran sailor continues to enjoy his sport while spreading the news about how important a vibrant class association is for good sailing. Thus one of the secrets of the GP 14’s enduring success in Ireland is its exceptionally strong and supportive class organisation, and one of the reasons Curly Morris gives international service as a member of World Sailing’s Classes Committee is thanks to his direct and beneficial experience of the exceptionally lively GP 14 National Association here.

owens leads morris2Veteran skipper Curly Morris (EABC) crewed by Laura McFarlane (Newtownards SC) chasing Ger Owens and Mel Morris (RStGYC) in the GP14 Nationals 2018 at Sligo. Photo: David Wray/Sligo YC
That said, not everyone wants to be pointed out as the guy who is still at the sharp end of dinghy racing at the age of 75, so until the latest GP 14 Ireland bulletin was posted yesterday, it had slipped under the radar for most of us that, back on January 5th in Skerries, a very elite group of GP 14s from all over Ireland got together to stage a mid-winter regatta to mark Curly notching the big seven-five. Andy Johnston of Sutton Dinghy Club takes up the story:

Twenty-two brave GP14 sailors and 11 boats from Skerries Sailing Club, Sutton Dinghy Club, Newtownards Sailing Club, Donaghadee Sailing Club, Greystones Sailing Club, Youghal Sailing Club and Royal St George Yacht Club turned up on the chilly waters at Skerries on Saturday January 5th 2019, shaking off the holiday cobwebs for a fun-filled afternoon to honour one of the class’s legends, Curly Morris, who was celebrating his 75th birthday.

There were three short races pencilled in by Officers of the Day Olive Rooney and Sam Shiels. However, the sailors were so keen they requested a fourth race, as the eleven GPs enjoyed near-perfect conditions with 8-12 knots from the north-west providing ideal conditions for sailors who may have been worried about some off-season rust.

Gerbil Owens and Melanie Morris (RStGYC) showed great form for the start of the season, winning all the races in comfortable style, with Curly Morris (EABC), Hugh Gill (SDC) and Michael Cox proving consistent as usual. With boats travelling from both the north and south of Ireland, there was a fantastic competition, with tight racing from start to finish.

All sailors returned to shore for some well-earned drinks and toasties in the clubhouse, and then after sorting crews and boats into post-race mode, we wrapped up Curly’s 75th with a super night in the Red Bank in Skerries.

skerries gp14 group3.jpgThe elite GP 14 group of hardy sailors who got together in Skerries to help Curly Morris celebrate his 75th birthday

With Curly’s family, 36-plus sat down for what was to be former GP14 sailor Terry McCoys last meal as chef-proprietor of the famous Red Bank Restaurant, which he built up to be a pillar of Skerries own special brand of hospitality, an establishment where food quality – especially seafood – was tops, but portion control was only in its infancy, making it a home-from-home for hungry sailors.

Curly said a few words, Hugh Gill said a few words on behalf of the GP14 Ireland fleet, and Terry said a few words. A great night, and we all left hoping we would be back somewhere in 5 years time for something similar. Congratulation Curly. #gp14legend

The afternoon’s sailing had kicked off an exciting programme ahead for Skerries and the GP14 class. Skerries Sailing Club is due to host the Irish Nationals later this year over the 16-17-18th August. And the Nationals, in turn, will be a great warm-up event for the World Championships that are due to be held at the Club on 25-31 July 2020. Both events are sure to attract sailors and their families from far and wide to what promises to be two great regattas.”

Published in GP14
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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