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GP14 Ulster Championships at Lough Foyle Yacht Club Won By Ross Kearney and Andrew Vaughan

26th May 2022
Keith and Mateo Louden from Lough Foyle YC racing at the recent GP14 Northern Championships
Keith and Mateo Louden from Lough Foyle YC racing at the recent GP14 Northern Championships Credit: Derry Journal

Ross Kearney and Andrew Vaughan from Royal North YC on Belfast Lough topped the 26 strong GP14 fleet at the Ulster Championships over the third weekend this month. The event was hosted for the first time since 2018 by Lough Foyle Yacht Club near Derry in the north west of Ireland. Kearney was Afloat’s sailor of the month in September 2018.

The club lies at Culmore Point on the north shore of Lough Foyle where the River Foyle meets the Lough and from where in a very different craft, St Colmcille is said to have started his journey to the island of Iona off Mull on Scotland’s west coast to found the Abbey. The Gaelic cuil mor does indeed depict the location well as the ‘big corner’.
In conditions described as testing with south westerly gusts it was clear that this would indeed provide a valuable precursor for the forthcoming World Championships in Skerries in August.

GP14 dinghies racing on Lough Foyle GP14s on Lough Foyle

With the GPs keen to make their mark, the first race suffered from over eager starters and after the second general recall the black flag claimed the Sutton pairing of Hugh and Dan Gill. With the fleet up and away, the locals, Keith and Mateo Louden (LFYC) used their knowledge of the Lough, to go right early and to good effect, though with the wind variable around the course, those who made good use of the puffs were also faring well.

After several position changes on the long beats, the strategy of conservatively playing the right allowed Colman Grimes and Ross Gingles from Skerries SC to take the first win of the weekend, followed by Ger Owens and Melanie Morris of the Royal St. George YC who managed to keep Peter and Stephen Boyle of Sutton DC at bay down the last reaching leg. First in the Silver fleet were Conor Twohig and Matthew Cotter from Sutton with the tenacious Lara Sunday and Jennifer Bryce of Newtownards SC 1st in Bronze.

The second race saw rain clouds blow in and with the river now fin full spate, rounding the weather mark proved dramatic. Having sat out the first race, the fresh-legged Hugh and Dan Gill from Sutton claimed first slot with Kearney and Vaughan second and the Boyles showing their consistency with two 3rds now under their belt. Sam Wray and Luke Henderson of Sligo YC took 7th place and first Silver and with some swapping around in the bronze fleet, it was now Mullingar’s Michael Collender and Brian Walker time to shine.

Race three had a light air start which caught the fleet out with several struggling to make the line. Ger Owens and Mel Morris spotted the favoured right-hand corner having noticed earlier in the day and were largely uncontested, pulling out a very substantial lead and easy win. The Gill’s conviction that the left should pay finished with an 18th, while in contrast Josh Porter and Cara McDowell of Newtownards SC came second having noticed Ger and Melanie’s progress. Peter and Stephen Boyle made it a hat-trick of 3rd places. First Silver were Michael Cox and Claire Cromie of Newtownards SC with Collender and Walker went on to improve their positions in the Bronze fleet with a 10th.

Overnight results left the contest wide open with Owens leading overall but unable to sail the next day.

Day Two brought the same conditions and John and Donal McGuiness of Moville had a better day and took first In Race 4 with the host club’s Keith and Mateo Louden second and the Sligo pair, Diarmaid Mullan and Lauren Donaghy in third.

Puffy shifty conditions produced an awkward sea for Race 5. Kearney and Vaughan made the most of it, powering through the chop to secure another win, putting them in a good position to close out the series provided they could discard their 11th. Hugh ad Dan Gill took second.

It was close at the top going into the final race and again the black flag was out. At first, the Boyles looked good but overlaid the windward mark with Grimes and Gingles having a decent beat, but Conor Twohig and Mathew Cotter pipped them to the mark. After a windy reach, Grimes and Gingles closed out the race with another win, but a fourth was enough to secure the title for the Royal North pair. Twohig and Cotter’s second in the final race gave them the Silver overall first and the Bronze went to Michael Collender and Brian Walker.

Ross Kearney and Andrew Vaughan from Royal North YC on Belfast Lough topped the 26 strong GP14 fleet at the Ulster ChampionshipsRoss Kearney and Andrew Vaughan from Royal North YC on Belfast Lough topped the 26 strong GP14 fleet at the Ulster Championships

In July the same stretch of water will see very much bigger 70-foot boats sail through with the Round the World Clipper Race fleet arriving for its stopover in Derry mid-month.

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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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.

GP14 Ireland Event Dates 2023

  • O'Tiarnaigh (Apr 22-23) Blessington Sailing Club
  • Ulsters (May 20-21) East Antrim Boat Club
  • Munsters (Jun 17-18) Tralee Bay Sailing Club
  • Leinsters (Jul 7-9) Dun Laoghaire Regatta
  • SOYC (Aug 19-20) Rush Sailing Club
  • Nationals (Sep 1-3) Sutton Dinghy Club
  • Hot Toddy (Sep 30-Oct 1) Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club


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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