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Challenging Times for the GP14 O’Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

30th April 2023
The leaders in race four of the GP14 O’Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club
The leaders in race four of the GP14 O’Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

The O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge event was conceived almost 25 years ago with two goals. An open meeting with many short races rather than the normal 2 per day, and secondly to have many smaller flights containing a mix of Gold, Silver and Bronze sailors so that the less experienced sailors have many opportunities to be in the front row of the start line so as to have more opportunity to learn and improve their skills in a testing and highly competitive framework. 

This year's running was particularly challenging, with an almost complete lack of wind and a continual downpour on Saturday forcing the RO to cancel racing which meant that the whole event was to be run a single day. The forecast for Sunday was for light breezes, but thankfully the rain had abated. Despite the poor forecast, 28 teams were in attendance, a credit to the enthusiasm of the fleet and the marketing by the organising committee.

Curly Morris & Meg Tyrell in action at the GP14 O’Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington Sailing ClubCurly Morris & Meg Tyrell in action at the GP14 O’Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

Choosing to run the event with a single flight due to time constraints and aiming to have as many races as possible, the RO sent the fleet out on the waters of the Poulaphouca reservoir nestling on the western side of the Wicklow Mountains. With the requirement from the NOR that the first discard only coming to rescue a poor finishing position after six races were completed still in force and with the conditions that prevailed it very much looked like this would be a ‘no discard’ event.

Shifty and patchy were the dominating features of the wind, making line and course setting tricky, but after a short postponement, the fleet got underway on a triangle/sausage course.

The first start looked quite pin-biased, but slightly more pressure on the committee boat saw those boats establish a lead off the line. There was an element of ‘Russian Roulette’, albeit without the blood, about picking a side of the course and whereas the left looked more favourable at the early part of the leg, a building breeze on the right was most influential on the fleet resulting in Rob Lee & Stephen Lynch from Greystones SC first to the weather mark closely followed by Alan Blay & Hugh McNally from Sutton Dinghy Club and Sutton ex-pat, Ruan O’Tiarnaigh with daughter Natasha who was sailing her first event with dad following her sisters move to crew for the very talented Jane Kearney formerly from the midlands area of UK, now based at Royal North. Close behind them were the veteran teams of Niall Henry & Oissin Geraghty from Sligo SC and brothers John & Donal McGuinness from Moville. In the light conditions, Ruan & Tasha established an inside overlap approaching the gybe mark to gain the lead, and although the rest of the race was shifty, there was not much change in the leading group and the first race finished; Ruan & Tasha first, Alan & Hugh second, Rob & Stephen third, Nial & Oisin fourth and John & Donal fifth.

The silver fleet was led by Sam Street & Josh Lloyd, Blessington SC, Simon Cully & Libby Tierney also Blessington, and Cathal Sheridan & David Cooke, Skerries third.

Bronze fleet, Michael Collender & Brian Walker, Mullingar S.C, Denis Cully & Ollie Lloyd, Blessington and Max Cully & Tighe Wardell, Blessington third.

The second race saw Olympian Curly Morris & Meg Tyrell (EABC/NSC) establish a commanding lead, coming from the left-hand side of the course up the first beat, followed closely by Jane Kearney & Bekka O’Tiarnaigh from Royal North of Ireland YC. Ruan & Tasha, Keith & son Matteo Louden, Lough Foyle YC slightly ahead of Niall & Oisin. In the very light airs, mistakes were aplenty, and a poor gybe on the O’Tiarnaigh boat saw both Keith & Matteo and Nial & Oisin gain an advantage sailing higher and past. The second beat was dynamic, with places gained and lost. Jane & Bekka were unfortunate to fall foul of a port and starboard and did turns. The run provided an opportunity for another Olympian and current Irish Champion of Champions team of Ger Owens & Mel Morris (daughter of the aforementioned Curly) to get back into the running making the most use of the light airs. After a spirited battle on the final beat which saw a minor skirmish and tacking frenzy between Ger & Mel, Niall & Oisin and Ruan & Tasha, which although frenetic, was ultimately inconsequential as no places changed, the outcome was Curly and Meg chalking up a first, Keith and Matteo second, Ger and Mel third, Niall & Oisin, fourth Ruan & Tasha fifth.

Silver, and once again Sam & Josh first, Cathal & David second and Simon & Libby third.

Bronze, Max and Tighe, Frankie Brown & David Lappin Skerries Sailing Club, Michael & Brian third.

Race three was once again tricky with variable breeze on the beat, but dying towards the gybe mark. The lead boats included Ger and Mel, Ross Kearney & Daniel Nelson, RNIYC, Daniel having joined Ross after Andrew Vaughan’s departure after the worlds last year, Paddy O’Connor & Adrian Lee (Sligo/Youghal). However, the weather gods were playing dice and some ‘ultra light’ expertise from JP & Carolyn McCaldin, Lough Erne YC. & Sutton’s Katie Dwyer & Michelle Rowley saw them sneak over the top of a group of boats to get in to the front of the fleet for the finish at the leeward mark. With Ger & Mel first, JP & Carolyn second, Ross and Daniel third, Katie and Michelle fourth and Paddy & Adrian fifth. Silver, Simon & Libby, Sam & Josh, Cathal & David. Bronze, Denis & Ollie, Max & Tighe and Jennifer Bryce & Cormac Murphy, Newtownards Sailing Club third.

At this stage, and with no discard in sight the scores were: Ger & Mel, 7, 3, 1 Tot: 11, Ruan & Tasha, 1, 5, 6 Tot: 12, Ross and Daniel, 6, 8, 3 Tot 17 Niall and Oisin 4, 4, 12 Tot: 20. One mistake could prove very costly indeed.

In what turned out to be the last race of the day the weather once again proved to play its own role. Once again, the leaders came from the left-hand side with age and experience showing its class seeing Curly & Meg first to round followed by Coleman Grimes & Ross Gingles, Skerries SC and Ross & Daniel in close quarters, the following group included event contenders Niall & Oisin, Ger & Mel and Ruan & Tash. The second offwind leg was to prove key to the race and the event with the RO shortening the course at the leward mark. Ross & Daniel went high, Curly & Meg low, but it was the middle lane which proved successful for Coleman & Ross, who pipped Curly for the race win. The event overall was still in contention and halfway down the reach, it looked like Ruan & Tasha might pull the event out of the bag when they rolled Ger & Mel to leave them equal on points. Another place was needed between them as Ger & Mel had better count back, but it was not to be. The fickle zephyrs of Blessington quashed their hopes when light airs filled in from both above and below. Ger & Mel, though forced to go low, came out smelling of roses with a dart across the line in third, Keith & Matteo 4th, Ross & Daniel 5th, Ruan & Tasha dropping to 8th and Niall & Oisin hopes dashed entirely with a 15th.

Silver, Sam & Josh, Simon & Libby and Cathal & David third.

Bronze, Michael & Brian, Jennifer & Cormac and Denis & Ollie third

The fleet repaired to the shore where well-earned and much-appreciated hot pizza awaited. When the scores were counted, Ger & Mel were clear winners on 14pts, Ruan & Tasha second on 20pts, Ross & Daniel third on 22 pts and Curly & Meg 4th on 29pts.

Ger Owens & Mel Morris at the O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge at Blessington Sailing ClubGer Owens & Mel Morris at the O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

Ruan O’Tiarnaigh with daughter Natasha at the O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge at Blessington Sailing ClubRuan O’Tiarnaigh with daughter Natasha at the O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

Ross Kearney and Daniel Nelson at the O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge at Blessington Sailing ClubRoss Kearney and Daniel Nelson at the O’Tiarnaigh GP14 Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

Thanks were given to Blessington Sailing Club and its members for such a warm welcome and to Commodore Richard Street RO, Joe Crilly DRO, Tom Duggan ARO and Alannah Maguire, keeping them all in check on the committee vessel, which it was noted with some poignancy was named in memory of a former and much loved Blessington GP14 sailor Peter Hannon.

Looking ahead, the GP14 season is chock full of events across the country. Next is the Ulsters in Larne, followed by trips to Tralee Bay, The Volvo at Dun Laoghaire, Rush Sailing Club, Sutton for the Championship of Ireland and finally, the Hot Toddy at Royal North.

If this event was anything to go by, the GP14 fleet in Ireland is in rude health. Boats travelled from all parts of the country, including Dathi & Arann Murphy from Tralee Bay and teams from Moville, EABC, Donaghadee, Youghal, Lough Erne, Lough Foyle, Sligo, Greystones, Sutton, Royal North, Newtownards and Ballyholme. Also noted are the number of youth teams, particularly from Blessington as well as the many new young crews ensuring the future of the class. With the age range of 14 to 79 and a great mix of male and female teams, the GP14 fleet in Ireland is certainly thriving. The craic is pretty good too. Long may it continue. The last word should go to Anthony Johns and James Lloyd of Blessington, who notched up an impressive 100pts but, despite that were battling hard to the end.

Joe Devitt

Published in GP14 Team

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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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