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This Wednesday's GP14 AGM will hear an update on the rearranged World Championships for Skerries, North Dublin in 2022. 

After a 2020 season that was severely affected by COVID-19, (that included the cancellation of the 100-boat Skerries Worlds) the dinghy class now has a full set of events scheduled for 2021.

AGM organisers say they aim to keep meeting formalities to a minimum over Zoom and then spend some time hearing thoughts and ideas for the double-handed class going forward.

The GP14 has been one of the first to give a thumbs up to Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta plans for July and class officers are now seeking to boost fleet entries in order to win a hospitality voucher for the class at the Dublin Bay event. So far three boats are entered; East Antrim Boat Club's, Curly Morris, David Johnston's Lil Yachty from Sutton Dinghy Club and Greystones Sailing Club's Norman Lee.

First up on the 2021 GP14 Irish calendar is a trip to Cullan Sailing Club in Clare for the Munster Championships, a full list of the fixtures is here.

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Think of the GP14 class in Ireland and among those uppermost in your mind, (depending on your age!) would be the late Ernie Mawhinney's Ventura, one of the earliest in the class at number 796.

Ventura means 'fortune, chance or luck' but nothing about Ernie's Ventura was ever down to chance or luck. Having built the boat himself in 1955 and sailed it skillfully and competitively until a few months before he died at age 83 in 2008, he would be delighted that it is now in the safe and competent hands of Derek McCune of Islandmagee and County Antrim Yacht Club at Whitehead on Belfast Lough. That year at the Ulster Championships, Sligo Yacht Club presented a new trophy to the Association for the sixth race in memory of Ernie Mawhinney and it was fitting that the wind dropped and the sun shone, Ernie's favourite conditions in which he was hard to beat. The McGuinness brothers lead the race from start to finish winning the inaugural Ventura Cup and the final race of the Ulster Championships.

David and Ernie Mawhinney sailing the GP14 VenturaThe late David and Ernie Mawhinney pictured sailing in GP14 Ventura (796) in 1995. The photo shows the pair preparing for the 1995 Championship of Ireland (Newtownabbey Boat Club) and was taken by Bob Torrens and featured in the 1995 Reflections magazine produced to mark the 40th anniversary of the Class

Derek is semi-retired and is pleased to have the time to do this restoration. Ventura, in its memorable various shades of green is now, hot on the heels of Nigel McNeely's Two Buoys, the second GP that I've heard of in the last month to be in the process of restoration.

Ventura's home was always on Belfast Lough; first the now defunct North Belfast Yacht Club at Whiteabbey and subsequently at Newtownabbey Boat Club which lost its clubhouse and grounds around 2002. Ernie then took Ventura to Holywood Yacht Club on the south side of the Lough, from where he sailed it until 2008. It was there, quite by chance, Derek McCune noticed it on passing the club grounds in August last year (2020). A conversation with two men at the gate revealed it was about to be cut up and dumped. A very quick decision on the spot and it was his!

GP14 Ventura restorationThe mammoth task ahead as Ventura had been lying up for years at Holywood. Scroll down for more photos of Ventura's restoration below

Ventura stands apart. Ernie built it himself – he had the plans but at that time in the mid-Fifties, no materials. That didn't deter him. He worked in Mackie's Foundry, a textile machinery engineering plant in Belfast making sisal and hard-fibre spinning machinery, some of which was for the Indian market. The spare shipping pallets were the source of the wood for Ventura and to find a piece of mahogany was like gold dust.

His son, the late David Mawhinney, crewed for him, both safely kitted out with cork lifejackets bought from surplus RAF stock. Ernie was a brilliant helmsman, sailing a homemade GP14 with good gear and sails very competitively and in which he won many events.

Derek McCune who originally sailed and raced a Mirror, has taken on a mammoth task as Ventura had been lying for years at Holywood. It needed a new floor, side decks, and transom for a start and then there were multiple layers of paint, very few fittings but good spars. There were no sails, cover, rudder or kicker. He has saved as much of the original craft as possible. A shout out on Facebook for parts had good results, some of which Derek travelled to the South of England to collect, such was his dedication to the task. He has sails which he will use for club racing but for bigger events, such as the Worlds in Skerries in July 2022, he will indulge in new ones.

Before Derek took over Ventura, the last time it was afloat was when Ernie's sons, David and Kevin, scattered their father's ashes at Holywood and Newtownabbey, surely an appropriate and respectful action. Sadly his son and crew David died in 2019

Derek has worked on Ventura and also built a trailer in his garage, and currently has expert help from Alastair Duffin in his East Belfast workshop. "For the tricky bits" Derek said. He has high hopes of getting afloat soon. He regards himself a custodian of a valuable asset. "Ventura is a usable classic sailing dinghy and part of our maritime heritage. She's 65 years old and I hope someone will be still be sailing her at least 50 years from now".

Sailing wasn't Ernie's only passion. GP14 class President Curly Morris, another GP stalwart revealed, " You know he played double bass in a dance band in the Kings Arms in Larne when we were starting to sail GPs and would give us a nod as we danced by. Later he played with a very good Trad jazz band". A man of many talents indeed.

GP14 'Ventura' Restoration slideshow

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Nigel McNeely was a motorboat man who had also enjoyed sailing a Leisure 17. But with two young boys reaching the age at which they could learn to sail, Nigel bought a second-hand GP14 called Alchemellia (no 12819) originally owned by the late Brian Edgerton. Nigels's intention is to sail it at Donaghadee Sailing Club on the North Down coast and at weekends taking it to Kesh on Lough Erne where the family has a caravan. The name has been changed to Two Buoys.

The 32-year-old GP built by the renowned Alistair Duffin, was bought by Nigel in 2019. He and his friend Tom Bell (who he calls the Skipper) have been restoring it to its former glory and look forward to getting on the water this coming season at Kesh where Tom also has a caravan.

Nigel is excited about Two Buoys " I'm looking forward to finishing the restoration and getting out on the water".

The 32-year-old GP built by the renowned dinghy craftsman Alistair DuffinThe 32-year-old GP built by the renowned dinghy craftsman Alistair Duffin

And Lough Erne Heritage enthusiast Fred Ternan commented " `Great news indeed. Another wooden GP14 saved and restored which will now become a Classic Boat and add to the growing fleet of new build and restored wooden boats in Ireland and in Fermanagh. This is something that Lough Erne Heritage set out to encourage and support and great to hear that it will be sailed on Lough Erne especially in the north-west corner of Lower Lough Erne in Kesh Bay which was once one of the major areas of wooden boat building on Lough Erne".

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The GP14 Ireland Committee has drafted a provisional calendar for 2021 (outlined below) and is also working on ideas and options for the 2022 event calendar. 

The exact dates for the Irish hosted 2022 World Championships (rescheduled from 2020 and 2021 due to COVID) will be confirmed in due course by hosts Skerries Sailing Club.

The Irish dinghy class has been one of the first to give a thumbs up to Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta plans for next July to divide Ireland's biggest sailing event over separate weekends.

GP14 2021 Calendar (Provisional)

  • Munsters (May 15-16) Cullaun
  • Ulsters (Jun 19-20) Newtownards
  • Leinsters (Jul 2-4) Dun Laoghaire Regatta
  • Nationals (Aug 13-15) Lough Erne YC
  • O’Tiarnaigh (Sep 4-5) Mullingar
  • AOYC (Sep 25-26) Sutton Dinghy Club
  • Hot Toddy (Oct 23-24) East Antrim BC
Published in GP14
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An important GP14 event, the Hot Toddy, first saw the light of day in the early eighties when the then GP14 Association of Ireland charged their East Antrim Boat Club based fleet with the creation of a new and suitable end-of-season 'fun' event.

And it was due to be celebrated again this year at the Larne club but as has happened to so many events due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the organising committee has decided to cancel it. Scheduled to take place on 10th and 11th of October the Club had hoped to welcome at least some well-known GP14 stalwarts – the host club's Curly Morris and Robert Gingles and Ger Owens and Melanie Morris, daughter of Curly, as well as regulars on the GP circuit, John and Donal McGuiness, Hugh Gill, Colman Grimes, Katie Dwyer and Michelle Rowley, and Bill and James Johnson.

The decision was not taken lightly as everyone involved was keen for the event to go ahead. Unfortunately, with the current restrictions in place across the island, particularly in Dublin, it was deemed inappropriate to run the event at present.

However, the silver lining for the members is that the slipway will be available as normal this weekend and Club racing will take place on Sunday, 11th October. The Topper Northerns on 24th and 25th October is currently scheduled to go ahead.

The Irish GP14 dinghy class has been one of the first to give a thumbs up to Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta plans for next July to divide Ireland's biggest sailing event over separate weekends.

As Afloat reported previously, Dun Laoghaire organisers plan to major on the dinghies and one design keelboats with a One Design Championship from 2nd – 4th July 2021 and then run the cruiser-racers the following weekend (8th – 11th July) catering for a full range of IRC classes. 

After a year of cancellations that wiped out nearly the entire GP14 2020 calendar, including the Skerries-based World Championships in August, the GP14 Committee has been supportive of Dun Laoghaire's move to the Dinghy/One Design event.

If all goes to plan the Geeps will be just one of many dinghy classes racing at VDLR next July before the restaging of its own class world championships in Skerries later that same month (July 25 to Aug 1 2021).

The only Irish GP14 event to sail so far this year was held in Blessington earlier this month as Afloat reported here

The committee says there is still hope, notwithstanding the Dublin and Donegal Level 3 lockdowns, that the annual 'Hot Toddy' event can still go ahead in East Antrim in Larne on October 10th.

Royal Irish Yacht Club's Ger Owens & Mel Morris were the winners of the 20-boat GP14 Autumn Open at Blessington Sailing Club last weekend, the first event of the 2020 GP14 calendar due to COVID-19. 

The winner of the silver fleet was Ed Coyne & Colman Grimes (Youghal & Skerries). Bronze winners were Edie & Lily Thorup (Blessington)

The event doubled as the youth championships and the winners here were:

  • Youth Championship (U22) – Ed Coyne & Colman Grimes (Youghal & Skerries)
  • U19 Champion – Peter Boyle & Shane McLoughlin / Joe Doherty (Sutton Dinghy Club)
  • U16 Champion – Max Cully & Ollie Lloyd (Blessington)

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An appropriate title for a GP 14 event to be held (hopefully) in October at the Larne club. The word toddy comes from the toddy drink in India produced by fermenting the sap of palm trees and its earliest known use to mean "a beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices", is from 1786. The latter will be just the thing to warm up sailors taking part in this widely anticipated meeting.

As entries aren't open yet for the event on 10th/11th October, and no one is confirmed but the Club hopes to have at least some of the following well known GP14 stalwarts competing: the host club's Curly Morris and Robert Gingles, with crews as yet unknown and Ger Owens and Melanie Morris, daughter of Curly.

Committee member Lucy Whitford says that " It would be great to see the former world champion and multiple National champions Shane McCarthy, and Ross and Jane Kearney, former Irish champions who have recently moved back to NI. Welcome too would be regulars on the GP circuit John and Donal McGuiness, Hugh Gill, Colman Grimes, Katie Dwyer and Michelle Rowley, and Bill and James Johnson. We would also hope to see some up and coming youth GP sailors competing, Peter Boyle, David Johnson and Conor Twohig".

The late Ronnie Thompson, with Andy Thompson. Andy is to team up with Shane McCarthy for this event.The late Ronnie Thompson, with Andy Thompson. Andy is to team up with Shane McCarthy for this event.

East Antrim has a long list and long history of champion GP14 sailors. Johnny McWilliam was among the first to shine when he won the 1957 Northern Ireland championship, with Curly Morris and Tommy Hutcheson taking the same title in 1964 followed the next year by Paul Rowan and Graham Gingles. Jump forward a few years to 1972 and we have Tom Jobling crewing for Ballyholme's Peter Duffy winning the Irish Championship and Des Nixon and Tommy Hutcheson NI Champions; Curly Morris and Bobby Jones Ulster Champions with Curly also on the Irish Olympic Team in Kiel. Into this century among other GP 14 helms to feature prominently are Mark and Paul Fekkes.

This Hot Toddy event first saw the light of day in the early eighties when the then GP14 Assoc of Ireland charged their East Antrim BC based fleet with the creation of a new and suitable end-of-season 'fun' event.

With the baton accepted a team lead by the legendry helmsman Curly Morris set to work and devised a new kind of 'freestyle' format to take advantage of what Larne Lough could offer.

So in October 1982, the mighty GP14 fleet descended on the Larne Lough club to be greeted with a perfect sparkling south easterly. A single windward leg from EABC into the [uncharted] upper Lough! Thereafter the fleet re-assembled for a spinnaker slalom in a freshened breeze, back from whence they came and, ashore for the evening festivities.

The event was superbly serviced with prizes by the 'shop-keepers' of the town and sponsored overall by the coal importer, Howdens Ltd, who also provided the solid silver winner's cup. And it looks like the first winner will be in the frey again for that was Curly Morris. That day as well as the cup, he received a 'bag of coal' to fend off the incoming Co. Antrim winter. Hopefully, a Hot Toddy will do the same!

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The GP14 International Class Association in conjunction with Skerries Sailing Club has postponed its 2020 GP14 World Championships until 2021.

As Afloat reported previously, with over 100 entries already registered, Skerries Sailing Club and the GP14 International Association have been in discussion for quite some time preparing for this eventuality.

In announcing the postponement have provisionally pencilled in July 25 to Aug 1 2021 as the new date for the GP14 World Championships to be held in Skerries.

Ferry Refunds

Currently, the UK Government restrictions on travel for non-essential journeys are in place until 31st May 2020. As the World Championship was scheduled for July 2020, there is currently some uncertainty with regards to the refund option for non-refundable tickets purchased by UK competitors. If the Government extends the ban on non-essential travel to include the dates the hope is refunds should be available.

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A further update on the status of the GP14 World Championships scheduled for July in Skerries, North Dublin is expected before the end of April.

GP14 Ireland Hon. Secretary Andy Johnston has told the class the International Committee in conjunction with the Skerries GP14 Worlds Organising Committee is in 'constant communications' with regard to the running of the World Championships and the threat posed by COVID-19 to the successful staging of the event.

As Afloat previously reported, more than 100 boats have now entered for the Championships at Skerries Sailing Club from July 24-29.

Johnston also advises the sailors that 'it is with regret but no surprise' that the Munsters at Cullaun Sailing Club and the Leinsters at (Mullingar Sailing Club) ear-marked for the weekends of May 2/3 and May 23/24 respectively have been postponed.

Depending on the COVID-19 situation, the Clubs would hope that one or both may be run at a later date this summer.

With travel restrictions in place across Ireland and the UK, all GP14 coaching dates have also been cancelled.

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

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At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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