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CoastWaterSports 2014

Exe Sails GP14 World Championship at East Down Yacht Club - Overall

by Boyd Ireland 19 Aug 2014 08:38 BST 9-15 August 2014

The 2014 GP14 World Championship was hosted by East Down Yacht Club on Strangford Lough Northern Ireland, with over 100 entries and the remnants of Hurricane Bertha converging on the race course, the scene was set for an exciting start to a full week of racing, as events unfolded, no one was left disappointed!

The majority of competitors and their trusty vessels arrived between Friday night and Sunday morning, once processed through registration, those not fortunate enough to live locally or have secured local accommodation were allocated their camping pitch.

What an eclectic lot of campers those GP14 owners are! On-site accommodation ranged from pop-up caravans to garden gazebos and all variants in-between. Sadly the weather was not kind on either the Saturday or indeed on the Sunday. Heavy and torrential rain showers must have made some competitors think their sailing had started early with a few needing to bail out of their temporary accommodation. But the crews are a hardy and resourceful lot and did not let the weather get the better of them.

On Saturday and Sunday the boat park was attacked by a team of scrutinisers checking and measuring and ensuring sails had been officially stamped and signed, and as a method of appeasement they offered to stamp competitors sails with a 2014 Worlds commemorative stamp. Well done to the team who braved miserable conditions over two days to ensure that competitor's equipment was fit for action.

Sunday was designated as a practice race day and with the remnants of Hurricane Bertha still producing some strong winds and heavy showers the fleet got its first view of the race area and for some their first experience of what Strangford Lough has to offer. After the practice races the fleet returned back to EDYC with a count of at least 4 broken rudders and various other 'shake down' damage to boats, many competitors realised that this was indeed going to be a World Championship event.

Race 1 on Monday started in a force 5 westerly which quickly rose to force 6 providing exciting hard racing. First to round the windward mark were Tim Harper and Paula Fisher from Southport Sailing Club. Fast spinnaker reaching followed and after a fast chase around the course it was Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe who took the first race with a masterful display of heavy weather sailing, some minutes ahead of the rest of the pack.

As the fleet waited for the next race to start, the weather was starting to close in and deteriorate, no doubt the trail end of Hurricane Bertha producing her final lashings across the lough, the RO of the day decided to cancel further racing. The fleet was heading back to EDYC as a squall gusting 31 knots blew across the race area; some crews were caught out but the excellent fleet of safety boats from the club ensured that everyone was brought home safely, even after a second squall registering 37 knots had capsized a few more boats and crew.

However for those who followed either, local, national, or international news and press a different story was portrayed! Someone somewhere appeared to have misunderstood the situation leading to a "Major Incident" plan being actioned – much to the bemusement of the competitors who arrived back at EDYC wondering what was happening.

In fact there were that many emergency vehicles on shore it looked like a "Blue Lamp Disco" That said the emergency services response, acting on the information they had been given, was faultless in both its co-ordination and efficiency, and had there actually been a Major Incident it's reassuring to know that such a swift and comprehensive plan was efficiently and flawless put in place. All credit to the Emergency Services for their impeccable execution.

Day 2: Tuesday saw lighter winds for the first race of the day. The pathfinder lifted steadily causing many boats to miss the start gate but first round the windward mark were Sam Watson and Andy Hunter from South Staffs Sailing Club followed by Robert Gullan and Jack Holden. The boats held the same positions down the reaches but at the next beat Ian Dobson showed his class on the second beat playing the shifts to take the lead, which he (Dobson) held to the finish, with Sam and Andy second.

The second race of the day saw the fleet starting more consistently as the gate opened but with a shifty breeze a number of new faces appeared as front runners. But it was Sam Watson and Andy Hunter who rounded clear ahead at the first mark and never looked back, extending their lead to take line honours with a comfortable lead. This places them as overnight leaders.

Day 3: Wednesday was a lay day with racing starting again on Thursday with all to play for. Strangford Lough has lived up to its name from the Old Norse Strangr-fjörðr, meaning "strong sea-inlet", but this week the wind has been the strongest, with wind over tide giving exciting conditions, especially the strength of the tide taking some competitors by surprise. As one race official, who shall remain anonymous said, "The tide in Strangford will definitely be taking some puddle sailors by surprise," - what ever could he be referring to?

Day 4: Thursday seen the weather lighten with wind speeds averaging around the 15-17 kts and with the bright sunshine made for a slightly more relaxed days sailing. However Strangford Lough still had a few surprises in store for competitors, one gate start being cancelled due to a strong tide catching a lot of the fleet off guard and over the line, whilst another had to be re-started as a certain GP14 boat builder who was nominated as the pathfinder managed to capsize his craft in the middle of the gate start – The consolation prize of most obvious capsize was later awarded to the embarrassed soul concerned, well done Alistair Duffin.

Three races were eventually run (in order to claw back the missing race on Monday) with competitors again fighting for best positions at the marks, some of which got extremely crowed, vocal and noisy! The event organisers even managed to get the press officer into the air for some aerial pictures of the fleet on the lough.

Winners of the day were Race 4 Gerald Owens and Melanie Morris, Race 5 Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe and the final race on the penultimate day was won by Sam Watson and Andy Hunter

On the final day it was all open with the overall championships title still to compete for, however consistency in the form of a brace of second place race results were enough for Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe to wrap up the Exe Sails 20104 GP14 World Championship on Strangford Lough. Andrew Clewer and Mark Taylor had a perfect final day to move up to 4th overall. Sam Watson & Andy Hunter held onto second in the final rankings with a 5th and a 7th in the last two races.

Special mention is deserved of two young female competitors Mollie and Celine Egan who at the tender age of 13 years managed to complete every race they started, even if they had to bail furiously at times to lighten their load as their boat "Dormouse" was taking on more water than just the normal spray. For their tenacity and determination they were awarded a well-deserved special prize for the youngest crew at the 2014 Ex Sails GP14 World Championships and on that note it is safe to say the future of the class looks strong for years to come.

Friday evening was the Gala Dinner with some 300 dinners enjoying the fare laid on by the event caterers – and very tasty it was – the evening continued with the prize ceremony in which awards were presented for each of the categories. Closing the event the Red Hot Roosters lifted the marquee roof and had the attending crowd on their feet as they danced the night away.

It would be remiss of me not to mention all those individuals at East Down Yacht Club who made this event possible – far too many individuals to mention from those who were responsible for camping and catering or registration and results, you know who you are from the Beach Master and his "Trolley Dollies" to the Event Manager and everyone in-between, you contributed to, what feedback has shown to be a brilliant world Championship event, setting the standard in all areas for the 2016 Worlds in Barbados! They may have the weather, the sun and the sand, but only time will tell if they have the spirit and enthusiasm shown by the competent host East Down Yacht Club. Here's looking forward to Barbados in 2016.

Full results have been published and you can see the event website too.

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