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GJW Direct 2024 Dinghy

GP14 O'Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington Sailing Club

by Joseph Devitt 2 May 2023 15:20 BST 22-23 April 2023
Curly Morris and Meg Tyrell - GP14 O'Tiarnaigh Challenge at Blessington © Street Keane Cully

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. Imagine motorcycle speedway without the engines, wheels or mud. The event has been staged every year since, save for Covid, and draws sailors from all over Ireland.

This years running was particularly challenging, with an almost complete lack of wind and 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.

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 in 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 6 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 under way on a triangle/sausage course.

The first start looked quite pin biased, but slightly more pressure at 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 favorable 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 former 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 opportunity for another former 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 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 which 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 & Adiran 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 leward 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 leeward 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 half way 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.

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 comedy 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 with events across the country. Next is the Ulsters in Larne, followed by trips to Tralee Bay, The Volvo at Dunlaoghaire, 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. Keep it up lads and remember adversity makes you tougher. See you in a few weeks in Sunny Larne, May 20/21.

Overall Results:

PosFleetSailHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Pts
1Gold14256Gerald OwensMelanie MorrisISA731314
2Gold14215Ruan O'TiarnaighNatasha O'TiarnaighBallyholme YC156820
3Gold14248Ross KearneyDaniel NelsonRNIYC (Royal NI)683522
4Gold14219Curly MorrisMeg TyrellEABC / NSC13113229
5Gold14252Niall HenryOisin GeraghtySligo Yacht Club44121535
6Gold14214Keith LoudenMateo LoudenLough Foyle14216436
7Gold14242Jane KearneyRebekah OTiarnaighRNIYC8991238
8Gold14185Rob LeeStephen LynchGreystones31611939
9Gold14144Colman GrimesRoss GinglesSkerries Sailing Club111317142
10Gold14275Hugh GillDan GillSutton Dinghy Club101214642
11Gold14237JP McCaldinCarolyn MccaldinLEYC (Lough Erne)16622044
12Gold14154Paddy O'ConnorAdrian LeeYoughal92651151
13Gold14235Alan BlayHugh McNallySutton Dinghy Club27241851
14Gold14247John McGuinnessDonal McGuinnessMoville51972253
15Gold14279Katie DwyerMichelle RowleySutton Dinghy Club181142356
16Silver13981Sam StreetJosh LloydBlessington sailing club1210231358
17Silver14274Simon CullyLibby TierneyBlessington sailing club152081760
18Bronze14284Michael CollenderBrian WalkerMullingar Sailing Club172121766
19Bronze13207Denis CullyOllie LloydBlessington sailing club1924101467
20Bronze13993Max CullyTighe WardellBlessington sailing club2115181670
21Gold14272Peter BoyleMax PocockSutton Dinghy Club2217151973
22Bronze13865Jennifer BryceCormac MurphyNewtownards and Donaghadee2423191076
23Bronze14226Frankie BrowneDavid LappinSkerries Sailing Club2018202179
24Silver14225Cathal SheridanDavid CookeSkerries Sailing Club2314262689
25Bronze13677Daithi MurphyArann MurphyTralee Bay Sailing Club2522222594
26Bronze13256Anthony JohnsJames LloydBlessington sailing club26252524100

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