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GP14 National Championship 2023 at Looe Sailing Club - Part 1

by GP14 Class Association 13 Aug 2023 13:58 BST 5-11 August 2023
GP14 Nationals 2023 at Looe © Richard Craig /

The GP14 National Championship kicked off with a roller-coaster of events, setting the stage for an exhilarating competition. Battling against unexpected road obstacles and the wrath of Storm Anthoni, the journey to Looe proved to be an adventure in itself.

With car fires, breakdowns, fallen trees, and disrupted railway lines, some sailors faced longer-than-planned journeys, leading to a dramatic start to the championship.

Looe Sailing Club's carefully planned arrival system was put to the test when fallen trees diverted the route, causing further delays for the competitors. As if that wasn't enough, the town's carnival added another twist by closing the streets, delaying some sailors even further.

However, the skies cleared, and Sunday emerged as a perfect day for the competition to begin. With beautiful weather gracing the event, 41 boats set sail for the practice race, marking the official start of the GP14 National Championships.

Race 1 sponsored by Wessex Resins & Adhesives

Under a North westly breeze at Force 4, the first race saw exciting action unfold on the waters of Looe. Sam Watson of Nantwich and Borders SC, along with local legend Darren Roach of Looe SC, executed a brilliant start, positioning themselves in the middle of the course. Most competitors tacked off early to secure the right-hand side, which proved advantageous as the leaders emerged from this strategic choice.

As the windward mark approached, Sam and Darren were at the forefront, closely followed by Fergus and Jasper Barnham of Snettisham SC, and Matt Mee of Redwarf Bay SC with Chris Robinson of Blackpool and Fleetwood SC in third place. Bands of pressure emanating from the land led John Hayes of RYA and Joel James of Southport SC, Ross Kearney of Royal Northern Ireland YC, Ed Bradburn of South Staffs SC, and the pairing of Matt/Chris to gain an edge and trail behind the leaders.

The leeward mark witnessed a change in leadership, with Matt and Chris taking the lead, followed by John and Joel, and Sam and Darren. As the fleet navigated the shifty beat, Matt and Chris and John Hayes and Joel James secured a significant advantage, setting the stage for an intense finish. Fergus and Jasper managed to edge past Sam and Darren just before the final beat and reaches, sealing their position in third.

In the Silver Fleet, Maurice Cleal and Jamie Isles of Welsh Harp SC claimed the top spot, while Zena Martin and Leanne Pilkington of Bolton SC secured second, and James Ward and Richard Whitehill of Papercourt SC secured third.

The Bronze Fleet was dominated by Youth Helm Finlay and his father Nigel Waterhouse of Budworth SC, with the youth boat of Jude Stanley and Oscar Hoult of Hayling Island SC securing second, and Andy Shrimpton and Roger Jeffs of Welsh Harp SC taking third.

Podium race bibs were handed out to the top 3 boats in the competition, leading mixed pair, leading female boat and leading youth boat. There were sponsored by Rooster Sailing.

Race 2 sponsored by Goat Marine and Cornish Orchards cider.

Race 2 saw a change in conditions with a South-westerly breeze at Force 2. The sailors braved a lumpy sea state and light to moderate wind, testing their skill in navigating the challenging waters.

John Carter and Gareth Wilkinson of Chelmarsh SC in Silver Fleet took the lead at the windward mark, holding off fierce competition from Ross Kearney of RNIYC and Ed Bradburn of South Staffs SC, Mat Mee of Redwarf Bay SC, and Chris Robinson of Blackpool and Fleetwood SC to secure a well-deserved victory. Hugh Gill Sutton DC and Richard Street Blessington SC came in 4th with Russ and Ali Cormack, Budworth SC rounding out the top 5.

Having remained ashore on Day 1 and retired from the competition on Day 3 due to ill health this pairing is one to watch out for when they return to the fleet, scoring a first and 13th in their 2 races. We all wish Jonathan a speedy recovery.

Race 3 South Westerly - Force 3

The next race the breeze had picked up slightly for a bit more grunt to get over the awkward chop. The fleet were obviously keen to get back to the bar which resulted in a few general recalls and subsequently the black flag coming out.

'The wrong trousers' pairing of Conor Twohig and Matthew Cotter were hot off the start line and sailed a great first beat rounding a close second at the windward mark, only to have their number called out - heartbreaking stuff.

This allowed the Barnham's to take to the lead on the reaches from Alan Blay and Hugh McNally Sutton DC and Tim Jones Holyhead SC and Dale Knowles, Bolton SC. Matt and Chris showed amazing downwind speed to fight through the fleet to be 3rd by the bottom mark.

Matt and Chris managed to get past Alan and Hugh on the next downwind leg to finish 2nd, Alan/Hugh 3rd with the Tim and Dale in 4th.

Silver fleet saw the Chelmarsh pair in 13th and Hugh Devereux and Malcolm Bird in 17th and in 20th place Micheal Cox and Rachael Stewart in 3rd place.

Bronze fleet once again had the youths leading with Jude and Oscar leading in 18th place, Fin and Nigel in 22nd and David Innes and Matt Hall from Frensham Pond SC in 3rd.

Whilst some of the fleet returned to the shore 11 boats stayed on the course for the Crew's race. This trophy had not been competed for in a decade and was hotly contested form all the GP14 fleets. The report for this race is to follow.

Day 3 of the championship was marked by fog and rain, prompting the Race Officer to issue a Fog Protocol for all sailors. The fleet demonstrated resilience and patience, waiting for the fog to clear before embarking on the day's races. Despite the challenging conditions, the competition remained fierce, and each race showcased the sailors' determination and skill.

Race 4 sponsored by Allen Sailing

The fleet was well behaved and got away first time. Sam and Darren got a great start at the committee boat end and headed out to the middle of the course with Ross and Ed. However, a few early tackers had hit the right early and were coming in hot. At the windward mark Hugh Gill and Richard Street were first from the youth and Bronze fleet pairing of Jude Stanley and Oscar Hoult.

On the top reach Fergus and Jasper took the lead. It must be because of Jasper's tendency to turn his cap backwards when going downwind for aerodynamics. At the bottom mark they lead from Matt and Chris who had fought through the fleet to get into 2nd.

For the rest of the race Matt and Chris proceeded to hunt the Barnham's down and overtake them on the run to take the bullet. Hugh Gill and Richard Street took 3rd with Mark and Tom Platt finishing 4th.

Silver fleet was won by Hugh Devereux and Malcolm Bird in 19th place, followed by Tomasz Szakola and Adeel Khan and in third place Maurice Cleal and Jamie Isles.

In Bronze fleet Jude Stanley and Oscar Hoult were playing with the big boys and scored an impressive 8th place, with Fin and Nigel Waterhouse in second in 20th place. Darren Sleep and Charles Saunders were 24th and secured 3rd Bronze.

Race 5 sponsored by Impact Marine

The breeze dropped slightly for the last race of the day and the fleet was eager to get in from the rain for a beer. Everyone was itching to get out the right of the course which had been paying for the previous race.

Except for one wiley old sea dog, Irish Olympian Curly Morris and his crew Meg Tyrrell sailing in 14219 from Largs SC who came in from the left hand side of the course to take a commanding lead at the top mark.

Curly and Meg then held off Matt and Chris for the majority of the race, as Matt said "they didn't give us an inch" as it took a 45 degree wind shift to open up an opportunity for Matt and Chris to take the lead.

The race team did a great job in resetting the course for the final beat which was a very cagey and shifty affair with every team going the defensive with the wind now offshore. Although the less experienced members of the fleet were slightly confused over the exact meaning of the flags flown.

The race finished with Matt and Chris taking the win, Sam and Darren showing great speed to storm up into second with Ross and Ed sneaking past Curly and Meg to finish 3rd and 4th. It has been very close racing so far this week, with multiple names appearing in the top 5 showing how competitive the fleet is within the GP14 fleet. Currently Matt and Chris sit in 1st with the Barnham's 2nd with Ross and Ed in 3rd.

In Silver fleet Maurice Cleal and Jamie Isles, Welsh Harp SC and fellow club members; Tomasz Szakola & Adeel Khan seemed to be match racing at times in Race 5. Race 5 on the last beat five boats were in contention for 22nd place. While Tomasz overtook Darrell Sleep and Charles Saunders Staunton Harold SC, Micheal Cox and Rachael Stewart Newtonards SC, and Andy Wandsworth Brixham YC crewed by Cathy Howard Welsh Harp SC. Zena Martin and Leanne Pilkington Bolton SC held on to 22nd place just in front of the speedy blue boat of Tomasz and Adeel. She got a nice port side finish on the finish line with more wind on the port side of the finish line holding on to 22nd and getting third silver. Well done Zena and Tomasz for close racing.

Bronze fleet was won by Fina and Nigel Waterhouse in 20th place followed by Jude and Oscar in 21st and Darrell and Charles in third place.

Matt Mee gave a detailed speech about his race in trying to catch Curly and Meg and finally getting past them to take the gun. He then proposed a toast to Curly in which the whole club house took part.

Conditions in Races 4 & 5 were quite challenging at times and well done at the back of the fleet for completing all races. There were very few capsizes considering the amount of chop and the very variable wind speeds. Overall it was a great days racing.

The fleet then had a day off sailing on Wednesday to catch up with family and friends, mend cars, take to the water in other forms of craft- fishing boats, paddle boards, ferries to explore and recharge.

The report on the final two days of the Championship are to follow.

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