2017 GP14 National Championship – Days 3, 4 & 5

Day 3 and after the day that will gone down in the GP14 folk lore as ‘Black Flag Monday’ we were thankfully back to gate starts for Tuesday and races 4 and 5. Although there was probably one pairing who would have preferred line starts after the Bolton ‘Bumper Car’ Boys Gary Deighan and Dale Knolwes were too high on the pathfinder and appeared not to notice until it was upon them. They then hit the guard boat, forcing Dave Young and Nic Booth (South Staffs) between the guard and the gate boat. Later rewarded with the daily Naff Award for now they were rewarded with a DSQ and out.

With some really nice reaches as the wind started to pick up, downwind was where there were huge gains or losses to be made. First round windward were Sam Mettam and Darren Roach (Papercourt) followed by Mike Senior and Chris White (South Staffs). Sam and Darren couldn’t hold Mike and Chris for long and were passed at the top half of the reach with Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe (Burwain) next past and Gingerboats Andy Smith and Phil Hodgkins taking third and the new pairing of Sam Watson and Ben Swainson (Nantwich/Southport) finishing in fourth.

With the wind picking up for Race 5, a few sailed home with gear failure, one of which being the Silver Fleet leaders Richard Burton and Ollie Goodhead (Stokes Bay/South Staffs) who had popped the mast foot through the hull the day before with too much rig tension and were concerned about breaking their quick patch up job.

Pathfinder for Race 5 were the consistent Keith Louden and Alan Thompson (Lough Foyle). First round windward were Mike and Chris closely followed by the pathfinders. With John Hayes and Joel James (Southport) attempting to come in on port as Ian and Andy were steaming in on starboard there was a lot of shouting and John hit the mark to avoid them. By the end of the first triangle Mike and Chris had pulled out a 15 boat length lead on Ian and Andy, now in second, but they were reeling them in towards the end finishing a couple behind and Mike and Chris who took their second win of the day to put them as overnight leaders. Peter Gray and Rich Pepperdine (Staunton Harold) had a good race with their second fifth of the day and Andrew Clewer and Sarah Collingwood (Poole) who lost a protest on Monday, and with it an eighth, but made up for it by sticking in a sixth.

Coming in it started to absolutely chuck it down on a day that was to become ‘Protest Tuesday’ the changing course of the guard boat led to redress for Dave Young and Nic Booth (South Staffs SC) in R4 and Hugh Devereux and Malcolm Bird (Budworth SC) were DSQ in the same race for hitting the guard boat.

Thanks to Day 3 race sponsors Exe Sails and post-race cider sponsors Cornish Orchards.

Day 4

As we entered the penultimate day the fallout from Black Flag Monday and Protest Tuesday was still the talk of the boat park with many seeking and getting redress on the line starts as the pin boat was not anchored. Looking out to sea it didn’t look too promising wind wise but at least it was lovely and sunny.

Pathfinders John Hayes and Joel James lead us off for Race 6 in a gentle F3. Not having had enough of being black flagged on the line starts on Monday, Richard Instone and Steve Parker (Chase) and Nick Devereux and Geoff Edwards (Budworth) went through the line too early and were OCS.

The pathfinders were first round windward with the Silver Fleet duo of Bill and James Johnson (Lough Foyle) second round. Mike and Chris rounded in fifth and with Ian and Andy well down in the 20’s it looked like the ideal opportunity for Mike and Chris to capitalise and increase their lead at the top. Special mention to Steve Parry and Phil Green (York) as the Bronze Fleet yellow boat rounded seventh!

The breeze picked up at times and wind direction shifted. Mike and Chris left it until the end of the last reach to take Fergus Barnham and Andy Hunter (Snettisham/Nantwich) to take second with Ian and Andy having worked their way through the fleet well to finish sixth.

Michael Cox and Rebecca Jeffrey (Newtonards) were pathfinders for Race 7 but it was Sam Watson and Ben Swainson who were first round windward followed by Ian and Andy, Neal Gibson and Geoff Phillips (Redoubt) were third round.

The irrepressible Richard Ham and Szymon Matyjaszczu (Tollesbury/Welsh Harp) were well up there again in the top fifteen but managed to capsize on the run. In what was an eventful incident at the gybe mark Fergus and Andy tried for a gap that wasn’t quite there, got locked together with Hugh Devereux and Malcolm Bird with the latter then capsizing on Fergus and Andy and ending their race.

Day 4 post race beer sponsors were Gingerboats and the race sponsors were Impact Marine. Speaking after the racing, Michelle Tunnicliffe commenting: “We decided to sponsor the Nationals as it is such a thriving class, both on and off the water. It great to see the level of talent that is coming through the fleet at the moment, and it has been a great event so far.” The tally raffle for a brand-new Impact Marine genoa was won by the luckiest boy in the fleet, Sam Watson!

Day 5

The final day of racing and it was set to be tense with Mike/Chris and Ian/Andy within a point of each other and both gunning for the win. The weather was a little gloomy with probably the biggest waves we have had all week at just over a meter and wind of around F4/5.

As we lined up for the gate start for Race 8 the battle for the top had already begun with Mike stalking Ian like a cat after a mouse, inches apart and waiting to pounce. Unfortunately for Mike he got a little too close and did a set of turns before they had even begun.

After a week of controversy on the starts it seemed like the fleet had finally got one away clean as pathfinder Rich Bennett and Sarah Davies (South Staffs) led us out and we all worked our way up the beat. As the first kites hoisted it looked like Pete Gray and Rich Pepperdine (Staunton Harold) that were having the good day as their fluorescent yellow spinny shot out in front followed by the pack of Ian/Andy, Shane/Andy and Mike/Chris. For the rest of us we all seemed to arrive at the windward mark together with plenty of shouting going on. In our boat my broken helm had seized up and we had some very interesting crash tacks that seemed to loosen his dodgy hip right up!

The first reach was amazing fun with huge gains to be made if you had the right wave surfing technique. As we neared the end of the triangle and the leaders rounded onto the beat the match racing between the leaders continued. The beats were a hard slog and although the waves were enough to challenge the helms steering and the crews’ legs. The runs were also quite a challenging balancing act for the crews.

By Race 9 the week had started to take its toll on boats and people with 11 not starting or finishing the races. As we set off for the last Championship race it was Rich and Pete who were once again flying and first round windward with a determined looking Ian and Andy second, pathfinders Gary and Dale in fourth and Mike and Chris in sixth.

There was no stopping Ian and Andy who worked their way up into first and pulled out a big gap on second by the last reach taking the Championship by a point. Mike and Chris worked their way up to third but it was too little too late for the pair who were so close to winning the event. Gary and Dale kept fourth for their best finish of the week and Keith and Alan also managed a PB and a fifth.

The post-race beer sponsors for the day were SP Boats / Elite Sails with Zhik sponsoring the overall prizes. Race sponsor was Dinghy Rope. “We are very excited to be supporting the GP14 national championships,” commented Andrew Dowley from Dinghy Rope. “The entry of 64 boats for a nationals is very healthy and Looe is a fantastic venue.”

At the end of the week you couldn’t really have asked for better conditions, other than a little more sun. The wind averaged F4 over the week, there were waves but not as big as 2012 and we had a very competitive battle for the win. Consistency and staying out of trouble was key to a good final standing. Rounding out the top six was the P&B boat of Fergus Barnham and Andy Hunter in third who looked capable of being future champions, fourth were Shane McCarthy and Andy Thopmson who had a fairly quiet week but just kept grinding away to work themselves up to a decent finish. Fifth were Staunton Harold’s Pete Gray and Rich Pepperdine and in their first time sailing together and in a borrowed boat Sam Watson and Ben Swainson finished sixth.

First female crew was Sarah Collingwood (Poole) in seventh with Andy Clewer on the helm. The local lads of Rob Libby and Brian Bowdler (Looe) had a cracking event, winning the Silver Fleet and finishing in the top twenty. Mike Calvert and Sam Clarke (Winsford Flash) won the Bronze Fleet and Melanie Brown, crewed by sister Nicola, was first female helm.

Thanks to Looe Sailing Club who put on a truly memorable event and Super 8 Series sponsors Craftinsure. Entry for the GP14 2018 World Championships opened on day 3 of the Nationals and has already sold over 50 places, more information can be found on the Class website: https://gp14.org/shop/gp14-world-championship-2018/

Full results and links to video clips can be found on the event coverage page.

Report by Michelle Evans