Strangford Lough plays host to GP14 National Championship

GP14s Irish National Championships

NEWTOWNARDS Sailing Club (NSC) hosted the 2024 GP14 Championship of Ireland last weekend.

The three day event had eight races across a variety of conditions which tested the 45-boat fleet, with racing co-ordinated by Sheela Lewis and Michael Tyrrell.

Three races were sailed on Friday in strong conditions with winds up to 28 mph. Sam Watson and David Johnston (SDC) won the first and third race with locals Ross Kearney and Daniel Nelson (RNIYC/NSC) winning the second.

Saturday saw the fleet stay ashore with no wind until late afternoon, then two races were sailed in shifty light conditions. Ross and Daniel won the first race with Ger Owens and Mel Morris (WSC/EABC) taking the honours in the second race.

Going into the last day of racing, Ross and Daniel led from Chris and Olin Bateman (Monkstown Bay SC) with Sam Street and Josh Lloyd (Blessington) in third and up to nine boats in with a chance of a podium spot.

Sean Craig and Stephen Boyle (RStGYC/SDC) and Chris and Olin took the first two races of the day. By the time of the last race, three boats still had a chance of taking the title, but with the weather playing tricks and multiple recalls during the day, getting the third race in was never guaranteed but made all the difference to the final score.

After a wait and then an abandoned race, the third race was led by Adam and Emily Torrens from NSC before Ross and Daniel took them on the third leg making sure of overall victory with a commanding win. Chris and Olin’s consistency across the eight races, with nothing lower than a seventh-place finish all weekend, saw them take runner-up spot. A strong finish from Sam and David saw them just pip Sean and Stephen for the final podium spot.

With seven Youth (U22) crews in the field, the GP14 Ireland focus on encouraging youth involvement is paying dividends. Despite having a joint lead at the end of the first day with Englishman Sam Watson, Sam Street and Josh Lloyd from Blessington had to settle for sixth and the Youth U22 Championship trophy. Ironically, Sam Watson was one of their coaches at the annual GP 14 youth training week in Wales.

A top-10 finish and the Silver fleet title went to David Evans and William Draper (Sligo) who again showed their promise. They also took the Junior U19 Championship trophy. This pair are definitely ones to watch.

Another up and coming pair are Adam and Emily Torrens (Newtownards Sailing Club) who were battling with Irish Olympic Sailor Ger Owen but held second place in the last race, winning  Bronze fleet and with it the inaugural Newtownards Perpetual Wheel trophy.

Competitors were impressed with the hospitality and facilities laid on at Newtownards Sailing Club. Club Commodore John Bourne would like to thank the team of volunteers for their help in organising the GP14 premiere event of the year and thanks also go to sponsors Echlinville Distillery and Bosun Bobs, along with donations from Universal Foods, Canton Chinese, Lynn’s Chip shop, Paddy Windsurfing and Lana Ritchie.

This was the last event before the GP14 World Championship taking place this year in Wales, where there will be a strong contingent from Ireland taking part.