2017 GP14 Welsh Area Championships

This year’s GP14 Welsh Area Championship on 01 and 02 July ended up being a Nationals warm up with 10 out of the 19 boats entered in the Gold Fleet. Held over two days at Dovey YC with a sea training event the day before there was a nice holiday vibe as the sunshine greeted us Saturday morning and competitors tested out the local ice cream shops.

In what would be the first sea sailing of the year for some, and the first completed Championship event for others, we lined up on the beach waiting for the release flag like thoroughbred race horses chomping at the bit to be released from the paddock.

It took around 40 minutes to get out of the estuary in a steady F2/3 and over the famous boat breaking Dovey bar into the sailing area. The line was good and we all eagerly edged towards the front of our traps. It was Mike Senior and Chris White (South Staffs SC) that got away like Red Rum leaving the rest of us looking like donkeys trotting up Blackpool beach. 

The left-hand side of the beat seemed to pay more than the right and it was Mike and Chris that rounded windward first and they were away off into the distance. It was another South Staffs boat that finished second with Dave Young and Nic Booth the only ones to vaguely trouble Mike and Chris.

Race 2 was a clean start for all but Nick Devereux and Geoff Edwards (Budworth SC) who were OCS. With Mike and Chris well away again it was John Hayes and Joel James from Southport SC who lead the charge for second and with both boats sporting very pretty pink spinnakers it was only the grey hull of Raceys Rocket that identified Mike and Chris as the leaders again. That’s how the top two stayed to the end with Bolton Boys Gary Deighan and Dale Knowles having their best result of the weekend to take third.

The wind picked up to a good F4 at times for Race 3 Mike and Chris showed no signs of being one trick ponies by leading and winning once again. Having coming in on a run of good form, P&B’s Fergus Barnham and Andy Hunter (Snettisham/Nantwich SC) had been having an unusually low key event until Race 3, finishing second behind Mike and Chris. Overnight Mike and Chris lead Fergus and Andy in second with SP Boats’ Richard Instone and Steve Parker (Blithfield SC) third.

Coming back into shore it looked like Andy Hunter had a bit of energy to burn off as the fixed rudder floated off into the estuary and as Fergus was holding the boat Andy was left to swim off and recover the vital bit of kit. Team Gingerboats were also in need of a bit more exercise and as they trotted off for a quick 10k as the rest of us headed to the bar.

For the bleary eyed of us the strong sunshine was not a blessing on Sunday. Neither was the dropping wind as we gently bobbed out to sea. With some port bias on the line for Race 4 we had the inevitable round of general recalls before we got away. Picking the shifts and the right side of the beats was key to exploit what little wind there was. The best example of this was Richard and Steve going from tenth to second on one beat and even Richard flashing a rare on water smile after the finish. With Mike and Chris securing another win they won the championship with a race to spare.

Race 5 had one restart before the black flag was hoisted and there was no messing from the RO as he booted 7 out OCS including three out of the top four (Mike and Chris, Fergus and Andy, Richard and Steve). This left John and Joel in the ideal position to capitalise and take the race win and with it second overall from Fergus and Andy in third, Richard and Steve finishing fourth and Dave and Nic fifth. Silver fleet winners, and eight overall, were Ben and Sam Pickering (Chase SC) with Tim Davies and Mark Collingwood (Chelmarsh SC) winning the bronze fleet.

Thanks to Race Officer Rupert Tildesley and his team for excellent race management and all at Dovey YC for their hospitality.

You can see all the photos from the event on the GP14 Facebook page, thanks to Josh Cooper and Steve Hardman for the pics.

View the full results here.

Sea Training at Dovey YC – 30 June

Whenever I tell any of my fellow sailors about my fear of the sea they immediately tell me some sort of Dovey bar horror story. Paradoxically when I mention I’m doing Dovey this year they then always go on to say, “you won’t go over the bar, they always say you’re going out, but you won’t.” Imagine my delight then to turn up on a grey Friday for the sea training to be told we were going over the bar!

As we reached up the estuary the waves built as we tried to pick out the channel marks that we to guide us safely through. Six boats in all had decided they needed a little sea practice and with a wide variety of standards and the building wind it was going to be interesting.

Getting out there was actually quite fun. Then the wind built a little more and wind against tide started to create what I would call some monster waves but what the Dovey regulars would probably laugh off as a mere swell. It was enough for Tim and Mark who decided to head straight back taking us down to five boats.

As coach Lawrence tried to get us all lined up to do a gate start exercise Steve and Yossi went over. We zipped around for a bit longer and then decided we weren’t going to get anything out of training in survival mode and headed back in leaving four boats out. The journey back in we flew. Quite literally at times with the rescue crew noting that they could see the whole of the centre board out of the water on some waves. The big rollers weren’t too much of the problem but the smaller waves coming across at a completely different angle once you got to the bottom of a wave were challenging. I had very little to offer on picking out the channel marks coming in as I was being waterboarded by constant spray and unable to breathe let alone see.

For those left out the did manage to do one practice gates start before a gust took three out of the remaining boats over and as the last men standing upright John and Joel left them to it and came in.

Eventually back on shore there were some weary looking sailors with upwards of eight capsizes between the three of them. Maciej was a whiter shade of pale and one step away from hypothermia. As always with the GP14 fleet though there were smiles all round as we sat in the club eating soggy, salty sandwiches (we were instructed to take lunch out to sea with us) and we all survived a windy day going over the infamous Dovey bar.

Reports by Michelle Evans