GP14 Sailing Forums Forum Is the GP14 Class in decline

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    • #24784

      It seem to me that less and less people are sailing GP14″s  There was a fleet at Bartley Green sailing club Now I hardly see a boat on the water. It seems to me that this trend is replicated throughout the sailing clubs in the Midlands. It is also very sad to see GP’s on the boat park falling in to disrepair. I would ask three questions . 1 Why is the class in decline. 2 How to rejuvenate it. 3 Change the design( its way too heavy )and make it easy to sail single handed. pre moat single handed sailing. I would value any feed back.

    • #24785
      Oliver Shaw

      I share your concern,  but the picture is not quite as black as you paint.

      Almost all dinghy classes are in decline,  for a variety of reasons,  some of them actually very desirable.  Sixty or seventy years ago,  if one wanted to own a new (or reasonably new) boat the only option for most people was either simply a rowing boat or a canoe or a sailing dinghy.   Yachts and large powerboats were prohibitively expensive,  and such vessels as windsurfers,  kitesurfers,  foiling craft,  RIBs,  jetskis,  and small but fast powerboats had yet to be invented (with the exception in the latter case of racing hydroplanes).   The sailing dinghy was the affordable option.

      And GRP had yet to become available to the normal retail market.

      Today one can buy a very serviceable elderly yacht for less than the purchase price of a good dinghy (alright,  she will cost more to run,  but the initial outlay can be very modest indeed).   And many people,  despite the immediate cost of living crisis,  have far more disposable income than they had in my youth.   So those who want to get afloat have vastly more choice than they had in my youth.   All that is highly desirable.

      A further factor is that dinghy sailing has greatly declined all round the coast,  but that alongside that decline I also see far more yachts,  and powerboats,  and recreational fishing boats,  and jetskis,  and windsurfers,  than I used to see even just fifty years ago.   That represents greater affluence,  and greater choice,  all of which is again desirable.   I have the impression that inland clubs are holding on very much better than coastal clubs,  perhaps because their waters are less attractive to owners of these other types of vessel.

      Another factor is that many people are “cash rich but time poor”,  and want to be able to get into a boat that they think they can “drive” as though it was a car,  rather than wanting to invest the time into learning the necessary skills for sailing.   That is not desirable,  but (for some people) it is a fact of life.

      My understanding is that the GP14 class is actually holding on far better than many of our competitors,  but I recognise that we nonetheless do have a problem.

      That is enough for one reply;   I will address your specific suggestions separately.



    • #24787
      Oliver Shaw

      Now to your specific proposals:

      “Change the design” equates to “make it something other than a GP14”.    Fine,  if you want to sail a different boat;   there are many there to choose from,  but it won’t then be a GP14.

      its way too heavy”.   With respect,  I disagree,  strongly.   One of the reasons the boat is such a good sea boat is that,  as well as having good lines,  she is heavy enough to carry her way through waves,  and (within reason) to stand up to her canvas.   (And,  yes,  I know you can reef if necessary;   I wrote the definitive paper on the topic!)    Many years ago our Hon. Secretary told me of the occasion when he had met Jack Holt at a Boat Show,  and asked him what he had done in designing the GP14 to make her such a superb sea boat.  He got a one word answer;   “Displacement”.   That is a very fair assessment.

      It is important to realise that the GP14 was intended from outset to be a genuinely general purpose boat,  equally suitable for cruising,  pottering,  fishing,  and for rowing or using under outboard.  Interestingly,  racing was never part of the initial design brief,  although the boat quickly showed her potential for racing,  and became immensely popular for that activity,  at the very highest level.   We are justly proud of having ex-Olympians amongst our owners (one of whom,  a personal friend,  is now exclusively a serious dinghy cruiser …),  and we have very occasionally had current Olympians;   but the Class has never lost sight of the fact that probably the majority of GP14 owners use our boats for purposes other than racing.

      Alright,  some elderly and overweight GP14s are indeed too heavy,  but one that is at or near the minimum specified weight is not.


      “make it easy to sail single handed”   It already is.   In the last twenty-plus years the majority of my sailing has been single-handed,  and if I can still manage one single-handed at age 80  –  and I can and do  –  I don’t see what problem you are referring to.   What would you wish to change?   You could of course get rid of the spinnaker,  but for many people that is one of the great attractions of the class,  and you personally have no need to use one if you don’t want to.   (And in lighter winds even in my seventies I used to regularly fly my spinnaker even when single-handed.)

      You could replace the symmetrical spinnaker with an asymmetric one;    but the boat would then be nothing like so good downwind,  and much less technical (and thus less interesting and exciting) for keen racers to sail.   Oh,  and it would take her out of class.

      Or you could use a smaller headsail than the genoa.   Try the standard jib,  which is still a part of the official rig.   Or,  my own preferred solution,  fit out your boat with a modern sophisticated reefing system.

      Or you could sail without a headsail at all.   Nothing to stop you doing so,  although the boat won’t sail particularly well,  especially to windward.

      Or you could completely re-rig the boat;  but then she would no longer be a GP14.

      That apart,  what else would you wish to change?



    • #24788
      Oliver Shaw

      Finally,  “2 How to rejuvenate it.”

      Your Committee has been very active over the entire lifetime of the Class  –  and particularly over the last twenty years  –  in progressive development (i.e. rejuvenation) of the boat,  while also being careful to maintain a level playing field for the racers.

      Thus in regard to the hull we have seen the introduction of GRP boats (in 1969),  followed by FRP boats,  underfloor buoyancy,  the Series 2 hull (in all its successive developmental stages),  epoxy boats,  several changes to reserve buoyancy arrangements to reduce the risk of inversion,  several changes to cockpit design and deck layout (e.g. spinnaker holes,  curved fore end of the cockpit,  curvature of the thwart,  profile of the stern deck,  etc.,  etc.)   This has culminated in the current new developments of the latest composite boats,  and the all-new “All-rounder”,  as well as the continued and well-deserved popularity of the wooden boats  –  which themselves have included some of the above recent developments.

      In regard to the rig and the sailplan we have again seen progressive development over almost the entire lifetime of the Class.   Developments over the lifetime of the class have included introduction of spinnakers (which was hugely controversial at first),  synthetic sails,  genoas,  increased roach to the mainsail,  metal spars,  massively increased rig tension,  very powerful kickers,  bendy spars,  and laminate sails.

      If you have specific suggestions for further development please offer them to the Committee.



    • #24789

      Hi Oliver I believe that all you have said is true, but do you agree that less people are sailing Gp”s ? If so  something different may be required. I think  a big problem for Gp sailors is getting a crew. If sail plan an controls could be made easier for single handed sailing, and racing and open meetings accommodate single hand sailing it may make a difference

    • #24790
      Oliver Shaw

      >   I think  a big problem for Gp sailors is getting a crew. 

      You are probably right there,  and I say that not only because that mirrors my own experience.   I have the impression that after the Covid pandemic the single-handed classes recovered much better than the two-handed classes,  and it has been suggested that this may be partly due to people’s fear of picking up infection from their partner in the boat.

      But sailing is fundamentally an open-air activity,  for goodness sake!  …   …


      >  If sail plan an controls could be made easier for single handed sailing   …   …   it may make a difference

      I don’t think there is anything fundamental in the sail plan and controls that mitigates against single-handed sailing,  except issues in connection with setting the spinnaker.

      Main and headsail are perfectly manageable single-handed,  although you will of course have less weight than when fully crewed,  so you may need to fit a decent reefing system,  and reef earlier than you would when fully crewed.   But that can still be wholly within the class rules.

      Incidentally early in the life of the Association there is  a Minute to the effect that no Measurer shall pass deliberately under-sized sails,  and a clear statement that this is to prevent the use of under-sized sails instead of reefing.  So very clearly at that stage in the development of the Class one was specifically expected to reef when necessary,  even when racing!

      There are several ways of handling the genoa sheets when single-handing.   Some owners like continuous sheets,  or tie the two ends of conventional sheets together,  so that the working sheet is always accessible from the weather side of the boat.   This is particularly important after a tack or a gybe,  when you do not want to find that the new working sheet is down in the lee bilge when you need to be sitting out.

      Personally I don’t like continuous sheets,  but I do prepare my tacks (and gybes)  by throwing the sheet that is shortly to become the working one across the boat in advance of the turn;  so it is immediately to hand when needed.

      Setting the spinnaker when single-handed is  –  for me  –  something I am prepared to do only in light winds,  because I don’t want to end up out of control and ending up with a capsize.   But that is the caution born of age and experience.

      Incidentally the physical process of setting and handing the spinnaker when single-handed is greatly helped by using a tiller brake,  so that while you are dealing with the sail the tiller can be mechanically held in position.  A simple length of shockcord stretched taut across the boat,  and then looped over the tiller when required,  is sufficient on my boat.


      If  …   …racing and open meetings accommodate single hand sailing it may make a difference

      I fully agree that there may be some mileage in that.   So far as I am aware there is no reason within either Class Rules or Racing Rules why some specifically single-handed races cannot be programmed,  either as part of other open meetings or as separate events in their own right.    I am not sure what the issues would be in terms of the Rules if one wished enter single-handed in a race intended for fully-crewed boats,  but I think it unlikely that one would wish to do so;   I would expect that in anything other than ghosting conditions a single-hander would be at something of a competitive disadvantage against fully-crewed boats.

      But specific single-handed races are an excellent idea.

      My own club is no longer a dinghy racing club,  or even a dinghy club;   we now do other things.   But that is how we started life,  and in the early days we had a number of single-handed races and even single-handed trophies,  specifically for single-handing in boats that were designed as two-man boats.



    • #24972

      I do not race, to be honest, even if I wanted to, there is no longer GP14 class here in the States. With that out of the way, I single hand my little boat all the time, as such, I actually add two large containers of water, strapped to the thwart, to add weight.

    • #25807
      Chris Hearn

      @KennyJack “It seem to me that less and less people are sailing GP14″s ”
      Nationally maybe so, as Oliver has covered in his comments. But it’s not all doom and gloom!

      At my own club (Budworth S.C in Northwest England) we have 34 boats in the park, and a good fleet sailing on the lake, with many newer sailors sailing our “club” GP’s. In addition we have several youth sailors racing successfully in GP14.

      Last weekend (end of June) our youths won the Southport Junior 12 Hour endurance race, so no lack of enthusiam there. Alo four GP’s entered the Lord Birkett event on Ullswater.

      Budworth is only 100 acres, so we focus on racing and fleet racing as well as handicap racing. We do allow GP14 to race single-handed, but I agree that regular crews are in short supply.

      We are blessed with several enthusiastic experienced members who give their time to encourage less experienced members. We have found that training for new members (both Adult and Junior courses) is essential to keep them – not just RYA Levels 1 & 2, but supporting them outside of that – For example we have a good group of “Better Sailors” in all classes who sail on Saturday mornings with experienced members giving chats and on-the-water advice, and this gives them the confidence to start racing.



      • This reply was modified 11 months ago by Chris Hearn.
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