The first Irish GP14 event of the 2014 season was the Riocard O’ Tiarnaigh Challenge held at Swords Sailing Club on the 26th and 27th April. The event is unique in the GP14 calendar with the bronze, silver and gold fleets starting separately. Each fleet takes part in up to nine qualifying races spread over Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Following the Qualifying races, the top four boats from each fleet then compete against each other in the Finals, which consists of three races. With the scores from all previous racing now irrelevant, it would all be to play for.
A blustery first day greeted the 21 boats. Racing started a bit later than planned but Race Officer Peter Smyth managed to get 4 races in. The strong winds were unforgiving and there were several early season teething problems for some of the boats, with the number of starters in each consecutive race gradually reducing to 11 in the final race of the day. With a variety of courses laid out, racing was a challenge, particularly identifying the correct pipe buoy to be rounded. The blustery conditions were challenging with many boats across the fleets displaying the telltale mud stains on the mast tip and boom as a result of a capsize in the shallow water of the estuary.
Saturday ended with many early season aches and pains, bumps and bruises and the fleet looking forward to the forecasted lighter winds on Sunday.
On Sunday morning the early starters were greeted with almost identical conditions to Saturday, however, by the time racing started the wind had dropped enough to entice even the most reluctant competitors back onto the water.
The Race Officer and his team did a sterling job to fit in 4 races before lunch. Racing was enjoyable and speaking on behalf of the Silver fleet, there was good banter between the boats and every race was nip and tuck with three of the races being decided on the last tack. On one occasion a spinnaker pole was even held to ransom after being thrown overboard by Simon and Richard, it was eventually handed back half way down the reaching leg.
A quick lunch break ashore and the results were tallied up from the Qualifying racing. The 12 finalists were identified:
Gold Fleet Qualifying Positions
1st Shane MacCarthy / Damian Bracken (Greystones SC)
2nd Keith Louden / Alan Thompson (ISA)
3rd Patrick O’Conor / Colm O’Flaherty (Sligo SC)
4th Curly Morris / Laura McFarland (Newtownards SC)
Silver Fleet Qualifying Positions
1st Simon Cully / Richard Street (Blessington)
2nd Graeme Farrington / Rebecca Farrington (East Down YC)
3rd Dan Gallagher / Hugh Gill (MBC / LFYC)
4th Donal Brennan / Tommy Kiernan (Swords SBC)
Bronze Fleet Qualifying Positions
1st Katie Dwyer / Aoife Bourke (Sutton DC)
2nd Pat Savage / Declan O’Brien (Swords SBC)
3rd James Hockney / James Johnson (LFYC)
4th Simon Jeffery / Rebecca Jeffery (East Down YC)
The 12 finalists rigged up and headed out for the three Final races. Race Officer Peter Smyth set a windward/leeward course.
The first race kicked off with the Silver fleet sailors obviously having something to prove, Simon Cully & Richard Street in their brand new Duffin boat battled it out with Shane MacCarthy & Damian Bracken, but Shane and Damian got the upper hand and finished first, Simon & Richard came in second with Graeme & Rebecca Farrington managing to get third place.
The second race started with the gold fleet sailors now with something to prove and claimed the top three places. Shane MacCarthy & Damien Bracken asserting their dominance and finishing first with Paddy O’Conor & Colm O’Flaherty in second, closely followed by Curly Morris & Laura McFarland.
The final race was worth double points, so a good finish was critical. However, so too was a good start! A recall was signalled but most of the fleet sailed on regardless. For some of the competitors, the results of the third and final race were unknown until the results sheet came out. With 3 of the gold fleet boats being over at the start, the final finishing positions for the last race were Simon Cully & Richard Street finishing first, Shane MacCarthy & Damien Bracken coming in second and much to their surprise Graeme & Rebecca Farrington finishing third.
The overall winners of the Riocard O’ Tiarnaigh Challenge, and the Gold Fleet winners were Shane MacCarthy & Damian Bracken. Silver Fleet winners Simon Cully & Richard Street finished 2nd overall with fellow Silver Fleet sailors Graeme & Rebecca Farrington finishing 3rd overall. Bronze Fleet winners James Hockney & James Johnson finished 4th overall.
1st Shane MacCarthy / Damian Bracken (GOLD)
2nd Simon Cully / Richard Street (SILVER)
3rd Graeme Farrington / Rebecca Farrington (SILVER)
4th James Hockney / James Johnson (BRONZE)
5th Dan Gallagher / Hugh Gill (SILVER)
6th Paddy O’Conor / Colm O’Flaherty (GOLD)
7th Simon Jeffery / Rebecca Jeffery (BRONZE)
8th Curly Morris / Laura McFarland (GOLD)
9th Katie Dwyer / Aoife Bourke (BRONZE)
10th Keith Louden / Alan Thompson (GOLD)
11th Donal Brennan / Tommy Kiernan (SILVER)
12th Pat Savage / Declan O’Brien (BRONZE)