A great weekend event was hosted by East Down Yacht Club (EDYC) ahead of the upcoming GP14 World Championships on Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. Olympian sailor Matt McGovern was on hand to share his knowledge and experience. A total of fourteen GP14’s took advantage of the prospect of some early gate start practice but were initially uncertain if they would actually get on the water due to poor weather i.e. no wind and that drizzle rain “The sort that really soaks you”. The correct call was made at 3pm to “go for it” with wind speed increasing for most of the afternoon. The fleet of 14 sailed out from the club and after a slow multi tack course out of the Dorn reached the practice area some 30 minutes later! 

The first gate start was a gentle affair with everyone picking their spot and crossing behind the gate launch without issue. However as the confidence of the fleet grew along with the wind speed and clearing cloud providing welcome sunshine, more aggressive starts took place with individual crews picking their favoured spot. About 10 starts were made giving great practical experience to all involved including the gate launch and the guard boat teams who on this occasion did not have to “plough” through any wayward GP14s, much to the dismay of the guard boat crew! After a wing mark was laid and a few more starts were completed the fleet returned to EDYC for debriefing, with Matt McGovern again giving some expert advice and tips whilst reviewing video footage of the day’s events. 

The evening finished with a superb BBQ that consisted of a more than healthy portion of burgers, sausages and chicken accompanied by lashings of salad, garlic potatoes and various delicious side dishes all supplied by the hard working catering members of EDYC. 

Day two (Sunday): This was a complete contrast to the previous day with wind blowing at a steady 22 knots and gusting well beyond. Some of the previous days crews made the decision not to set sail however a respectable 10 boats made up the fleet and prepared to battle what could only be described as a very disturbed sea within the lough. 

Leaving the relative calm of the sheltered north side of the Dorn (even this managed to capsize one boat and its crew on the way out) where the fleet had mustered, the fleet where escorted under the watchful eye of the EDYC safety boats and crew to the designated competition area. 

Out on the open Lough the fleet met the full force of the day’s weather conditions and a further series of gate start races began. This was in total contrast to the gentlemanly starts of the previous day with the conditions forcing the fleet to hold a line much further back from the gate & guard boats compared to Saturday’s starts. The testing conditions claimed several crews, with capsizes not uncommon. However no crews unfortunate enough to experience the clean water of Strangford Lough required actual physical assistance from the safety boats on hand despite the testing conditions - a tribute to the skill and experience of those making up the fleet. 

Listening to the crews on return to shore whilst enjoying further hospitality from EDYC in the form of soup, rolls and more burgers (thanks again to the catering members of EDYC) it was obvious that those who made up the fleet on both Saturday & Sunday experienced what Strangford Lough had to offer, both on a calm day and also at the limits of sailing conditions for the class. Sunday proved to be another great days sailing and much appreciated experience was gained by both competitors and EDYC gate start teams. It would be an accurate conclusion to state that of all of those who attended this event no-one left disappointed. 

Its only right and fitting that a big thank you goes to all who either participated or assisted in a very successful and enjoyable weekends sailing.

Special thanks to those who helped organise the event including both on- the-water and shore side staff along with EDYC for hosting. More pictures, videos and information about this event and the GP14 World championships can be found on Facebook at GP14World. Feel free to check it out

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