Article by Peter Mackin

Bolton Sailing Club, near Belmont, recently played host to the GP14 Youth National Championships. The event, held over the weekend of the 3rd/4th November, attracted 19 competitors mainly from the Midland and Northern areas. This was a sight to see, especially from the perspective from some of the club’s older members, who remember the days when the GP14 (a 14 foot, general purpose dinghy for two people) was a dinghy that proved very popular at the Bolton club with a turnout of around 20 boats every Sunday. Now though there are rarely more than three of that class sailing on an average race day.

Bolton Sailing Club has a long history with the GP14. The club has won the 24 hour endurance team race, held at Southport Marine Lake, on numerous occasions. At the same venue the club also placed fifth in the national junior 12 hour endurance race this year. Plenty of talent has also emerged from the club into the class, namely in the form of the Platt brothers, winning trophies in the GP14 as well as many other classes. Coincidentally, Ian and Mark Platt were the men in charge of the proceedings for the weekend, both talented sailors and old boys of Bolton School; the event was in good hands.

Twelve of the sailors attending the event also took part in a week of intensive training prior to the event. The week, organised by the GP14 Class Association, took place over the half term holidays and provided participants with high quality coaching by two very experienced race coaches and GP14 sailors. The conditions proved to be extremely windy, giving sailors the opportunity to develop their handling of the boat in the challenging conditions.

On the first day of racing, sailors were greeted by mist and no wind whatsoever. Boats started arriving, masts started being raised and by 11:00 the wind had filled in. The three races on Saturday were conducted in moderate winds, which proved tactically challenging as the wind shifted during racing, giving boats opportunity to overtake. Day one ended with Sam Watson and Andy Hunter of Nantwich, (current defending champions) in first place, followed by Sam Blocksidge and Connie Hicklin of South Staffordshire. The two boats were tied on points, their ranking only decided by the result of the final race of that day.

Day two once again began with no wind but fortunately, by the start of the first race of the day the wind had once again filled in, this time slightly lighter than the previous day. Racing once again proved very tactical throughout, with plenty of shouting and hailing between boats; not quite everyone’s image of the sport! However at the end of the day it was Sam and Andy who prevailed over the rest of the fleet winning the event by a margin of just 3 points, showing just how tactical and close racing can be. In second were Sam and Connie and the first under 16 boat was sailed by Chris Winters and Julian Ford from Midlands Sailing Club.

Bolton Sailing Club fielded four boats into the event which finished 19th, 18th, 16th and 9th. Winners of the prize for the top home boat were Peter Mackin (similar to the Platt brothers, a pupil at Bolton School), and Alex Collins. This was a pleasing result for the club that had put on a good show and a great weekend’s racing was had by all.