|LOA||4.27 m (14 ft)|
|Draft||1,200 mm (47 in)|
|Hull weight||132.9 kg|
|Main & jib area||12.85 m2|
|Spinnaker area||8.4 m2|
|Infobox last updated: 2005|
The GP14 is a popular sailing dinghy, with over 14,000 built.
The class is active in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and parts of north-eastern USA, and the GP 14 can be used for both racing and cruising. The boat is relatively heavy, but stable, and the weight and the freeboard together with her lines combine to make her an excellent sea boat. She is also an ideal boat to learn to sail in.
The class is raced competitively, and offers excellent close racing; she is a very forgiving and easy boat to sail, but a very challenging and demanding and immensely rewarding boat to sail really well. At the highest level of competition the standard is world class, and it is not unusual to find reigning or past Olympic Champions entering the major GP14 Championships, and being defeated.
The GP14 was designed by Jack Holt in 1949. The idea behind the design was to build a General Purpose (GP) 14-foot dinghy which could be cruised, raced or rowed, capable of also being powered effectively by a small outboard motor, able to be towed behind a small family car and able to be launched and recovered reasonably easily, and stable enough to be able to lie to moorings or anchor when required.
The boat was initially designed with a main and small jib as a comfortable family dinghy. In a design philosophy that is both practical and highly redolent of social attitudes of the day the intention was that she should accommodate a family comprising parents plus two children, and specifically that the jib should be modest enough for "Mum" or older children to handle, while she should perform well enough to give "Dad" some excitement when not taking the family out. While this rig is still available, and can be useful when using the boat to teach sailing, or for family sailing, and has some popularity for cruising, the boat is more commonly seen with the full modern rig of a mainsail, genoa and spinnaker. Australian boats also routinely use trapezes.
It seems almost by accident, and yet it is a splendid testimony to her designer, that what was originally conceived on such a broad-based brief has also turned out to be an outstanding racing dinghy, offering close and rewarding competition at the very highest level.
In the early 1990s a new internal layout was introduced in the wooden boats (the "Series 2"), with built-in underfloor buoyancy. Also in the late eighties and early nineties underfloor buoyancy was introduced to the foam-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats, and the internal layout of these boats underwent several stages of modernisation.
This was further modified over the following years, led by boat builders Alistair Duffin, who builds in wood, and Holt Allen (later Speed Sails Ltd and now Winder Boats), who manufacture in GRP (glass-reinforced plastic) and FRP. As of the 2011 RYA Dinghy Show a new builder in FRP, Boon Boats, has entered the market with a significantly different interior layout, developed in agreement with the Class Association. The majority of wooden boats in recent years have been built by Alistair Duffin, another highly respected past wooden boat builder of the class, Tim Harper, is actively considering returning to building them. New to the fleet of wooden builders is Gingerboats. A few boats are still amateur built, and one amateur-built boat won the National Championship in both 2002 and 2005 (and is still regularly winning in top flight competition), while another amateur-built boat came second in the 2006 World Championship. Racing honours are evenly divided between the wooden and the plastic boats. New boats are currently available in wood, GRP and FRP.
All the features of the boat which can affect sailing performance are strictly one-design and are tightly controlled as such; underwater hull shape and dimensions, rig, sailplan and maximum sail dimensions (although smaller sails are always permitted), and minimum sailing weight. Thus an older boat should not be outclassed just because of her age, and there have been two examples (in 1959 and 1970) of seriously old boats winning the National Championships. Interior design has evolved over the lifetime of the class, now in excess of 60 years, and there are now a number of options in interior design and fittings.
People often wonder why the class symbol is a bell. One suspects that it relates (strictly unofficially) to the original manufacturer, Bell Woodworking. However this was not politically acceptable, since it was seen as advertising, and in the inaugural meeting of what was to become the Class Association there was much discussion as to whether the new class should be called the Bell Class or the GP14 Class; the vote was close, but in the end the name GP14 was chosen. However what may have been an inspired compromise was found for the insignia; the first boat of the class was launched in Aberdyfi, Wales, and the class was taken up by the local club, then the Dovey Sailing Club (now Dovey Yacht Club), so the official explanation was (and still is) that it is a reference to the legendary bells of Aberdovey, Cantre'r Gwaelod, and it is just coincidence that the early boats happened to be built by Bell Woodworking.
The boat's designer, Jack Holt, had a long association with Bell Woodworking of Leicester, because they built and sold kits for many of his other designs, such as the Cadet Dinghy, Heron Dinghy, Solo Dinghy, Mirror Dinghy, Miracle Dinghy, and Mirador cruising yacht, while they also produced the Pegasus dinghy (designed by Uffa Fox) and the Osprey Dinghy and the Bell Seagull and Seamew cruisers (designed by Ian Proctor) and several other designs.
Of the three most recent GP14 World Championships, those held at Sligo Yacht Club, Ireland, in July/August 2006, and at Abersoch, UK in August 2008, each attracted entries of over 110 boats, while that in Sri Lanka (February 2011) attracted 38 boats from UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Scandinavia (I think), and Sri Lanka. Although numbers were lower in Sri Lanka they are still highly creditable, given that a very high proportion of the competitors had to travel half way round the world in order to get there and also ship their boats out there.
Each year the UK has a National Championship and a number of regional Championships, plus an Inland Championship and a Youth Championship, plus a considerable number of Open Meetings, and a Grand Prix awarded on the basis of points gained in a specified number of qualifying events from this list. There are also a number of clubs with thriving GP14 racing fleets, and the Class Association offers advanced race coaching to club members, plus an annual intensive week's Youth Racing Course immediately prior to the Youth Championship; a significant number of graduates from this youth course later go on to win major Championships as young adults.
Other countries, very notably including Ireland (almost the second home of the class), likewise have a well-developed pattern of racing covering the spectrum from club racing right up to world class competition.
A number of owners cruise the boats, in some cases as well as racing them and in other cases in preference to racing, and cruises have ranged from the gentlest day sailing to such ambitious undertakings as crossings of the English Channel and the Irish Sea, and a circumnavigation of the Isle of Mull. Indeed in 1959 one intrepid owner sailed single-handed from Southend to Calais, and followed this in 1962 with a trip from Dover to Ostend. In the very early days of the class, when people used to a more traditional type of dinghy dubbed this new creation the "floating coffin", Roger Seal conclusively demonstrated her seaworthiness by sailing from Cardiff to New Quay, Wales, via St. David's Head.
Very occasional cruising owners camp aboard, although it has to be admitted that space for this is more than a little restricted.
Most serious cruising boats, even if only day-cruising, set dedicated cruising sails; these are constructed differently from racing sails and from heavier but more supple cloth, and are nearly always equipped with a means of reefing. The original design, with the small jib, provided for square gooseneck roller reefing for the main; modern boats usually prefer slab/jiffy reefing for the main, and some set fully reefable genoas by means of a headsail reefing drum and associated equipment (including a reefing spar).
An active Class Association supports both racing and cruising activities.
A creditable number of the very earliest boats of the class are still in existence, several of them still sailing, and others under restoration. The Class Association are very proud of this part of their history, and are now deliberately fostering interest in the vintage boats, both through specific events for them and publicising news of them. As of the date of editing (March 2011), of those boats with sail numbers less than 100 (all dating from 1951 or earlier) this Editor knows the whereabouts of no less than 19 of them, and 6 of those have sail numbers less than 10. Of those nineteen boats with sail numbers less than 100, at least eight are currently sailing, at least four of them having had restorations of varying degrees; at least one (no. 2, no less) is still sailing and is understood to be in completely unrestored original condition. No less than four (nos. 2, 7, 28 and 64) were sailing in company at the inaugural Aberdovey Vintage and Cruising Weekend in July 2010, and it is hoped to double that number for the 2011 event. Sadly no. 10 is understood to have been lost in a workshop fire.
- "Centerboard Classes". US Sailing. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- "Portsmouth Number List 2012". Royal Yachting Association. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- 50 Years On The Water, GP14 Class Association, pp. 89-92
- 50 Years On The Water, GP14 Class Association, pp. 8, 12, 123
- 50 Years On The Water, GP14 Class Association, p. 107
- Mainsail, GP14 Class Association, issue for Spring 2011, p.37
- Mainsail, GP14 Class Association, issue for Summer 2007, p.35
- Mainsail, GP14 Class Association, issues for Spring 2006, pp. 45-6, and Summer 2006, pp.34-7
- Mainsail, GP14 Class Association, issues for Spring 2010, pp.39 and 44-5, Winter 2010, p.44, and Spring 2011
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