Champions Cup Report
Sutton Dinghy Club
8th October 2022
Report: Andy Johnston

The 2022 Champions Cup took place at Sutton Dinghy Club at the weekend. The 75th anniversary of Irish Sailings most prestigious and longest running events. Much has been written and spoken of what was formerly the Helmsman’s Championship in the last few weeks but for the GP14 Class in Ireland it was an honor to be asked to run the event in our boats in conjunction with Sutton Dinghy Club. The Club itself has a strong connection to the event and with a strong GP14 fleet the pressure was on to ensure a great event. The GP14 representative was our National Champion Shane MacCarthy with Ger Owens also selected as the holder of the event. With a superb season of top finishes in both the GP14 Worlds and the GP14 National Championship, Jane Kearney received a Female wildcard entry.

Former Class President Stephen Boyle organized a very strong fleet of 10 borrowed GP14’s and with help and support of Andy Davis in HD Sails the fleet were all dressed in brand new Genoas for the event. With 16 helms selected, 2 flights of 8 were prepared with 2 spare boats available in the event of gear failure of damage. The boats were gathered in Sutton the week prior to the event and duly rigged, checked and fitted out with new sails ready for practice on Friday. However the wind gods looked to intervene and with winds gusting up to 27 kts all day practice was canceled. The broader forecast also started to cast doubt on ability to run the event over the 2 scheduled days. While Saturday was set fair for a south south west 12 to 15 kts, Sunday looked decidedly dodgy with all the forecasts showing 20kts gusting up to 30 kts right through to early afternoon. With tide a key consideration in Sutton, the PRO for the event Michael Conway and his team of Jim Lambkin, Stephen Boyle and Emmet Dalton gathered on Friday afternoon with a view to figuring out how to ensure an event could be garnered from possibly a single days racing. By early Friday evening and after liaising with Met Eireann the call was made to focus on completing the event on Saturday. Despite ditching the repechage element, the race management team still set themselves the goal of getting up to 10 races completed. This would include slick launch and recovery as well as quick turnaround of races and boat exchanges between flights. No easy feat considering the tidal window. But with support from Jim Lambkin, Scorie Walls and Gordan Kelly Michael was confident of getting the event concluded.

Saturday dawned, and following an early registration and briefing, the boat draw for Flight 1 & Flight 2 were made. Flight 1 included former GP14 World Champion Shane MacCarthy, Barry McCartin (Fireballs), former Champion Michael O’Connor (SB20), Darragh Sheridan (RS Aero), former Champion and Olympian Peter Kennedy (Flying Fifteen), Olympic campaigner Aoife Hopkins (ILCA6), Jocelyn Hill (RS200) and Rob Espey (RS400). Flight 2 comprised of holder and 3 time Olympic Campaigner Ger Owens, Cameron Good (Dragons), Jane Kearney (GP14), David Dickson (Shannon One Design),
John O’Driscoll (Water Wag), Ian Travers (Squibs), Tadhg O’Loingsigh (J24) and Niamh Henry (Team Racing). Flight 1 certainly looked tough draw considering the presence of former Champions, Olympians and World Championship podium placers. The 3 races were completed in Flight 1 with very close and tight racing with no obvious boat bias. With an average race times of 30min, the PRO team were confident of getting through the schedule which would hopefully see 4 races in the final. An OCS was not the start that Shane MacCarthy was looking for in Race 1 but he recovered with a 1st and 2nd
to give himself a chance to make the final. With no discard his progression would be down to results throughout the Flight. Darragh Sheridan with Dan Gill crewing posted 3 consistent results to lead the flight after 3 races. However a couple of incidents that saw on the water penalties applied saw Barry McCartin and Rob Espey seal the top 3 spots with Shane MacCarthy taking 4 th just squeezing out Peter Kennedy. Flight 2 again saw tight starts and close and even racing through the fleet. The wind had started to drop a little and Ger Owens began to show his boat handling and experience and took 3 bullets to take him easily through to the final. Behind him the battle for the final 3 final slots was fierce with Niamh Henry using her boat handling and team racing skills to work her way into 2 nd . A battling 2 nd place in the final race was enough to ensure Jane Kearney made it to the final with John O’Driscoll completing the finalists. With on the water boat allocation and switching complete, the PRO attempted to get the final underway. However some adjustments on a couple of rigs saw a short delay with the first of 4 races finally getting underway shortly before 3pm.

And what a final we were treated to. 4 clean and tight starts saw most of the finalists in the top 3 at some stage over the first 2 legs of each race with rarely more than a couple of boat lengths between 1 st and 8th . Shane MacCarthy took the first 2 races legs after close battles with Ger Owens but thereafter the face of the final started to change. While Shane MacCarthy, Barry McCartin and Ger Owens had all shown incredible speed upwind, both Jane Kearney and Rob Espey started to finds the gears downwind and exert an influence on where thew title would go. In Race 3 Ger and Shane battled it out up front till the last downwind leg where both Jane Kearney and Barry McCartin managed to squeeze between Ger and Shane, leaving a one point difference between the pair. The 4th race saw another close and tight start with Barry McCartin and Shane MacCarthy looking good up the first beat. On the downwind Rob Espey picked up the stronger breeze first and worked his way into the lead. With Jane Kearney and Barry McCartin now also find great speed and looking to try and secure a podium, Shane looked to be covering Ger when a port starboard incident resulted in penalty turns. This now left Ger in the driving seat and he successfully secured the title with a 4th place finish. Up ahead Rob Espey continued to lead the race with Jane Kearney battling Barry McCartin for the result they both felt would get them on the podium. Jane Kearney managed to squeeze past Barry McCartin around the last leeward mark and clock up a second 2nd place finish. However 2nd place overall was still not decided. The incident pushed Shane MacCarthy to the back of the fleet and his chance of the title had disappeared. However he was not finished and quickly recovered a spot. If he could recover one more spot he would still have a chance to take 2nd overall. Despite a late surge he could not get past Daragh Sheridan which meant Jane Kearney had taken 2nd overall by a point from Shane MacCarthy in 3rd . Barry McCartin after a superb event was a further point back in 4th. With the time now almost 5pm and tide well out now, walking and pulling the GP14s up the Creek and across the sand bar was the order of the day. Not before Ger & Mel were cheered and photographed on the water by David Brannigan in the Oceansport Press Boat off the Martello Tower at the entrance to Sutton Creek. A great days sailing had ended late but the PRO team had managed to complete the full schedule. The tired fleet retired to Sutton Dinghy Club for a quick change and more photographs before dinner and prize-
giving in the Marine Hotel.

Marking the occasion of the 75th anniversary, Irish Sailings CEO Harry Herman recounted the beginnings of this iconic event and welcomed a number of past Champions including David Gay (1975), Robert Dix (1970), Chris Arrowsmith (1979), Anthony O’Leary ( 2014 & 2015), Gerry Sargent (1962), Tom Fitzpatrick (1994, 1997, 1998 & 2004), Alex Barry (2016), Laura Dillon (1996) and Mark Mansfielfd (1990 & 1999). Commodore Ciara O’Tiarnaigh on behalf of Sutton Dinghy Club thanked Irish Sailing for the opportunity to host the event for which the Club had a long and successful association. Ciara also welcomed the past Champions and thanked all the Club volunteers who helped make the event such a huge success. Irish Sailings Harry Herman went on to praise the GP14 Class and particularly the owners of the boats used. He thanked them for their support and commitment to the event. He commented on the quality of boats made available and recognizing that lending boats was difficult, asked other fleets to consider making the effort to ensure continuation of this wonderful and unique event. Ger Owens with Mel Morris accepted the silver salvers from Harry Herman. Despite having won the event a number of times, it was clear this was a special occasion for Ger. Winning the event with Mel, his regular crew for over 20 years, in a GP14 and on the 75th anniversary. It couldn’t get any better, could it?

He vowed to be back to defend his title and attempt to go for 3 in a row which has previously only been accomplished by Nin O’Leary. Another victory would also see him join Tom Fitzpatrick as only the 2nd sailor to win it 4 times. That says to me Ger Owens will be back with real intent.