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Barbados Blog

Barbados Blog

Firstly, all of the videos photos, results and reports for Barbados can be found on the GP14 site:

There is a shared drive folder that has been set up for anyone who wants to share their favourite holiday snaps with everyone, James Croxford is going to put together a book and I’ll do something with them online, maybe South Staffs the movie if there’s time. If you have a funny caption add it to the filename. The link to the drive is here:

A view from the front (of the boat)!

I am not a GP14 sailor! However, when it was mentioned that the GP World Championships were being held in Barbados in 2016 my ears pricked up! Sailing in Barbados sounded like a fun way to spend a holiday.

A tentative investigation was made to see if I could find a crew. Yes I am exclusively a helmsman and mainly in a Lark but historically in a Firefly though rarely in a GP. Time went by with no action until someone mentioned the date which was to be Easter 2016 with the first race on 28th March. Now my dear wife had a big birthday coming up on 29th March 2016 and I said in her presence that I could not possibly take part in an event that was on during this date! “Why not” she shouted, I would love to be in Barbados for my birthday.

So that rather set the scene. However, I had no boat, no crew and frankly the responsibility of helming a strange boat in a competitive fleet was rather daunting! Just when I thought I had found an excuse not to sail, John Billington announced that he and Sue were going and he didn’t really want to sun himself in the same way as Sue for the duration of the competition. The words that then fell out of my mouth were” Well if we get a boat I’ll crew for you”. When he said “ok”, I was rather committed. Perhaps I should have been committed there & then!!

Sue would not let us enter without a boat so the search began in 2014 and led us to Bassenthwaite to view & buy what looked like a great boat. Having towed it back to John’s place, it sat in his barn until September 2015 when we decided to sail in the South Staffs GP Open. Not a great occasion but a good pointer to what we wanted to change on the boat and a wake-up call for me to get myself reasonably fit. John is very relaxed until the start gun goes!!! I am not competitive at all!!!

Over the next few months a new Genoa was purchased. They really are the powerhouse of this class! Then a few adjustments made to simplify and make the boat work for us both. The time for practise came in January and ebruary before the boats were loaded into the containers for transport to Barbados. Fortunately most of the 20 club boats going to the event also decided practise was essential and so we began to discover what was needed to make the boat go but more importantly I got a swift lesson on what was required of me....the crew!!!

I began to question whether this really was a good idea? There seem a huge number of things for the crew to remember to do in a GP and I still felt John was doing things as the helm that I would normally expect the crew to do!! The tension increased and the nerves took hold so that by the time we arrived in Barbados I was ready to pass my role to someone younger and fitter. However, John was calming and reassuring with the immortal words “We started this together so we will see it through together”. Once the boats were out of the containers I thought we ought to try things out! The comfortable 15 to 20 mile an hour winds expected were nearer 20 to 30 miles an hour and launching was proving a hazardous occupation with a much larger swell than normal. The best advice seemed to be “Beach the boat then lift it onto the trolley”, as those trying to float the boat onto the trolley were often knocked over and generally battered by the waves. John was relaxed!! Wait until we have to go was his message. However we did venture forth the day before the racing started and I quickly discovered what I was in for!

Monday 28th started with the practise race. Easy! We finished 13th and I was shattered. Up the beats I hauled the genoa in tight only to be told that I needed to push with my legs to get it in fully! If I thought my shoulders would leave their sockets I had probably got it in about right!!! Then the spinnaker reaches! Fantastic, but how do you hold the spinnaker sheet when it is doing its best to fly out of your hand? A flapping spinnaker is a sure way to lose places, so a quick learning curve followed to ensure the spinnaker never flapped again!! (Well not so much!) The technique seems to be to wrap the spinnaker sheet around your hand and it works but I had the bruises as proof of my effort! The reward was exhilaration and surprise that a GP could go so fast!!

The highlight of each day was the reach to the finish at the end of the first race of the day. With two races per day, the first was a triangle, sausage, and reach to the finish at the leeward end of the course. John loved this final reach and was really good at it! We always caught or passed several boats but I did learn to hold my breath almost for the whole leg!! The spray was immense and I am sure I was breathing more water than air but the sensation was amazing. Well worth a salt water shower (or bath!). The second race of each day omitted this reach but added an extra beat to the finish. Exhausting!

After the first day my hands were a mess! Despite thick sailing gloves the bruising and blisters on my hands were very sore. GP advice seems to be to wind gaffer tape around the vulnerable part of my hand and this technique did seem to work. The heat was also a worry, as exposed skin in those climes is rather prone to sunburn. I wore a Legionnaires hat each day with a long sleeved top and hikers with thin padding and I was comfortable. The water is warm, the air temperature high and so we were always warm despite the spray.

Brenda’s big birthday was Tuesday and the non sailing girls had kindly arranged to entertain her in style at Sandy Lane, (which is the islands top hotel and where all the celebrities stay,) whilst John and I sailed. (Brenda was very upset as they missed seeing Daniel Craig who they understood arrived the next day!) Sailing wise it was another hard day (they all were) with the afternoon race creating our only real mishap. A crash tack just before the finish caught me unprepared and the only way to avoid a capsize was for me to abandon ship!! Fortunately John did not blame me so pulled me back into the boat to finish in a disappointing position.

Relief was at hand with a rest day on Wednesday!! So we partied instead on board the Jolly Roger. I say on board but the reality was we snorkelled, swam with turtles, walked the plank and rope swung into the water. A great day arranged by Nic Booth. Brilliant! Just what was needed to set us up for the next few days. On the way back to port we danced, drank and watched a Pirate wedding! It all happens on these Pirate ships.

Two more hard days of sailing followed before the next lay day. Thursday and Friday gave us some more good results now that I was not dropping the spinnaker sheet so often. John’s starts got better after we decided to listen for the warning signals rather than just wait for the pathfinder to arrive. His lane holding was superb off the start and a critical reason for our consistent results. Saturday it rained but we had a day off before the final push on Sunday and Monday. One race had been cancelled due to the high winds so the scheduled single race on Monday became two. With two discards in the event we had qualified by Sunday night but with a 40th to count (not bad in a fleet of 105). We managed a good result in the first race on Monday to eliminate our 40th and when things went pear shaped in the second race we decided to call it a day. As so often happens when you relax things go wrong! Our only capsize of the week was when we were 100 yds from the shore & muggins failed to release the genoa as we tacked!

What a great sailing week but much harder than I expected. Watching for other boats in a fleet of 105 is a priority! Generally I think I managed this fairly well but just occasionally someone came from a blind spot around the genoa and we also didn’t immediately identify club mates as neither of us were familiar with their boat numbers! We always took water and food in the boat to have between races. An energy drink also helped but our results show that we were always slower in the second race of the day than the first. Would I do it again? No!! However, we would certainly like to go to Barbados again. The atmosphere was fantastic as we were always meeting up with friends either on the beach, in the water or at the bar for happy hour!!

Tony Hotchkiss


So there we were, having completed the practice race, bobbing up and down in the middle of the Atlantic in a Force 5 (whatever that means) with a 3 metre swell (the waves get bigger every time I tell the story) waiting for the start of the first race in the GP World Championships when my partner decided to bring up the topic of motion sickness in a kaleidoscope of colour which deposited itself on the floor of what had been a pristine racing machine. We looked at each other and it was at this moment that two thoughts came to mind. How come he hadn’t mentioned it in our previous ten years of preparing for this, the pinnacle, of our sailing career and second, why did I talk him into that large seafood pizza with extra muscles and shrimps the night before? Watching a procession of half eaten seafood progressing to the transom flaps, put me in mind of those American crab fishermen from the Discovery channel’s Deadliest Catch! As the small pieces trailed out and floated on the sea beyond the stern, my thoughts turned to that scene in Jaws where mulch is poured over the side to try and attract the shark. Glancing at my friend, it was clear that this was not going to be our day and we decided to head home, looking back over our shoulder to see if anything was following us and hoping that the phrase “we’re going to need a bigger boat” wasn’t going to apply.

Imagine my surprise when we got back to the beach (an hour and a half early) to find a fellow South Staffs sailor standing by his boat looking more forlorn than I could ever be. No longer would the nickname “Lucky” apply to John Edge as the hapless mariner’s boat had been holed on the start line of the practice race and had sunk with his ever optimistic crew (Lisa) who was trying to put a brave face on it all.

Being the inquisitive type, I couldn’t resist putting my head through the hole in his bow in an effort to understand more precisely the inner workings of a GP14 bulkhead and the structural frailties of an FRP boat when it comes into contact with something solid. It was whilst my head was stuck in that hole that the words my father used to say (and still sometimes does) came to me: “There’s always someone worse off than yourself”. In John’s case, to add insult to injury, I understand that perpetrator of the crime is now denying liability.

If these Championships have taught me nothing else, it’s that the cream always rises to the top no matter what the conditions; the basic principles of racing are the same (even when you’re larking about), you’re never too old to take part in the World Championships (well done Tony) and you need a bit of luck. Keep smiling John. Our turn next time.

Phil Barnfield

The view from number 94



'Tallied off?'  Barbados Yacht Club has a quaint tallying board, compulsory to use and efficient in a Barbadian (the term is 'Bajan') way; it seems a bit slow but it actually works.


'Performance enhancing drugs?'


It's Day five on the island, the first sailing day and we're both on painkillers. Let's hope they don't do dope testing.

The first crisis is the launch. A beach launch against 4 ft breakers, in a good wind (at this point we'd call it feisty), and with a huge audience, was never going to go well for the inexperienced.  Acquiring the first of a range of bruises we jumped at the boat and randomly pulled on any loose ropes to gain control and get out to sea amid a swarm of internationally competent GP14 sailors.  But once squeezed free of the moored boats, we headed into the Atlantic.

Further out the Bajans called the wind strong; the printable English word is 'hurricane'.  Gusts up to 38 knots, we heard. Hanging on we shot out to the distant committee boat, which bobbed about like a mother hen with its little sailing companions tootling back and forth, occasional diving down and laboriously resurfacing. 

The initial tactic for the gate start in a situation where the flags could not be seen for the 7ft waves, and the starting horn only bleated like a distant sheep, was to hold back and wait for a line to form. Once the twitching row of dinghies seemed ready Storm Phil pelted from over the horizon hitting the gate at speed. Which had by then set off for Venezuela. This was not a successful tactic. 

Being the crew, as well as leaping around like a barman at Happy Hour, one got wet. If I opened my mouth and protested, I got a salty mouthful. It was better to accept the bucket of seawater hurled over one every twelve seconds. The alternative low-bum position of squatting over the side resulted in more stability but an entirely unwarranted saline enema. And sitting on the side redistributed some of the bruises, causing a particular sailors' gait on landing. It was great. But the wind got worse.

A welcome lay day lurching about on a party boat gave a breather. We experienced an entirely different meaning to "turning turtle" and swam around in the warm sea, dodging a plummeting, shrieking commodore coming off a rope swing.  This built us up for the next challenge. 

We capsized three times. Four if you count the one near the beach. Some can right a boat easily but despite being in our prime, we needed repeated help and soon the rescue crews learnt to keep near us. This was not good for our score.  And then in race 9, we collided with an Irishman, who was on port and possibly rum. Again, we went over, but this time managed to get her up and finish. Only then did we learn we had holed the boat (thank you John B for the alert) and needed to beat back to shore asap to avoid sinking. We sank, suddenly yet gracefully, half a mile from safety, but the encircling rescue team dived in, fixed a rope to the mast before it went too deep, and towed us in. A sorry end.  

At the award ceremony biggest cheer went to Gill for being Gill. Quite right. And then the partying.... 

A once in a lifetime experience? Ok. Once. But Barbados has left us the warm memories of bright hot sun, scents of Frangipani, nut trees and sweat; macaroni cheese, pretty chattel houses and faded colonial architecture, shops with icy blasts of air con, Banks's beer, and a certain amount of rum.  

We'll settle for 94th in the world.

Tim Crossley

Michelle's Musings 

What to say about Barbados?! Stunning location for a holiday with a few hundred friends and South Staffs well represented throughout the fleet on the water, and at happy hour off the water.

Many a happy ‘happy hour’ was spent at the Club, Coconut Court and the Blue Rooms with Sue Konczyk having quickly identified the rolling programme we could attend from 5pm onwards. It was great to see the Canadian branch (Anne and Dave Pugh) and great to introduce some Lark sailors (John Billington, Tony Hotchkiss, Mark Nichols and Martin Lichfield) to the delights of the GP14 fleet. It was also great to see Mark manage to keep a boat upright and Martin hiking (just kidding!)

The Opening Ceremony was a grand affair but not lively enough to keep Lisa Carpenter awake, Vicky Ford made her film debut as Gordon Ramsey, sadly the interview will never see the light of day (but I am keeping a copy on file…) Chris White and Nic Booth had a pirate wedding, apparently it’s not still legal but who knows we’d had a lot of rum.

The reggae reggae buses were a revalation, taking you anywhere for 2 dollars. We proved one night that we only travel as a pack by cramming 20 south staffs and 10 scared strangers into one very cosy 12 seater mini bus. Poor Chloe Dawson ended up with Mark, Nick Brandon and a stranger all sat on her lap...what happens on tour, stays on tour (should be how it is but we all know it's 'stays around forever in GNF').

Word quickly spread about what a great Club we are and jealousy ensued leading to two boats being sunk in an effort to reduce our on water numbers. We had some great performances throughout, our roll of honour is below. Great to see new Junior Training coach Andy Hately showing us that sailing is like riding a bike, by easing straight back into some great results, Mike and Chris pushed the best in the world to their limits and Dave Young and Nic Booth were consistent in all conditions, Mike Davies and Simon Scott-Brown had some cracking results in the bronze fleet. Well done to those front and back!

South Staffs results

  • 5th Mike Senior and Chris White
  • 10th Dave Young and Nicola Booth
  • 11th (Lawrence Creaser) and Andy Hunter
  • 16th Dodge and (Sam Pickering)
  • 21st Andy Hately and (Ben Pickering)
  • 25th John Billington and Tony Hotchkiss
  • 32nd Mark Fleming and Seonaid Young
  • 34th Will Hawkins and Sam Thomson
  • 36th (Pete Jacques) and Hayley Ramadhar
  • 55th Rob and Julie Hicklin
  • 68th (Duncan Greenhalgh) and Annette Fitzpatrick
  • 69th Dave and Anne Pugh (also sailing under Mississaugu, Canada)
  • 71st Mike Davies and Simon Scott-Brown
  • 74th Nick Brandon and Vicky Ford
  • 76th Mark Nichols and Martin Lichfield
  • 77th (Stephen Parry) and (Phil Green) with a little help from James Croxford
  • 79th Meg and Annie Hicklin
  • 80th Derek Fleming and (Trevor Welton)
  • 82nd Neil Hawkins and Michelle Evans
  • 94th Phil Barnfield and Tim Crossley
  • 99th John Edge and Lisa Carpenter (they only got to races in due to broken boat)

Also, our extended family of sailors who occasionally sail with us did great as well:

  • 6th Sam Watson (Nantwich and Borders) and Andy Thopmson
  • 31st Lewis and Harrison Coppinger (Todbrook SC)


But enough from me, for now, above are Tony Hotchkiss, Phil Barnfield and Tim Crossley’s take on the event. Thanks for sharing Tim and if anyone else wants to send in a write up, comments or quotes

Michelle Evans - 08th April 2016

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