GP14 Open and the ‘Blackwater Experience’

Tollesbury GP14 Open 2012If you are not heading down the M5 to Cornwall this August for the GP14 Championships but would like some sea sailing experience a visit to the East coast for 2 or 3 days of very varied sailing is another option. The Blackwater once home to huge GP fleets at Brightlingsea and Stone etc. is a superb dinghy sailing area. The North shore has been preserved from all development and with conservation groups now owning many areas around Tollesbury and Mersea Island it is a National Nature Reserve. The Tollesbury SC GP14 Open, sailed in the shallow tidal fleet (lagoon) is on the 19th August. This will have the usual format of afternoon sailing with hot food/bar and prize giving after 3 back to back races. The difference this year is that we hope to encourage visitors to stay and sail the first 2 days or more of Mersea Week.

On Monday the sailing is in the main estuary, with launching from the W.Mersea slipways. With plans to re-establish GP14s at Mersea Week the TSC GP14s will be supporting the event in greater numbers this year. Mersea Week is best known for its large fleet of Essex oyster smacks (see our photo gallery from the Smacks and Classic Yachts race – October 2011). These represent a pinnacle of working sail development and provide a spectacular sight on the water.

On Tuesday the WMYC and Dabchicks SC run their version of the ‘Round the Island Race’. This is an open dinghy/cat handicap with up to 150 entrants, its unusal feature is that you have to specify your entry time a week in advance and circumnavigate the island (in either direction) with the aim of reaching the causeway to the island at high tide and so cross quickly. There is usually a good turnout of GPs , however, the event is something of a gamble and an account can be found in the articles section on the TSC website. Depending on conditions it takes between 2 and 3 hours.

If you want to enter some Mersea Week races and/or the Round the Island Race, then entries do need to be with the organisers by August 11th, though if you miss this, then do contact Andy Beharrell ( and we will see what we can do. To enter Mersea Week simply download the entry form from the Mersea Week website:

To enter the Round the Island Race, follow the link below for the entry form:

When entering the Round the Island race, you have to decide a start time on the entry form. Starts can be over a range times and different boats tend to start at completely different times. The slower boats like mirrors tend to start earlier, while the catamarans and faster boats start a little later generally. On the day of the race, you then have to decide whether to leave the island on the right all the way round, or on the left! TSC GP14’s have generally found that starting around 2 hours before High Water and leaving the island to the left all the way round is a reasonable strategy. However, we’d be happy to offer any help and advice when you put in your entry. Just contact Andy Beharrell ( if you’d like some further help or to discuss your entry.

So what is on offer are several days of very different sailing with options for cruising to the Greenman PH at Bradwell etc. if you don’t fancy all the races! The TSC members will try and provide accommodation for visiting sailors but other options include Mersea’s numerous caravan sites or B and Bs; there is also the Bradwell sailing centre across the estuary.

Details and entry forms will appear on the TSC website or email, You will be guaranteed a warm welcome and assistance to attend any of these events whatever your level of experience. The main objective is that everybody has some thoroughly enjoyable holiday sailing.

George Rogers & Rik Alewinjse
GP14 13958