History of the GP14 Class of South Africa

By Dave Hawkins July 2000

The first GP14 No 3294 called SUNION, was built from plans by Dave Mitchell, a professional ski boat builder, during 1959 for Dan van Wely, of Johannesburg. Soon after Bill Donnelly, Dale Wright, Phillip Castell, Harold Taylor, amongst others, all built Gee Pees from plans and sailed them at East Rand Yacht Club, in Boksburg where the class started to flourish. At a regatta held at Boskop Yacht Club an inaugural meeting of all GP14 sailors was called on 4th March 1962 to establish a committee, which would select a name for the Southern Africa branch and draft a constitution for ratification and acceptance, by the parent UK Association. A month later the first committee was held, at Bill and Helen Donnelly's home consisting of:





These were the founding members of the S.A. G.P.14 Association and through their hard work and enthusiasm the class grew in leaps and bounds.
Soon numerous boats had been built countrywide, with Gee Pees in Durban and Cape Town. The S.A. Yacht Racing Association agreed in principle to register the class with provisos that first an owners association is established with a minimum of 12 boats on the register and that active participation at Nationals Regattas would then favour recognition.  At every regatta people were cajoled into participation so ensuring wide spread exposure. The Genoa was developed and tested locally. Pressure was put on the U.K. Association to accept this as an alternative foresail, which took some time before being authorised worldwide.

The first AGM was held on 24th March 1963 at the Donnelly's home, whereupon the following items were noted:

22 boats registered with the SAYRA
40 Gee Pees were either sailing in S. Africa or under construction
The first Round The Island Race had been sailed from LDYC earlier in the year with the Gee Pees putting up a very creditable performance.
The SAYRA had granted recognition of the Class, but not at National level.
Roller reefing gear for foresails while at anchor or sailing under spinnaker was in use.
Jib tensioning devices were being designed and approved.
A raised sheet-horse above the tiller and built in buoyancy were under review.

The U.K. Association sent us an antique silver punch bowl as a trophy to be presented at a National Championship regatta.
Bill Donnelly competed in the British Nationals held at Llandudno during the latter half of 1963.
The first S.A. Nationals were sailed at Saldanha during December 1963.
Bell Woodworking kits imported from the UK proved popular and a number of new boats appeared in the course of the 1964/65 season. Total numbers now registered was 43.

The second National championships were sailed at Allemanskraal dam in 1964.
The third AGM held on 12th February 1965 at the Wanderers Club, it was reported that 98% of all boat owners had by postal ballot, agreed to adopt the genoa as an alternative foresail. The Committee was asked to look into the making of aluminium masts and booms locally as well as a mould for fibreglass boats.

The fourth S.A. National Championships were sailed at East Rand Yacht Club over Easter weekend (1966). This was the first of many successful regattas sailed at this venue, which was regarded as the home of the Gee Pees in South Africa.
Bill Donnelly and Mitch Mitchell were appointed as official class measurers by the S.A.Y.R.A. with all boats being issued with local measurement certificates.

Gee Pees were displayed for the first time at the Daily Mail Outdoor Show where a lot of interest was received from the public.
George Lezard imported SLIPPER 7021, from the UK and proudly displayed this brand new fibreglass hull with wooden deck to all members at the traditional "Round The Island Party".

For the next few years, people came and went, more and more hulls were imported from Bourne Plastics in the UK, metal spars were developed locally and fleets grew and spread steadily under the enthusiastic guidance of the Executive Committee. National Championships continued to be held at ERYC over Easter. Relationships with the parent association deteriorated for no apparent reason, no doubt due to the general disfavour in which S. Africa was held as a result of political conditions.

During 1969 the Mk 2 fibreglass boat was launched in the UK and plans were made to import hulls to S. Africa. At this time a new mast cost R 60. Prices of sails were pegged at R51 for a main and at R30 each for a genoa and spinnaker. A new hull, fully imported, cost R 600. Peter Hawkins continued as chairman, ably assisted by stalwarts such as George Lezard and Mitch Mitchell, who along with Bill Donnelly, were all thanked for their years of service, by being bestowed Honorary Life Membership of the class. I believe that a class is only as good as its members and the Gee Pees were fortunate to have such people as Bill Heslop, Pieter De Neef, Norman Edwards, Leo Horn and Gordon Prahm, among others to serve on the committee.

In 1970 the S.A.Y.R.A. took over the administration of the class as far as accounts and secretarial functions were concerned. Local boat builder, the same Dave Mitchell who built the first wooden Gee Pee, was commissioned was commissioned to make moulds for fibreglass production. This took almost a year before an acceptable hull was made. However, the new boats being readily available, fleets around the country began to grow. There were two keen sailors at Phalaborwa who sailed regularly among hippos and crocodiles on the local dam. National regattas attracted upto 20 entries with fierce but friendly competition at all levels.

After seven years as chairman, Peter Hawkins retired, along with many of the old guard, so it was left to the younger generation to carry on running the affairs of the Association. Tim Brown, Patrick Mitchell, Gavin Horn, all grew up sailing with their fathers and became top class yachtsmen. Both Gavin and Patrick have competed in major UK and World Championship events from as early as 1980 when they were awarded sponsorship from the Jack Austin Memorial Fund.

It was during the 1980's that sailing peaked in South Africa and fleets grew countrywide. Under the guidance of Jenvey Nissen the Cape Fleet increased to 20 boats. National championships had over 35 entries, with almost 40 boats registered at ERYC alone. At a boat show in 1984, five new boats were sold and there were no second hand boats available.

By 1990 these glory days were over and many boats lay idle. It took people who really loved sailing, such as Ken Bennetts and Richard Parker to revive the spirit. Once again through boat shows, new boats, attendance at all local regattas and participation in overseas events the Gee Pee is alive and sailed competitively throughout the country. Jenvey, being retired in the Eastern Cape, has built up a sizeable fleet at George Lake Yacht Club. He, Ken and Richard are all worthy recipients of Honorary Life Membership, and I am proud to include myself in their company.
The highlight of the Gee Pee history in S. Africa must be the Worlds 2000 Championship event held in Durban. There we were all able to see really beautiful boats from the UK and Ireland and how well they can be sailed. This has inspired our next generation of sailors to continue promoting and developing the class into the new millennium.



By Ken Bennetts

Neil Marsden, the new British National champion got hold of 6425 and converted her to a Series II in 1997. He sailed her to 2nd place in the Worlds 1997 in Ireland. Now that is remarkable. A 40 year old boat beating the …. out of over a 100 new Series II wooden and the newly launched FRP hulls. So what has happened to some of our oldies? Four of Bill Donnelly's boats are still alive and 3 are still sailing regularly. Only one has passed away to where lesser boats go at rather earlier ages. But lets check out what we have on our boat register.

4789 See Duif

Yes, Paul Mulder's, (founder member) boat is still highly sailable. She doesn't do much anymore because her owner carefully keeps her on her original wooden road trailer. (The oldest surviving boat in South Africa).


A Bill Donnelly built boat now hangs in the rafters of Glen Terry's garage waiting for a lover to rebuild her weak joints.


Now owned by Rob Duncan of the Secunda. Her original owner/builder was Bill Donnelly (as you can see from her name).


Now owned once more by Jenvey Nissen and is being converted to a Series II (oldest racing boat in S.A.)


Now owned by Ian Lindsay and sailed occasionally at Cape Town. Still has her original wooden spars.


So named because she was found acting as a salad counter at a smart hotel. Now owned by GLYC, we understand. She was donated as a training boat but needs work.


Owned by Derek Clark of George who has won at least two Round The Island Races on handicap with her. Still sails with her flimsy pale blue sails.

5686 CLIO

She belonged to Paul Blignaut, was bought by Colin Melvin who converted her to a Series II boat.
She was finished off to a beautiful condition by her present owner Ron Berkowitz of George.


Now owned by Don Smith of Port Elizabeth. She sails regularly and is in good shape.


Another Bill Donnelly boat. Found unloved and unsailed by the writer at GLYC. Fixed and renamed PACMAN for a while. This was his first boat and mistress. She is now owned by Hans Hefer of Mossel Bay and has reverted to her original name.


Originally BLUE BOOTS, found in a farm shed where she was supposed to have lived high and dry for years.
The Association inherited her and set about restoring her as a training boat.
There was simply too much rot, so Ken Bennetts took her over and did a Series II conversion on her, calling her PEPPERMINT LADY.
Nic du Plessis bought her and, thinking her colours a bit too garish, painted her white - hence the 3rd name for this imminently sound boat.


Peter and Dave Hawkins' second boat. Built from a Bell Woodworking kit by them. Later Frank Simms sailed her for years as TAURUS.
After many seasons of sitting in would-be restorers yards, Dave bought it back and conned Ken Bennetts into fixing her. She'll be back as a training boat at Benoni Sailing Club soon.

6420 Gay Nymph

The last of the Donnelly boats and multiple winner of Nationals and Provincials. Now owned by Dave Muller of Cape Town who once fitted her with a squash racquet handle as a tiller (just like some of those nice smart keelboats, you know). She sailed in the Worlds 2000 (and didn't come last), another oldy sailing in the top event of the class with 40 plus seasons under her blessed keel.

6827 Marauder II

Built by Mitch Mitchell to win, and she did many times at Nationals and Provincials. She now stands forlorn at ERYC waiting for a keen restorer.

Well there you have it - all the early wooden boats still on our register. Some on the list have disappeared with their hang dog owners.
When you get to love these old boats they become more important than their neglectful owners do.
Not that they should be shot or something - just keel hauled will do.


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