International affairs, 1964 – 1970

It has been said that Americans tend to confuse change with progress, while the British confuse it with treason. If for Americans, one reads Americans and Canadians, one has denned in the simplest way the major issue facing the ‘Fourteens’ in the ’60’s and early ’70’s. For communications, or lack of them, led to much transatlantic bickering. Fortunately, this was confined to the upper echelons — the grass roots in each country remaining in blissful ignorance of tensions in high places.

To isolate the cause of the trouble — which, in retrospect was probably no more than natural growing pains of an International class — one has to go back to the early days. Each country built to the same International rule, but control and interpretation was, by general agreement, in British hands. With Britain being the sponsor of the rule, and the I.Y.R.U. being London based, it was convenient for the British Dinghy Committee to act as spokesman for the class.

This worked well enough in the formative years. For the Yacht Racing Association (today’s R.Y.A.) Dinghy Committee was almost completely composed of ‘Fourteen’ owners. But as new classes were established, they were given a seat at the table of power, and the ‘Fourteen’ element was progressively reduced. This naturally enough led in 1950 (see page 30) to the formation of a British International Dinghy Owners Fourteen Committee. As it found its feet, so it assumed control of the class — although still reporting through the R.Y.A Dinghy Committee to the I.Y.R.U. In Canada and America, similar national committees evolved to represent their own Fourteens’ interests and promote their ideas. However, these bodies still acted through the British Committee in dealing with the I.Y.R.U. It became a matter of concern in some quarters that the British still worked through the R.Y.A. who were not unknown to refer proposals back. This, it was felt, gave the U.K. a second and unfair power of censorship over matters they did not favour.

By the mid sixties it was obvious that an attempt would have to be made to establish a better way of reaching an International point of view. The Canadians had submitted a detailed simplification of the rules. The West Coast Americans were experimenting outside the rules — including the general use of the banned trapeze. The New Zealanders, frustrated in their desire to promote their ideas — including fully battened sails – had gone their own way and successfully established the 14ft. development Javelin; while the British — enjoying a fourteen boom — were puzzled, to say the least, as to why anyone wished to change when things seemed to be going well.

But the mood was for more effective International control. Two things aided the formation of the World Association. The first was the re-establishment, in 1958, of team races on a regular basis. This resulted in a growing number of International Fourteen sailors in each centre who knew each other well. This naturally led to an interchange of ideas and a better knowledge of each other’s problems. Even if they couldn’t always agree on solutions, the class was beginning to think Internationally.

The second point was the declining influence of the British ‘Old Guard’. To them must go much credit. They had successfully built the class — guarded its interests zealously and given much time to promote the International Fourteen concept. They had done their task well — some would say too well, for in seeking to protect all that was best, they had slowed development to a point where reaction was inevitable. As Stu Walker said, ‘A development class must develop. All that is in question is the speed at which it should take place’. The art of management of a development class is to hold a balance between those who believe perfection has been achieved and those who think it never is.

This increasing clamour for change found the British in a peculiarly unsure situation. For years the philosophy of the Fourteens had, with popular approval, been largely in the hands of Stewart Morris. In the U.K.- and for many overseas — he was the unchallenged arbiter of what was right. Now he started slowly withdrawing from active leadership — leaving a vacuum that the U.K. Committee had collectively to fill. Their problem was that they had no specific objectives at which to aim — other than the survival of the class.

The device that symbolised the era of change was the trapeze. But, in fact — with or without it – the International Fourteens had reached a watershed in its career.

The era started quietly enough. In 1964 the U.K. fleet was at the height of a boom, 69 boats turned up for the Itchenor Gallon, and it took five general recalls to get them away for a race that was won by Stewart Morris. 85, then moved on to Lowestoft — a place renowned for tough sailing — for a surprisingly gentle Prince of Wales week, only the first day being rough. The rapid build-up of the fleet had worried many and the entry for the Prince of Wales Cup was limited to 50 — a move that proved unpopular and by general agreement was not repeated. Also tried was the one minute round the end of the line rule, which worked well and had been used ever since. The race was dominated by the one overseas competitor – Stu Walker — the man who, it is fair to say, rebuilt and re-inspired the American Fourteen foot fleet during the ’50’s and ’60’s. As Stewart Morris was the dynamo of the British fleet. Stu Walker was of the American. His boat Salute, was a Bolero hull with, for those days, an unusual extensive range of sophisticated sail and rig controls. With wind and tide conditions, most of the race was on the wind which was light N.E. Walker, crewed by Stovey Brown, went inshore on the first beat; led at the windward mark and was never seriously challenged. Stu Walker dived over the side as he crossed the line – the first American to win the Prince of Wales Cup. Second, after a close battle with Stewart Morris, was Mike Souter — sailing Sombrero, a new design by Bob Casson. She had a very fine entry — sweeping up to a pronounced knuckle, combined with a wide transom. Souter Cassons proved a highly successful design, being particularly effective on a reach. Other new designs were the Proctor 8, a development of the 5 — with greater stability and improved marginal planing capability; and a hard chine design by Greg Gregory – Shagbolt – the only boat built of this type proving particularly potent in heavy weather.

Among gear, jib rollers caught on rapidly, with a spacer on the forestay. Cunningham holes were being used more and more, while centre mains were still being flirted with.

Bruce Wolfe had the best record of the week with two wins. He also won the Crescendo Trophy, presented by American Glen Foster for the best performer in any two inland and three sea trophies.

In ’65 the Fourteens made their first visit to Scarborough for a generally rugged Prince of Wales Week. The Trophy was won by Stewart Morris for the 12th time after an exciting battle with Mike Peacock. Wind over tide made conditions unpleasant, but it was only blowing about 15 knots — although many believed it stronger. At the first mark, Peacock in his new Souter Casson, Buccaneer, and Morris in Encore (Kirby II) were a little behind the leaders, but both promptly hoisted spinnakers – which helped keep the boats on course over the large breaking waves — and rapidly left everyone else astern, with Encore gaining off the wind and Buccaneer on it. In the second lap Peacock had spinnaker trouble and Morris got through and went on to win by a minute — in spite of overstanding twice. Third was lan Cox in a home finished Souter Casson, Dismay. John Prentice had the best overall performance during the week. Among the innovations was the Gate Start which had been pioneered by the Fireflys and was now finding increasing favour as a practical solution to large fleet starts.

This was a team race year and with interest in the class growing rapidly in Canada and America, there was keen competition to go to the States. Britain was represented by John Prentice (Proctor 8), Mike Peacock (Souter Casson), David Hare (Proctor 5) and Andrew Green (Proctor 5). America: Glen Foster (Proctor 5), Don Doyle (Proctor 6), Stu Walker (Souter Casson), Sandy van Zandt (Fairey). Canada: lan Bruce (Kirby III), Jack Barber (Proctor V), John Nicholson (Buller), Fred Anfossie (Kirby II). The race was extremely close, but the British excelled at team tactics and had a more uniform level of performance. Britain won, with America second, Bermuda — whose fleet was on the decline — were unable to raise a team. Canadian Bruce Kirby’s designs were becoming increasingly popular and over the next few years the design mantle passed, for the first time, from the U.K. to Canada — only the Souter Casson offering any real competition. In North America Glass Fibre was being used more and more, for the only way to cope with the class expansion was to have on-the-spot builders and glass fibre was the most practical medium without going hard chine.

Canada — inspired by Graeme Hayward — put in a lot of work on the rules, trying to simplify them and make them more precise. The Canadian case was based on the need for uniform interpretation. The British were worried lest in the re-writing as many problems might be created as had been solved. Agreement was reached over most points — among the more obvious, larger transom holes and suction bailers. Over the next few years most of the proposals in the Canadian draft were incorporated in the rules. But the discussions over these rules pointed out the need for some better method of administration and from several directions came the suggestion that a world association might help.

At the end of the year Souters introduced a Mk II Casson — combining a moulded bottom with chine sides — but it did not catch on.

In ’66 the rate of building in the U.K. eased to 17 after averaging 26 a year over the previous five years — the class having seemingly another plateau of development — rumours of rule changes did not encourage new building. From Australia came signs of interest, but a three way correspondence — between America, Britain and some Australian Fourteen owners – failed to find a formula that could bring the classes together. The principal stumbling block was the ultra light weight of the Australian boat, 160 lbs. With glass fibre, catching on in Canada and America — no one wanted to “rock the boat’ by cutting the International’s 225 Ib. limit, as this was about the lowest weight to which a glass Fourteen could apparently then be built.

Meanwhile on America’s West Coast, the growing fleets there had brought back the trapeze — finding it just right for their conditions — these events demonstrating the problems of running an International development class.

In comparison with other classes, the International Fourteen continued to show up well — winning outright the American ‘One of a Kind event’ and the British one.

Prince of Wales Week was at Falmouth and 90 boats were racing for the Prince of Wales Cup in a wind of 15 knots plus. Stu Walker led at the first mark, but had spinnaker trouble, and the race turned into another Morris /Peacock confrontation — a repeat of the year before. Morris led right up to the last mark, but in the final reach Peacock worked up on his weather quarter and beam. Morris sailed higher. Peacock responded and they almost sailed to the centre of the triangle before bearing away for the line. Hoisting spinnakers, Peacock just held his overlap and won on the turn by half a length — Morris having to be content with the points Trophy for the week.

lan Cox introduced hooks on his shrouds, over which the jib sheets were led, providing a makeshift sitting out aid — but voluntarily did not use them; while Jeremy Pudney joined his rear tank tops together and was accused of having a deck. The committee and the R.Y.A said it wasn’t — by which time it certainly wasn’t, for he had removed it. Unfortunately the rule was not clarified and this was to lead to more serious problems in 1971. Meanwhile, at home, the design and build-it-yourself brigade’ were in full cry — including the first amateur British glass boat built by G. Singleton.

As Guthrie Penman handed over the chairmanship of the British Association to John Prentice, he warned members to look to the future — suggesting they should consider afresh the trapeze, and lighter shallower hulls. A British sub-committee — John Prentice, Stewart Morris, lan Cox and Tom Vaughan — reported in favour of bigger corrector allowances, allowing room for a future reduction in weight, a longer bottom batten and simplified construction rules. They were divided on the longer spinnaker pole, and against — on the grounds of cost — a higher fore triangle. They added a rider that the simplest way to step up performance was the trapeze. The I.Y.R.U. agreed to a 25 lb. corrector allowance, longer bottom batten, and twin skin glass fibre construction. The longer spinnaker pole was held over at Britain’s request.

Although they knew it to be unpopular with many of their leading owners, the British Committee decided on trapeze trials in the interests of International solidarity — only to be somewhat nonplussed when, at the Cowes owners’ meeting, both the Canadian and the American delegates spoke against it. This was later seen in North America; who thought these delegates would vote for it, as the U.K. seeking once again to dominate the class by nobbling their men, whereas, in fact, the U.K. had been prepared to go along with the majority (the meeting did, in fact, agree to trials), although they believed, wrongly as it proved, that its introduction must inevitably mean the end of the ‘big crews that had been such a feature of the class. But Ward McKimm’s draft rules for a World Association was agreed, with two delegates for each country. John Prentice was elected President and Richard Burley Secretary.

The Team races this year were held off Hayling Island, Canada — represented by lan Bruce (Kirby III), Ward McKimm (Kirby III), John Robenson (Buller II) and David Johnson (Kirby II) — looked like trampling over everyone, until the Americans — Stu Walker (Souter Casson), Bud Easter (Proctor V, clinker), Baird Bardarson (Kirby III) and Bob Reeves (Kirby II, glass) — made a fighting finish, giving the Canadians 4 wins, the Americans 3. The British — with one win — never got in the game; their team — Bruce Wolfe (Souter Casson), Mike Peacock (Souter Casson), Barrie Perry (Proctor 8) and Jeremy Pudney (Kirby III). Prince of Wales week was in Osborne Bay, 89 boats raced — including six Canadian crews, four American, two Bermudian and one Australian. It was noticeable — since the last visit to Cowes in “58 — how uniformity had spread through the fleet. No longer was it possible to spot the overseas boats as being obviously different from the U.K. ones. The Prince of Wales race was sailed in a typical Solent breeze. lan Bruce went into the lead from the start — and was never challenged — finally finishing 5 minutes and 56 seconds ahead of the next boat. The race will also be remembered for a titanic game of ‘last across’, when the Queen Mary sailed through the course on the first round, giving all but Bruce the choice of cutting close across her bow or waiting and going round her stern, giving up any hope of a good position. Five boats went ahead including Pudney and Peacock, who fought a close race, with Pudney second by 3 seconds. Pudney took the points trophy for the week.

Among points of interest — the increasing speed of recovery from a capsize, leading boats losing about 3 1/2 minutes and some 10 places. The Canadians and Americans had some interesting and very effective do-it-yourself masts: lan Bruce’s as simple as Stu Walker’s was complicated — Bruce’s starting life as a drainpipe costing him £15 and Walker’s ultra thin one starting out as an erstwhile TV aerial was thick with rigging to control its bend. Leading British boats were using glass fibre plates, while several Canadian and American boats were all glass. They also had shroud levers to allow the rig to go forward off the wind.

The Northern British Fourteen fleets were now building up in a most satisfactory manner – with a new fleet at Derwent Reservoir. Meanwhile — as proof of the effectiveness of the construction rules, a succession of veteran craft were discovered and restored — Tom Thornycroft’s pre-war Uffa was presented to the National Maritime Museum by Austin Farrar. During the year the British made ineffective attempts to try the trapeze.

The Canadians led by lan Bruce, turned out some beautiful glass fibre Kirby Ill’s — using his ’67 P.O.W. winner as a mould. His Kirby Ill’s, and later his V’s were highly successful and undoubtedly were responsible for the rapid build-up in Canada and America. The American Clarke Boats made a similar contribution in the States. In Britain, Jeremy Pudney ordered the first Kirby IV from McCutcheon. Designed to make the most of a chop, Windwhisper had a narrow bow above water, with more buoyancy below and well rounded sections that made her rather unstable in a blow off the wind, but she proved a very effective design.

Other new boats were a new round bilge craft for Jack Shiells — designed by John Shelley — with a long, narrow bow and pronounced chine amidships. She had a short slot for her centreboard — based on New Zealand practice — with a slot at the bottom of the mast to allow the plate to go forward into the front tank. There were several other attempts at do-it-yourself design – one of the most interesting, Owen Cracknell’s boat, formed from two layers of ply separated by foam. Unfortunately water got into the foam, making her uncompetitive.

Prince of Wales week was at Weymouth. 79 boats raced. lan Bruce returned with T’ief up – the boat used as a mould for his glass project — and retained the Prince of Wales Cup with another convincing win. The race was sailed in brilliant sunshine and a force 4 breeze. Jeremy Pudney led at first mark, but was recalled, having been over the line. Graham Pike, a young Merlin Rocket helmsman, sailed the borrowed hard chine Shagbolt into 2nd place, with Mike Peacock 3rd.

The class also turned out for a new open event on Grafham Water. Sixty-three boats raced for the Ranelagh Trophy, which was turned from a dying event on the Thames to the second largest meeting in the Fourteen calendar.

Finally, the I.Y.R.U. approved J+25% for spinnaker poles, furling as an alternative to lowering sails and an extra 3 inch arc for spinnaker halyard blocks.

The Trapeze issue was finally resolved in 1969 -31 years after it first appeared. The Canadians had already decided on their general use in national events, an event that caused concern because it demonstrated the difficulty of policing an International development class, the advantage too obviously being with any fleet prepared to take the law into its own hands (especially as the I.Y.R.U. were hardly likely to be interested in solving a class’s internal problems).

With America also committed, the U.K. fleet had little or no room for manoeuvre. But, in fact, they too had a clear majority in favour — the P.O.W. Week trials being agreed to 4 to 1 at the A.G.M. and the postal vote after the trials being an overwhelming 100-25 in favour. It was perhaps appropriate that the I.Y.R.U. meeting that approved the change was chaired by Peter Scott, the man who had started the whole affair.

Sixteen boats were built in the U.K., but the big problem was finding builders,. Souters had turned to bigger things. McCutcheon was fully committed for wooden craft mainly for overseas’ and some British owners imported Canadian glass boats. Harry Burthem provided one solution. His very basic hard chine do-it-yourself Manta — with its unique construction – attracted a great deal of interest, especially as it could be built for around £310 with sails and gear, compared with some £500 for a traditional one. A syndicate at Itchenor bought one for evaluation and found it competitive. It certainly offered young sailors a relatively inexpensive introduction to the class — and it was tragic that its designer should die so soon after its inception.

Prince of Wales week was at Llandudno, the first time it had been sailed in Wales. The Town was visited by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales after his Investiture. Seventy boats raced. The first two races, in a brisk wind, provided ideal conditions for trapeze trials. The general feeling was of approval, which was borne out by the subsequent vote. The Prince of Wales Cup was won, for the first time, by Bruce Wolfe, crewed by his brother Randolph. Bruce had been trying for the trophy since 1936 and had got in the first six no less than fourteen times. His boat — a Souter Casson offered few concessions to modern thinking — having a Fairey ‘Bird cage mast’, transom mainsheet, no shroud levers or jib roller. The race was started in a strong tide and near flat calm and it took over an hour for all to cross, many having been swept down tide and being unable to sail or paddle back in time. They were not aided by the Committee boat moving uptide 300 yards. Bruce Wolfe was one of the few who had foreseen what was happening and kept well above the line. He was chased home in a freshening breeze by Jeremy Geoffrey only seconds astern in a Kirby IV, with lan Bruce 3rd, sailing a borrowed Kirby III – having brought his own mast and sails.

The British team that went to Canada — Mike Peacock (Souter Casson), Jeremy Pudney (Kirby IV), Ken Merron (Kirby III) andJohnson Wooderson (Kirby II) — won all nine races against strong teams from Canada, America’s West Coast and America’s East Coast; while Jeremy Pudney, using a trapeze, then went on to win the Canadian Championships against 55 other boats.

At the meeting of the World Association, John Prentice handed over the Presidency of the class to Graeme Hayward, and Richard Burley relinquished the Secretaryship to Denis Young. Thus International control was clearly demonstrated, with the executive of the class being based outside the U.K. for the first time – a particularly appropriate happening as North America was enjoying a boom with over a hundred Fourteens being built to Bruce Kirby designs. It looked as if America might beat Britain in registering their 1,000 ‘International 14’. With Canada contributing another 400 or so boats, there were now nearly 2,500 Fourteens registered.

In passing, the work of John Prentice should be remembered — his sponsorship of the Proctor V — led to a rapid build-up of the class in the U.K. — and indirectly to the beginning of the boom in America and Canada. More important, his calm and impartial chairmanship of the World Association in its early days ensured him the confidence of the Canadians, Americans and British, giving everyone a chance to adjust to the new situation.

1970 really marked the end of what had proved to be a hectic, exciting and extremely successful era. At Falmouth 80 Fourteens — using trapezes — contested the Prince of Wales Cup, over the same water that the trapeze had been Pioneered by Peter Scott, John Winter and Charles Currey. Clem Noel in a Souter Casson led at first, then Arthur Raine, then Mike Peacock. But it was Jeremy Pudney, after a disasterous start — he was 16th at the first mark – who won the day in his new Kirby V (a more stable version of the IV). Jeremy had had only a few days to tune her — being on vacation from South Africa — but he and his crew, Peter Brazier, moved up rapidly, taking the lead in the 4th lap and going on to win by 21/2 minutes. There was an exciting finish for 2nd spot. Peacock close behind Pudney — filled at the end of the final beat. lan Cox closed and passed him to take second gun. Pudney almost equalled Stewart Morris’s record of winning five races in P.O.W. week, but lan Cox denied him the pleasure, by finishing first in the final race.

From a gear point of view — the longer poles were in general use, forestays were optional, while trapezes had encouraged the use of handy controls for the skipper, covering kicker, outhaul, cunningham, spinnaker pole, down haul and mainsheet slide on each side of the boat.

Whereas the Fourteens had once been famous for being the only class to use the more expensive go-fast gadgets – such as winches, mast jacks, etc. – now all high performance dinghy classes carried a similar array of costly hardware and the whole small boat racing scene tended to follow fashion in the newest devices. There were exceptions, although the spinnaker chute, used by several other classes, was seen at Falmouth, in general the class was unconvinced and waited to see if it would be fitted with real advantage.

New building remained at around 15 to 20 the average it had been since the class started (overseas it was extremely buoyant). Overall, more boats were being built than at any time in the Fourteen’s long career. More young people were to be seen in the boat parks — more than making up for older Fourteen sailors who were moving on to less demanding craft.

At the end of 1970, to everyone’s regret, Stewart Morris sold Encore — having apparently settled for twelve P.O.W. wins and twenty-four replicas for being in the first six — but the class was delighted when he accepted the newly created office of President of the U.K. Association. For forty years he had epitomized the Fourteen class — seldom being far from the front of the fleet or from any gathering that could further its progress — the class would miss their single minded champion.