The years of change, 1980 – 1989

Just as in the 1970’s, Fourteeners had hoped in vain for a period of tranquillity following the formation of the World Association. So anyone who hoped for a period of rule stability in the 1980’s was to be equally disappointed. The Fourteen would be a very different boat at the end of the period than it was at the start. The 70’s had seen a generally declining entry at P.O.W., and of new building. The 80’s, after a difficult start, (new building dropped to the lowest it had been since the early 1950’s), ended on a high note, with new building and P.O.W. entries rising in a most hopeful way. New designers entered the fray. New faces replaced old supporters and the class moved back into the front of media interest.

Just as in the 1970’s, Fourteeners had hoped in vain for a period of tranquillity following the formation of the World Association. So anyone who hoped for a period of rule stability in the 1980’s was to be equally disappointed. The Fourteen would be a very different boat at the end of the period than it was at the start. The 70’s had seen a generally declining entry at P.O.W., and of new building. The 80’s, after a difficult start, (new building dropped to the lowest it had been since the early 1950’s), ended on a high note, with new building and P.O.W. entries rising in a most hopeful way. New designers entered the fray. New faces replaced old supporters and the class moved back into the front of media interest.

1980 started off with the UK rejecting a reduction in weight and twin trapezes. Twin Trapezes had been a feature of the abortive 1971 plans of the I.Y.R.U. for a new Development class, which at the time caused the Fourteens no little concern. Weight was no longer the dramatic problem it had been prior to the advent of unlimited correctors, so builders could build as light as they dare. However, the trend now was toward selling complete fully equipped, ready to race, off-the-shelf boats. Builders needed reasonable runs to justify mould costs, so glass was the obvious solution. But weight could be a problem with glass, unless exotic materials were used. This in turn gave a cost problem, so weight reductions had to be handled with care. Twin trapezes on the other hand caused far more vocal discussion, with all the old single trapeze issues being dusted off and paraded again. With a World wide class there is always the problem that each area tends to push for development most suitable for its local conditions. That is why with a development class, frequent meetings of all fleets is essential if a satisfactory all round craft is to result.

The twin trapeze was the obvious response to the extra sail area the 1975 rules had allowed. The usually strong winds of the West Coast of America were ideal for the twin trapeze. In any case, they were already exposed to the multi trapeze culture of New Zealand and Australia and, in fact, had been experimenting with them since the 1960’s. But not wishing to rock the boat, they decided to use them locally and wait for other fleets to follow rather than force the pace and make an issue of it. In the UK there has always been a strong conservative, in the conservation, streak. The Fourteen rule originated in the United Kingdom, and dinghies developed to it provided perfect advanced sailing for a wide range of UK venues and conditions. The Fourteen attracted enthusiastic support from a pleasant competitive and inventive group, so why change it? would best summarise the UK attitude. In fact, most of the major changes, with exception of increased sail area and dagger plates of 1975, were resisted by the UK, change being stimulated by overseas pressure.

So when the twin trapeze issue came up for serious discussion in the early 1980’s, there was little enthusiasm. Although in 1980 the UK Committee voted for a trial of it, and lower weight, little progress was made. Moves for trials were frustrated by the ‘anti’s’ getting clubs to reject experimental 14’s racing for trophies, and so it was not until 1983 that the class narrowly, (a 2/3 majority was required), voted by 67-32 to support trials, but this was confirmed a year later with a more authorative 100/20. The I.Y.R.U. approved 2 trapeze in 1984, and class rules were modified – but not before there had been a spirited rear guard action, led by Jon Perry. He favoured allowing a 7′ wide boat with one trapeze as an alternative. The members were circulated and Phil Morrison designed a boat to the rule which Jon offered to build as a trial horse. The UK Committee set up a sub-committee to look into the affair. They were not in favour of wide hulls, but suggested a three year trial of wings for a limited numbeer, (4-6 boats), to prove or disprove the idea. The committee decided, by 5 — 2 with 4 abstentions, that it was not a good idea. Their feeling was that it would confuse the issue of the twin trapezes. It is of interest that the original Post ‘Thunderbolt’ restriction of 5’6″ was introduced, it is said, because that was the widest hull that could be got down the lane and on to the Itchenor stage!

The 1980 Prince of Wales at Torquay was the fourth lightish P.O.W. in a row. It was led from the start by Dave Chandler who, at 21, was the youngest person to date to win the trophy. 54 boats competed and Phil Morrison won the points for the second year running. The 1981 was altogether a more boisterous affair at Mounts Bay, with Martin Jones taking over the lead from Ray Rouse and Keith Goulborn by positive use of his spinnaker, snapping it up while the leaders hesitated, and going on to win followed by Phil Morrison. Martin also won the weeks points Trophy. Then it was off to Annapolis for the team racing sailed in light conditions. The British Team, John Evans, Jeremy Pudney, Martin Jones, lan Bilsland, did not fare well in the generally light conditions and the victory went to the America East Coast team, Eric Arens, John Gallagher, Tom Price, and Rod Mincher, who scored the first win for America East. The World Championship that followed was won by Frank McLaughlin (KV), with Doug Harvey (Cross II) second, Mark Adams (Benedict) third, and John Gallagher (the 1979 champion) fourth (KV). John Evans was fifth (Benedict I) and Martin Jones (K7) sixth.

The Fourteens had been scheduled to sail P.O.W. at Llandudno in 1982, but to the disgust of Llandudno, switched back to an unprecedented return visit to Mounts Bay, which had proved very popular the year before. The class was concerned to achieve maximum support as new building levels were causing much concern. 60 boats turned up, the same as the year before. Martin Jones won again, but not quite so easily. Alan Bax in Grey Matter led at the first mark and built up a useful lead, until he capsized at the second gybe mark, handing the lead and, as it turned out the Prince of Wales Cup, to a grateful Martin Jones. Twelve year old Donna Rouse won the Nora Chichester Smith Trophy for the First Helmswoman home in the P.O.W. Her crew, her father (the 1976 P.O.W. winner). By winning three of the weeks other races, Mike Peacock in Tornado won the points trophy with Martin Jones as runner up.

1983 was to be a watershed year for the class. Pressure for further rule changes had been building up. In 1981 restrictions in the width of centreboard had been removed. The following year weight was reduced to 215 lbs. The position of correctors was made unlimited and different combinations of main/jib areas were permitted. In 1983 weight was further reduced to 200 lbs. Builders and designers started to take real advantage of the 1975 rules. At Tynemouth, Dave Ovington, who completed his first Fourteen in 1980, teamed up with American designer Chris Benedict. Chris had started his Fourteen sailing in an elderly American One Design. Between them they soon became the major supplier of race winning Fourteens in the UK.

Over the years the class in the UK has been fortunate in always having at least one major supplier, plus a varying number of more individual builders, both professional and amateur. Counting only UK registered Fourteen’s and ignoring their many overseas orders, Morgan Giles, between 1911 and 1935, (when his last hull was registered), built a hundred. Uffa Fox produced 193 between 1923 and 1951. Fairey Marine, run by Charles Currey, started moulding Fourteen hulls of Uffa design, turning out 103 in the 50’s. In 1960 Souters of Cowes started up and between 1960 and 1968 delivered 112, an average of 14 a year, the highest output of the lot. McCutcheon, also in the Isle of Wight, started with the hard Chine Shdi for New Zealander John Shelley in 1962. Over the next 20 years he registered 108, including some of the first competitive ‘glass hulls’, although they had a buoyancy problem, being liable to sink when flooded. Mike Bond was the next to try glass, and after initial problems over weight, produced 24 boats between 1977 and 1983. Then it was the turn of Dave Ovington starting in the 1980’s and soon to pass 50 UK registered Craft. Many other builders and designers, over 200 to date, both professional and amateur have, and are adding variety to, the mix, preventing any tendency to one designness! A major problem overseas has been the need for a regular local supply of competitive craft. The Americans have twice tried the One Design solution, in the 1930-40’s, which failed when the owners started to modify their craft in the search for greater performance. Now in 1989 it is being tried again by Johnson Boats using the proven Cross III hull moulded in Canada.

Dave Ovington’s first Benedict was to Chris Benedict’s 7 plank design, but Dave modified it from a dagger plate to conventional centreboard, which he believed, correctly, to be far easier to handle for launching and recovery. This left it to Phil Morrison to show the way ahead with William (1144). Phil modified his Morrison IV design and with the help of Rowsell brothers of Exmouth, long famed for their Merlins, built a state of the art trend setting dinghy. This had a dagger plate, needing bumps to keep within the rise of floor rules, was double bottomed, and had a massive metal space frame to take rig and hull stresses. Four days after she was completed she proved to be the best British boat at the Pevensey P.O.W. finishing second in the P.O.W and third on points. Williams space frame set the pattern for most recent boats – but it was not in fact the first such device in the UK. This was seen on Robbie Storrars Ammal Farm (1059) in 1976. Winner of both were the Kidd brothers of Canada, who took the World title, Prince of Wales Cup, and the points in the World Championship. With American Chris Benedict as a runner up in a boat of his own design.

Pevensey P.O.W. Week proved to be of some note. Launching and recovery through surf had much in common with early aircraft carriers, when it was up to the strength and stamina of the deck party to catch and hold the returning craft. Pevensey was not for the faint hearted. However, it was notable for other events. The Chichester Smith Trophy for the first helmswoman in P.O.W., went to Canadian Karen Bleasby crewed by her husband, in a Cross III with a sixth in the P.O.W. and fourth on points. She was the first woman to win a replica since Mrs Helen Lloyd Prichard way back in 1949. But 1983 proved a good year for ladies with Beritt Bardarson crewing for her father, finishing sixteenth on points. Others will remember Pevensey for the abortive first race when the leeward mark started to drag to windward almost as fast as a boat could sail! And the heavy weather P.O.W., force five gusting six.

Prior to Pevensey the bi-annual team racing had been run by Itchenor Sailing Club Hayling. Team races have played a vital role in keeping the class together. But in the UK, the selection of the Team has over the years generated much controversy. Minutes of Committee meetings show that more time had been spent on the subject than probably any other matter! As the Secretary Norman Marks once gloomily recorded, ‘The traditional exchange of views on how best to select the team were once again exchanged.’ The British Fourteens have always had difficulty in adapting to team tactics. One skipper was heard to say during selection trials at Itchenor, ‘I was not having him go through my wind even if he was in my team.’ American Stu Walker said of team racing, ‘The English have always sailed as if they believed the favour of being English extended their sailing prowess.’ In this case it did — they won! Their team, Rodger Yeoman, Jon Perry, Will Henderson, Andy Fitzgerald representing the UK South. Running them close, UK North, Geoff Blackbird, Howard Steavenson, Dave Ovington and Rollo Pyper joint second, equal with Canada,. Karen Bleasby again made history by being the first woman to take part in a team since Mrs Richardson was in the first team races in 1933.

On a technical note, the Americans East had some glass fibre masts believed to be a first in the class. In the Autumn the I.Y.R.U. approved a one a year twin trapeze trial. The class was about to jump into a new chapter of its long history. Twin Trapezes, combined with the advent of dagger plates, (made possible by the 1975 rule change), effectively ruled out state of the art Fourteens for many of its traditional Fourteen strongholds on restricted inland waters. Nor had these clubs been helped by the undoubted discomfort of the modern 14, when the crew were confined on board in light airs, on the now, near universal, double bottomed hulls. From now on the Fourteen would develop as the ultimate open water craft, rather than the all-round craft it had been, and the problems of speed of self-rescue issue was settled. Fourteens were now completely self draining.

It was one of those ironies that the first twin trapeze P.O.W.’s in 1984 at Tynemouth turned out to be a cat and mouse affair with light winds, strong tides and lumpy sea. Two father/daughter teams led at the first mark, Baird and Bevit Bardarson followed by Ray and Donna Rouse. They lost out to Rodger Yeoman in William who slipped through to leeward, as others ungallantly attacked their weather. Rodger went on to win having fought off challenges from Will Henderson, Mark Struckett and the Kidd brothers. It was a race where no one could afford to relax for a second. Will Henderson won the close fought points series.

At the end of the year the I.Y.R.U. approved twin trapeze being made permanent. The UK fleet voted in favour. Some senior supporters decided the time had come for them to leave and P.O.W. turnouts, suffered both from that and the decline of the inland clubs. Dropping below 50 for the first time since 1959, they stayed down in 1984,1985, 1986 when the class rebuilt itself with a new younger, but just as talented group of enthusiasts. The 1985 P.O.W. was at Torbay and started as a boisterous force five affair. Pat Blake led at first but was overtaken by Andy Fitzgerald, who rounded the final mark still in the lead but was faced on the last leg by the classic dilemma of whether to go high or low. He chose low and carried his spinnaker. Will Henderson lowered his, went high, hoisted it again and in a dying breeze finished first. James Hartley took the points.

Henderson and Bruce Grant (1146), Rodger Yeoman/Mike Moss (1144), Hartley and lan Tillett (1161), Dave McLean/Chris Golding (1162), were the British team which went to Canada and finished as runner up to Canada, who made a clean sweep. The Kidd brothers won the World Championship. The World Association meeting discussed jib battens, which at the time the Canadians were keen on. Exotic materials (which was a feature of much of the UK production), Spinnaker Pole length. Rise of Floor and J Measurements, (the last was to be a continuing debate), as were Keel Bands and Bumps, no one being able to agree an effective rule to limit or remove then. In the case of the J Measurement limit which had only been introduced in the 1975 rule rewrite, the problem of removing it was concern over builder’s costs in adjusting moulds and too rapid obsolesence of existing craft. A move at the UK AGM to limit the number of sails competitors could use, did not find favour with the committee or, it seems, the membership.

The 1986 P.O.W. was at Lowestoft and for the first time a handicap system was introduced to encourage older boats. The fleet launched off the beach and it was significant that out of the 48 boats that started, two thirds were less than two years old. Sailed in a moderate breeze, the result was a repeat of the previous year. But with Will Henderson working out a seven minute lead at the Gun, James Hartley won the points. Dash (873) A Thomas taking the handicap prize. For some years, measurements at P.O.W. had caused discussions and the Committee decided that for 1987, at Falmouth, all boats entered would be measured. It proved such a success it was made a permanent feature. P.O.W. that year turned out to be a real drifter, the wind seldom getting over five knots. The Penman brothers, sons of ‘Yeti’ designer, Guthrie Penman, in one of the oldest boats, and the youngest crews in the race (1128), led at the windward mark followed by Andy Fitzgerald then Will Henderson. But by the second round, Dave Ovington (1211), (builder of many of the boats racing), was in the lead crewed by Ann Ainsworth (Davidson). For three more tense laps, way ahead of the rest of the fleet the two boats drifted around the course. On the final beat, the Penmans crossed the leader but Ovington’s nerve held. Seeing signs of a breeze he went way out on the Starboard side of the course and was back in the lead, which he held for the next two legs winning the cup. His equally elated crew won the Morgan Giles Trophy, the first time ever a lady had led the P.O.W. fleet home. James Hartley won the points for the third consecutive year with four wins (which would have been five had he not left his token ashore and been disqualified from one of them after finishing in the lead).

Then it was off to Japan for team racing and the World Championship, a unique event with representatives of Australia and New Zealand present. Sponsorship was a feature with £14,000 being provided by Kleinwort Benson for the British Team. A far cry from the modest funding of previous team events. Japan’s first major International Fourteen event was a triumphant success, both for the host and the British Team, a handy typhoon unexpectedly providing the sort of conditions the UK enjoy. Jeremy Sibthorpe and Bruce Grant, James Hartley and lan Tillett, Neal and Duncan McDonald, Charles Stanley and John Hodgart represented Britain. With fourteen wins they beat everyone, Canada proving the main opposition with twelve wins. The UK team also took the first four places in the World Championships that preceded the team racing, sailed on Lake Inawashiro. Hartley/Tillett took the championship. Stanley Hodgart was runner up. The McDonalds third and Jeremy Sibthorpe/Grant fourth. Fifth was Hele and Welsh (Canada) with Steve and Anne Toschi (USA) sixth. The reigning champion Jamie Kidd, was a non-starter having cut his face badly after a mega capsize in practice.

The World Association meeting in Japan could not find anyone prepared to take over as Chairman, so it was left vacant. There was a great deal of discussion about advertising and sponsorship. The Americans were keen to preserve the Corinthian spirit of individual effort. Delegates were against individual as opposed to team sponsorship. Major concern was expressed over the official status of the class rules and the I.Y.R.U. sail reinforcement rules. This had caused acrimonious discussion between the Canadian team and the World Association in the shape of its longsuffering and serving Secretary, John Evans, at the start of the Japanese championships. To help, the World Association agreed to; define the classes relationship with the I.Y.R.U., with a Standard World Wide Measurement form, standard International Certificate, a revised measures manual and standard sailing instruction for team and Championship events. The Canadians also requested that 1988 be an official world wide trial of the asymmetric spinnaker. This was rejected in favour of each country conducting such experiments as it thought best into new spinnakers — the UK wanting to see what type of spinnaker would prove most effective.

The advent of the asymmetric, long popular in Australia and New Zealand and not unknown in the early days of the class in the UK, took place with unusual speed. Little, if any mention, had been made of it until 1986. What seems to have happened is that an Australian Fourteen visit to America’s West Coast in 1979 raised interest in it and the twin trapeze. But nothing much happened until the 1985 decision for trials of unlimited spinnaker poles. The Canadians decided that a sensible way of progressing was by dropping the ban in asymmetrics in the rules. Jay Cross fitted up a trial rig using a Laser boom lashed to his bow, and an Australian style sail cut to existing class dimensions. Reporting greatly increased performance and ease of handling over conventional chutes. Then, as a result of an invitation from Australian Fourteeners, Canada then built a special Fourteen ‘Fleetfoot’ to take part in the Perth (Australia) 1987 open Fourteen Championship sailed by the Kidd brothers. ‘Fleetfoot’ was very high tech, the hull was a pre-preg expoxy Kevlar composite baked in a pressurised auto clave. A standard Cross III in design, her exotic production was not cheap, $Can 20,000, six times as expensive as typical Australian dinghies. Weighing 140 lbs., she had a standard Fourteen rig except for a 300 sqft asymmetric. She performed well, finishing 6th overall out of 56 starters, and the Canadians were hooked on the asymmetric.

Throughout 1988 a rule package was put together to allow asymmetric, or any spinnaker varient, to be tried, and with it a proposal to allow fully battened mainsails. These had long been popular with America’s East Coast, indeed part of their 1975 experiment. The British Committee recommended that the class did not, at the moment, go for full length battens, fearing too much change too soon. But the membership at large voted narrowly for them. So the package that went through the I.Y.R.U. in 1988 made the biggest change the class had seen for years. At the class AGM, John Evans, who had been World Secretary since 1981, was elected Chairman of the UK class, and another past World President, Jeremy Pudney, took over his role of World Secretary.

Prince of Wales week was at Poole, with 61 boats racing. Parkstone Y.C. ran a splendid week not helped by the wind, which blew strongly (force 5-6) all week, so much so there was no racing on the first two days. But to catch up, two races a day were sailed which made for an exhausting week. P.O.W. was postponed due to the extreme wind and sea conditions but only after the class had fought their way to the start line, as the wind gusted to 30/40 knots. The following day was not much better, but seemed so as the sun was shining. The McDonald brothers made a good start and had a huge lead at the first mark, only to lose it to James Hartley at the Gybe mark, but were soon back in the lead. James capsized soon afterwards, got going again without loosing a place. Then, as an observer put it, went in “Bows first’, spinnaker flying, to score 5.9 for style, letting Charles Stanley through to second spot. Only 18 out of the 61 entries completed the P.O.W. and there were no takers for the afternoon race! The McDonald brothers also won the points trophy with three firsts and a second.

In the autumn the I.Y.R.U. approved the new rules on which both Canada and the UK, led by Tom Trevelyan, had done so much of the work. These provided for an unlimited time trial of asymmetric and fully battened mains. Only the J Measurement, bumps and keel bands, still defied acceptable solution and there was a general desire vocally expressed at the 1989 UK AGM, for the rules to be left alone for a while. James Hartley and lan Tillett won a special short course event at San Diego Super Cup 88, with Will Henderson and Bruce Grant in second spot. Throughout the winter, experiment in colourful fully battened mains with asymmetrics, was intensive, with sailmakers seeking the ideal solution in preparation for the World Championship in San Francisco in 1989. The New Zealand Fourteens had already built over a dozen, so called New Zealand Fourteens. International hull rules, Australian rig, it looked like being a unique event, not least because over 40 British boats had signed up for the trip half way round the world. This made a turnout of well over 100 likely, the largest 14 fleet ever, providing an opportunity, as in America and the UK in the 1930’s, for Fourteens round the world to compare notes! The 1989 P.O.W. is scheduled for Mounts Bay, and to try and encourage owners of older boats, outstripped by the rapid rule development, special prizes will be offered for ‘Classic’ Fourteens. These are defined as boats conforming to 1983 rules, or earlier, ie single trapeze. Thus the Fourteen Committee hoped to encourage all its supporters. The Vintage Fourteens movement, (no trapezes), at Upper Thames started by Tony Lunch, Joe Griffiths and Gavin Pollock, were already providing the venue for old fashioned Fourteen river racing, complete with Tea and Strawberries. Vintage racing had seen a dying fleet turned to an active one, with many once famous Fourteens enjoying a new lease of life, as well as providing living proof of the Fourteens origins.

Itchenor remained the spiritual home of the Fourteens, while the Northern Fourteens, based at Tynmouth and Derwent, provided an alternative centre of excellence. Some old Fourteen Clubs, sadly, had dropped out, Hayling and Tamesis no longer having fleets but new clubs, King George, and others had replaced them. Several others had difficulty in attracting sufficient Fourteen sailors, or any sailors for that matter. Clubs on restricted waters, particularly river ones, not only suffered from the modern Fourteens need for space, but also from the competition of the new reservoir clubs that provided it. Fourteen sailors, like enthusiastic crews in many racing classes, now tended to congregate each weekend at the venue where the best class racing was to be had. This in preference to racing with a couple of local boats or, in a handicap fleet at their home club. But in a market which showed little growth in the 1980’s, the Fourteens were in far better shape than at the start of the decade. They had a new, younger band of supporters, many leading sailors from other classes, and a boat that looked what it was, a high performance, up-to-the-minute, no holds barred racing machine. The ghost of Fourteeners’ past could be well satisfied that they had built the class foundations well.