The years of discord, 1971 – 1989

If anyone thought, that the formation of the World Association would ensure a period of tranquillity, they were to be rapidly disillusioned. It is almost unbelievable, re-reading the bitter correspondence that flowed to and fro across the Atlantic, that people could get quite so upset over what, from nearly twenty years on, now seems pretty trivial stuff. But rules have a strange effect as Baird Bardarson commented at the time, ‘Rule arguing is a disease occupying a unique compartment. It is pursued with relish apparently uninfluenced by the usual constraints of reason, logic, ridicule or marital discord.’

The seeds of the 1971 problem lay in two areas. The Canadians had for some years been keen to simplify and tidy up the class rules to make more efficient glass fibre production possible — they saw glass as the answer to the shortage of skilled small boat craftsmen in North America. The British, tending to resist change, were always concerned with possible loopholes in any new rules. The other problem was that the Americans, at least some of them, were keen to move the spinnaker halyard hoist up a couple of inches to clear the jib halyard. There was some support for changing the rig rules but most people either wanted to move it a significant foot or more, or not at all.

There seemed to be no real problem when the British Team set sail for America having enjoyed a splendid P.O.W. at Lowestoft. Richard Ewart Smith won the points and lan Cox a dramatic breezy P.O.W. lan Cox gybed inside Jeremy Pudney at the last mark to wipe out his lead and snatch victory. It was these three, with John Prentice as Captain, who arrived in Annapolis for Team racing which was won for the first time by the American West Coast, Dick Rose, Baird Bardarson, Tom Rosmond and Dennis dark.

At the W.A. meeting, a number of points were discussed and agreed by the delegates. The Chairman, Graeme Hayward, issued a report saying that the decisions reached were now to be adopted by all National Associations. Result, uproar from Britain and the U.S., both of whom said that the World Authority had no right to order anyone to act outside the I.Y.R.U. rules, especially as some items that had been ruled on, had not been discussed by National Associations prior to the meeting. Their delegates therefore, had not been briefed, so had no right to vote. Graeme argued fiercely that he was only following existing practice, that it was the only way that the World Association could work and, that named delegates should have authority to commit their nations at these meetings.

The row spilled into 1972, with no real solution to the issue which had now become central, that the Canadian P.S.I. Fourteens had too much buoyancy and the British McCutcheon boats decks! The British set up a committee — Barry Perry, Larry Bates, lan Cox and Jeremy Pudney — to find a solution. The end result, so far as the World Association was concerned, was no progress as everyone ruled everyone else out of order! P.O.W. was at Parkstone, and due to lack of wind on the Thursday, was sailed on the Friday in equally tranquil conditions with the Hoad twins winning in a Kirby V, the Heath twins were second in a Kirby IV followed by Jon Perry (Souter Casson). Robbie Storrar won the points. Many of the fleet then moved on for a rare visit to Europe at La Rochelle. 1972 also marked the end of another era with the death of Uffa Fox.

There now seemed to be universal agreement that some re-write of the rules was in order. What was at issue was the degree of penalty for a capsize, how long before the boat was clear of water and racing again. In the past, the class had put a premium on seamanship, so that in difficult conditions the prudent reefed to minimise the chance of capsize. But as automatic bailing devices and buoyancy increased in efficiency, so the tendency was to put up full sail regardless of conditions. A rewrite of the World Association rules was also put in hand to try and overcome the various problems that had arisen. Not least, that of silence when asked in writing for a response.

In 1973, tempers cooled a little. Dave Johnson took over the C.D.A. from Graeme Hayward. P.O.W. was at Torbay and it was a Jeremy Pudney Benefit. He won both the points and the P.O.W., which once again had to be postponed because of lack of wind on the Thursday too, as it turned out, a more moderate Friday. Pudney led throughout but Phil Morrison in Snoggledog was closing for much of the race. Snoggledog was Phil Morrison’s first International Fourteen design, and it showed how long a good Fourteen design was competitive, winning replicas for the first six in P.O.W. in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1979 and 1981. Team racing was at Seattle, the British team Keith Goulborn, Robin Webb, Jon Perry, and Dan Owen. The American West Coast, Dick Rose, Ned Backas, Baird Bardarson and Tom Rosemond won again. Jeremy Pudney was elected chairman of the World Association with Robin Webb as Secretary. Among the many famous names in the class, that of Jeremy Pudney is one that deserves comment for the special efforts he has devoted to the Fourteens. To many around the world he is ‘Mr Fourteen’. The class was fortunate to have someone whose job took him to most corners of the globe, so that he acted as a roving ambassador and diplomat for the class. Certainly the Fourteen we sail today is, in no small way, the result of his single minded enthusiasm, not least his encouragement of designers and builders, having commissioned no less than 17 Fourteens between 1961 and 1988. His several devoted secretaries have worked long hours on the Fourteen’s behalf, often knowing more of what was going on than he did! It was at the 1973 World Association meeting that Dick Rose proposed that there should be a biennial World Fourteen championship — a development that was enthusiastically accepted at the time but which has led, over the years, to some diminution of the importance of Team Racing. During the year the ‘Higher I’ issue became a major discussion point, with several formulas being put forward to free up the rig restrictions. The UK view was in favour of change providing it did not make the boats radically more expensive or difficult to sail.

Throughout 1974, a Committee on behalf of the World Association led by Richard Ewart-Smith, set too to take the various proposals and re-write the class rules. Having done this, Richard explained his proposal at meetings round the country so that at least the UK was fully in accord with what was happening. P.O.W. was at Falmouth and, in light to moderate conditions, Dan Owen won, with Jeremy Pudney winning the points. The 1975 P.O.W. at Torquay was in complete contrast, sailed in winds gusting 30/40 mph with many famous names coming to grief. Seventy-six out of 84 entries started, only 31 completed the course, few without capsizing. In the end it turned out to be a North American Benefit, Steve Toschi (US) winning, followed by Dan Owen (Can), Chris Benedict (US), Alan Laflin (US), Dick Rose (US), Baird Bardarson (US). Dan Owen won the points. However, the UK fared rather better in the team races at Hayling Island which preceded P.O.W. week. Our team Jeremy Pudney, Dan Owen (a Canadian resident in the UK), Keith Goulbourn and Ray Rouse won. The World Association meeting agreed the rules package to go to the I.Y.R.U., which has been submitted to the W.A. meeting by, Tim Walsh (Canada), St John Martin (USA), and Ray Rouse (UK). They also approved a revised draft constitution for the World Association that had been written by Dick Rose (US), John Lazier (Canada), and Tom Vaughan (UK). This was sent back across the Atlantic with the delegates for final legal polishing and was never heard of again!

Meanwhile, the revised class rule proposal hit a snag with the I.Y.R.U. technical team, who did not like the roach part of the proposed sail measurement. This needed last minute re-drafting which significantly increased the class sail area to 190 square feet, from the original submission of 175 square feet and, the 160 square foot of the original January 1975 proposal. On return to Canada, the Canadian delegates were told that their agreement was subject to a vote of approval by C.D.A. members, (shades of 1971 again), and in America the American East Coast fleet, or part of it, led by St. John Martin, and John Carcich, claimed the American vote was invalid and members had not been consulted correctly. John Carcich appealed direct to the I.Y.R.U., who referred the matter to the American Yachting authorities, who in turn supported the vote so the new rules went through with little further real trouble and, in fact, solved many problems that had plagued measurers over the years.

However, there were significant difficulties. In the revised hull rules, was the ability to use dagger plates previously banned although this did not immediately cause problems. While on America’s East Coast, St. John Martin and John Carcich tried for a time to promote an alternative sail rule. Their case was for a more effective sail plan to the original limits not the larger one that the I.Y.R.U. had approved. Using the Tasar rotating mast fully battoned rig as their guide, two prototype masts broke before they solved the problem but in the end, without additional support the idea faded out, although some of their other ideas were later successfully adopted by the class. The sad outcome was that some of the most enthusiastic supporters of Fourteens in America’s East Coast lost interest, and support for Fourteen sailing in that part of America suffered. As it transpired, the Tasar was not the dramatic success that had been expected at the time.

However, the real problem round the world, was that support for dinghy sailing in general was falling rapidly. Having provided a buoyant market through the 1950’s and 1960’s, the 1970’s were of general decline. The Fourteens, never having attracted mass fleets as the more popular One Design’s, held on to its supporters rather better than many. So in the UK at least, while its numbers were dropping, its share of championship racing was increasing.

In 1976 with new rules in place, Cowes was the venue for the 50th Anniversary of the 1st P. O.W. Eighty-three Fourteens entered, ranging from K92 which had taken part in the original race, right up to a boat completed only two days before. The week was a great success, a hopeful sign for the future was to be found among the overseas entries were representatives of the new fleet in Japan, replacing the defunct Bermudian 14’s. The week offered a full range of conditions as only the Solent can. P.O.W. was sailed on the mainland shore, off Lee-on-the-Solent. It started in light airs, with the Harvery brothers from Canada soon establishing a big lead in a hybrid craft, their own Canadian masts and sails on a borrowed UK Hull. But the wind died and then came in from a completely different direction putting the Harveys down tide and wind of the mark, wiping out their near leg lead. Ray Rouse took full advantage of their problems and went on to win. The first time this has happened to an owner in a boat of his own design since Morgan Giles in 1931. The following day the fleet re-sailed the original P.O.W. course, starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron line amid the expensive roar of real cannon fire at a £1 a time. The Island Sailing Club presented a splendid anniversary trophy which was won by Ray Rouse, Jeremy Pudney taking the points prize for the week.

Replicas of the P.O.W. for the first 6 in the P.O.W. race, were causing concern, and it was decided that the larger one for the winner could no longer be justified, henceforth they would all be of the same diminutive size. But a later move to have them plated rather than solid silver was not approved, and it is of note that, recently, in the late 1980’s a move to scrap them on the grounds of cost was defeated by the membership at large. So the unique P.O.W. retains its unique honour of a solid silver replica of the P.O.W. cup, for the first six in the big race.

The following year, 1977, P.O.W. returned to Lowestoft. This was the lowest entry since the 1950’s although Lowestoft tending to have below average turnouts. Only 54 boats raced. The P.O.W. turned out to be another light wind affair, boats being on the water for over 9 hours. Mike Peacock in a new boat. Buccaneer II (1060), worked up from fifth to take the lead at the gybe mark of the second lap, by hanging on to his spinnaker longer than the rest, and went on to win his 3rd P.O.W. Third time proved lucky for him, for he won both the 1978 and 1979 P.O.W.’s, making 5 in all, (a record only bettered by Stewart Morris with 12). In 1978, at Falmouth, to the consternation of the design pundits, he was sailing his 14 year old Buccaneer (881), with the old style rig, except using the higher spinnaker hoist. Mike, being a relative lightweight, had always believed in matching his weight to sail area, not always going to the maximum allowed sail limits. His old Buccaneer had served him well giving him replicas in P.O.W.’s between 1965 and 1969 including a win in 1966. However, he achieved equal success in a large fleet of 83 at Beadnell using a brand new glass Kirby 7, made by his crew Mike Bond. Mike Peacock also led the 1977 team to Canada, with Jon Perry, Rollo Pyper and Tom Trevelyan, but it was Canada’s year and they won all nine of their matches. The British team in 1979 fared no better. Tom Trevelyan, John Evans, Dave Chandler and John Roberson did their best, but Canada won again. This was the first time a Japanese team had entered, demonstrating the growing support for the ‘Fourteens’ in Japan. Rig development on both sides of the Atlantic was interesting. The British were using large mains and small jibs, which proved less effective in the light to medium winds and short chop, everyone else opted for small mains and large jibs.

So closed a difficult ten years for both the class and dinghy sailing in general. But the Fourteen with a new set of rules, which were now working well, was more than holding its own in what, world wide, was a declining market.