The Australians Join In, 1990 – 2003

The key objective during this era was to see if an merger with Australia and the International Fourteen’s was possible. Here were two proud organisation both with well established fleets,famous histories established over many years .each quite sure they had the better boats, better rigs, better rules and better traditions and was certainly more innovative than the other and each was deeply suspicious of any move that might compromise that position.

In Australia small open boat racing , at the turn of the century, took place in very different conditions and developed with very different traditions than elsewhere. The Australian Craft started, as did the British, as open rowing dinghies with sail . But they tended over the years, to pile on more and more sail in their search for speed. Up to 400 square foot, as there were no sail restriction in their rules, and, hold it up with a large crew of 6/8 unlike the International they had no restriction on crew numbers. the only limits they set were hull length (although they did allow bowsprits) , width and depth,( which in practice must have limited the crew numbers,) and the weight of the centre board .

In Australia in 1960 one of their most revolutionary 14’ was produced. Darkie, designer L.A.Randell Applecross W.A. to quote an Australian commentator of the time by Paul Hopkins Editor Seacraft of Australia:

“The sensation of the season was the introduction of a 14 ft boat in PerthWestern Australia. This all-Australian craft is so fast that it has beaten Shearwater and local catamarans. In Perth alone, since Darkie crashed on the boating scene, more than twenty identical boats have been built. The hull is revolutionary-but not unlike a 5-0-5 in chine construction. wetted surface is very small but the sharply sloped sides and wide ‘sponsons’ which overhang 7 in., give her a dish appearance. Small by Australian standards, the sail area of 108 sq.ft(10.03 m2) in the main and 36 sq.ft(3.3m2). in jib keeps the all-important cost down but gives the easily driven hull remarkable speed,especially down wind. Two spinnakers-one a parachute of 116 sq. ft(10.776 m2) and the other a normal flat-cut type of 56 sq. ft(5.2 m2)-are carried. Syd Corser, Darkie’s skipper, reefs in any breeze over 15 knots-but still wins by huge margins. In the Australian 14 foot Championship, which he won, Corser cleared out from his over-canvassed rivals to win by 5,,8,and 10 minutes-depending on the weather. Darkie could well become a national class as her sheet plywood, chine construction is within the scope of any handy amateur. All up weight less than 200 lbs(90.72 kg)., the hull weighing 140 lbs(63.504 kg). Total cost,with best Terylene sails,is less than £200. It is claimed that this boat is the fastest dinghy ever built. This could be as it can defeat any craft afloat in Australian waters given the right conditions. Of course it takes more than a perfect hull and rig to win. Darkie’s crew-Syd Corser,his brother Tony and Paul Holland-have a string of victories in other classes which would make any champion envious Darkie design’s won the Australian championships in 1960, 61,63.”

Thus finally passed the Australian big sail and crew concept in favour of fewer crew which had been reducing for some years , less sail , less hull weight, more speed although the Australians, at least some of them, retain their interest in more than two crew and it also marked the switch to lightweight hulls, twin trapezes. and asymmetric spinnakers. They were ahead of the International in their search for more speed using light wood construction. Theweight of the early glass Fourteen’s in North America and the UK prevented much progress in discussions with the Australians as by 1963 the Australians were already down to 160 lbs.(72.58kg) But there was now a growing convergence between the two classes.

In 1990’s, Australia led by their then National Secretary Stephen Edmunds was trying to get his various State fleets to find a consensus on what terms they could agree to a merger, in the UK Charles Stanley held his Fourteeners together as discussions continued. While World Chairman Tom Trevelyan and World secretary Jeremy Pudney who put in ten dramatic years in office, a world record, to keep the Fourteen’s World organisation going as world events challenged them. However the ‘wind of change’ that had swept through the Fourteen’s in the 1970’s. Swept on The Fourteen’s, after so many years of being seen by many as yesterdays class were, in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, very much the class of the moment.

New building boomed , 44 boats from Britain went to the Worlds in San Francisco. They performed well, but it was two of the 25 Australian boats present that won the event. Prompting calls for further changes taller rigs etc. but the class in general was not, at the time, keen suffering from rule change fatigue.

It is of interest that the’Classic’ , single trapeze, sectionset-up in Britain in 1989 to keep interest in the class alive inland.was still going in 2003 and in 1996 it was joined by the ‘Penultimate’ to provide a home for the low rig twin trapeze craft

The Fourteen’s were caught up by Yachting politics in the 90’s in a big way The Olympic management had threatened to drop Sailing as an Olympic Sport unless it could prove a less elitist, more TV friendly, and a less costly sport i.e. more cash producing for the Olympics. So the IYRU, in response, proposed a to reduce the number of International Classes so TV and world interest could be concentrated on fewer, World supported Classes. this proposal did not get very far after stiff objection from all the existing International Classes of the time , including their senior class the Int. 14.

The World Council officers suggested to the ISAF in 1992 that their International Fourteencould be used as an olympic vehicle that was always up to date. If one Fourteen design could be selected for each olympics year the boat would always be State of the Art and one design rather than yesteryears model. Using Super Cup style racing which was popular in the class at the time. encouraged by then UK Chairman Charles Stanley . Super Cup was short course knock out competition with crews swapping boats. This was a defensive move by the World Council Officers as there were many of their members had no desire to be an Olympic class with their high profile tensions, politics, costs, and inevitable smaller National fleets. so alien to the friendly Fourteen image which so many comment on over the years. A simple 14 to the proposed Olympic specification was produced and proved very competitive.

At least by the end of this time Thanks to valiant efforts by World Chairman Tom Trevelyan and his Secretary Jeremy Pudney, the latter being now active in the ISAF, as Chairman of the ISAF International classes Committee , The ISAF being by now fully aware of their veteran but ever youthful class helped by the fact that the chairman of the ISAF was Canadian Paul Henderson himself an ex-Fourteener. In any case the UK fleet at that time was also attempting with some success to get renewed interest growing in Europe. Lake Garda in Italy became a prime site for the UK Fleet and remains so to this day. A healthy fleet was established in Germany smaller ones in Switzerland and Denmark

However the success of the Fourteen and the call from the ISAF for a newclass for the 2000 Olympics promoted a whole plethora of new asymmetric classes of varying sizes with which the class has now to compete, including the Johnson one design 14 based on a modified Cross 3 design and the Olympic (Later Laser) 5000 both of whom triedto get chosen without even being an Olympic class and were offering the ISAF free boats for the Olympics as an inducement. When the ISAF held trials in the Autumn 1996 at Tombole, Lake Garda to find a new High Performance one design Dinghy for the Olympic Games the 49er were selected. The International Fourteen was second choice of the sailors, who had tried all the new classes, and several older ones for comparison!

It is strange how this ISAF drive for an up to date class has ignored the development class it had in its midst since 1928 which had developed over the years , into an almost identical but more stylish, smaller but rather more state of the art example of the IYRU 1971 development project as shown in Yachts and Yachting.The politics of the ISAF certainly helped in the merger talks taking part at that time.

When the two largest Fourteen Fleets met up for the first time in San Francisco in 1989 The Open event was won by two Australian Boats but the International were not that far off the pace even though there were still big differences; weight and mast height being the chief of them, and the attempt to bring the Australian Fleet to the UK for the next Worlds failed over attempts by the UK hosts attempts to bring them closer together the Australian being asked to add some weight and change their jib tack position, which they rejected,. The British (and the Canadians in 1993) wanted to keep the event for International 14 and not to mix it with an open 14 event as had been done at San Francisco but the merger move would not go away as changes were discussed over the next few years.

Paul Bieker had by then devised a merger programme and time scale. The timing missed by a couple of years but in essence he had devised the changes which were put up by the World s Council to the World Association meeting in Copenhagen in August 1995, allowing more sail, higher masts, simpler construction, wider hulls, racks and decks. This was ratified later in the year by the IYRU (Now the ISAF). So the stage was set for another attempt to bring Australia and New Zealand into the World Class with the inevitable result that new building all but ceased until the position was clarified. Both the POW and the weeks points being won by new designs although boats converted to the new rule were able to hold their own.

At the end of 1996 , the long time goal of a single World Wide 14 rule was achieved, thanks to some stalwart work by the Australian National Secretary of the time Stephen Edmunds, the Australians voted to accept the modified International Rules at their Championship. and a very successful World Championship was held again in San Francisco in 1997 with some 82 boats racing, despite the many claims of superiority of their own designs all the modern Fourteen seemed competitive. With the event being won by an English crew Charles Stanley sailing an American Bieker design fitted with a New Zealand built mast,.

The introduction of the World Trophy by America in 1979 and growth of air travel marked a dramatic change in the World’s fleet size. In the past visitors in the teams that came over to compete in the far older Team event helped to make up the Worlds fleet, but now everyone who wanted to compete came along by 1989 there were 107 competitors at San Francisco with 40 from England. There was a downside, the Status of Team Racing suffered as did the POW which since 1927 had served as the World Championship. When the Worlds event came back to England in 1991 it was combined with the POW Week the fleet reached an all time record of 137, 11 of whom were Classics

In January 1999 The link between the Northern and Southern hemispheres was consolidated when the world championship was held in Melbourne Australia, with 130 entries,being narrowly won (it all depended on the last race) by an Australian Grant Geddes from an Englishman Charles Stanley,but both sailing an American Bieker design and in 2000 the Worlds were held at Beer England 116 entries being won by an American Kris Bundy using the new controversial foil system developed by Paul Bieker, with the team racing being held at Itchenor being retained by the Australians in a stormy final,

The 2001 World Championships was held in Bermuda , despite a near by Hurricane which caused problems, several days being blown off. With the America winning the Team Trophy and another American Zach Berkowitz dominating the worlds again using the still controversial foiled rudder. The Australians wanted to ban foils but the World Association voted to accept them with limitations to prevent a fully foiled flying hull, which had already been trialed in Perth Australia. One of those involved with this Flying Fourteen was Alan Smith who had tried , with others , to get the Australians involved in with the International 14’s in 1970’s, having recorded in his letters the Australian problems as through moved to two trapezes: broken plates, broken rudders as they developed their craft only to be repeated in the UK when they went down the same development path Alan sailed over here for some years and in the 1976 POW, had used an asymmetric wire luffed Australian spinnaker in the Friday race. No one seemed to notice and as Alan said it did not work very well.

In 2001 both Tom Trevelyan and Jeremy Pudney stepped down after a record and very successful tenure of office, secure in the knowledge that the class to which they had given so much was surviving well in the very competitive world it now found itself. Jeremy Pudney very much the Stewart Morris of his day, now the father of the class having being the infant terrible in his youth

In 2003 it was back to Japan again where the UK won the Team Racing and then the World Championship when Rob Greenhalgh, this years POW Winner, crewed by Don. Johnson winning the event with a race to spare in Phil Morrison’s 11th design, from the 2001 World Champion Zach Berkowitz who uniquely, sailing the same boat finished in the last four of the world championships, winning one, with a second, third and eighth since 1999. Who say you need a new boat every year!

So this 79 year old International class is still up with the leaders,run as always by its members for its members

The Future

Where once the Fourteen was once tailor made for its first owner, the main demand today is for a complete ready to race craft straight from the factory. So once again it is the classes need of a builder that determines the size of the fleet But a Development class can and must change all that is in question as Dr Stu Walker once said is at what speed it takes place. A one design is obsolescent from the moment it is first conceived. A Development class can always take advantage of the latest technology and materials, as is proved by the long term success of the International Fourteen. As it has moved from the open boat concept with seamanship at a premium to the high tech,decked , speedy beauty of today were sailing skill is the name of the game.

So the story of the International Fourteen is once again brought up-to-date. In spite of intense competition from other classes, the International Fourteen continues to fill a need for those of an inventive frame of mind. Those who ask for top flight competition, free from the high powered dramatics of the Olympic circus and the strict controls of one design classes. Noother restricted class in the world has withstood so well the test of time and the onslaught of criticism, as have the ‘Fourteens’. The soundness of their rules is proved. Scope for design and development is forever present and this room for experiment makes possible the acquisition of knowledge, useful to all who sail and build boats, whether it’s development or one design.

It is with this background that the class thrives, for it attracts those who see more in their sailing than just being afloat. And yet when afloat, they have the sheer joy of handling a perfect thing. For that, surely, is what an International Fourteen is, always providing the most thrilling sailing, while for those gifted with touch of genius there is not another class which can offer greater scope, or indeed attract, finer yachtsmen and yachtswomen.

This seems a good point to bow out having first started sailing Fourteen’s back in 1948,being a proven mid fleeter at POW, having chronicled some of the history and had so much pleasure in being a small part of this splendid and very friendly class. Now the story can be updated at any time by anyone on the web, so my job is done.