The Years of Development 1955 – 1963

The coming of terylene was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Fourteen, for it upset the established pattern of the class. Old rules were challenged, designers and owners took heart and the class began once more to expand. A development class must develop if it is to prosper, and develop and prosper the Fourteen did.

The first terylene sails made their appearance in this country in 1955. To those accustomed to the perfection of cotton the first suits looked quite terrible but they did seem to make the boats using them go better, the reason being that the sails were smoother and more impervious than cotton. The big advantage of terylene was not immediately apparent; this was that it allowed bigger roaches and hence bigger mainsails. In 1956 an armament race began, as owners vied with each other to set the biggest possible sail, adding to the roach and the fullness. In the end the sails were such that they would only just hold their shape, by which time the unmeasured area of mainsails had increased by 10 per cent. In 1957, the R.Y.A. Dinghy Committee decided the experiment had gone far enough and that further expansion was not in the interest of the class, so the half and three-quarter height formula was introduced, which limited the free area of the sail, preventing freak shapes whilst leaving room for experiment. Shortly after the I.Y.R.U. laid down that sails had to be of woven material and capable of being stowed in sail bags, as it seemed possible that development might lead to sheet plastic sails — indeed a plastic jib had been tried at the P.O.W. of that year by Bruce Banks. The objection to plastic at that time was based on its short life.

The Americans were for a time unhappy about the precise details of the sail area formula, as they already had sails in excess of its limits. The matter was settled amicably by increasing the limits. When the formula was introduced, roaches were exceeding 33 in. outside a line drawn from the head to the clew. These larger mains were to set off a chain reaction. To restore balance the masts and then centre boards were moved back, thus reducing the main and exposing more jib and allowing longer spinnaker poles, which in turn meant larger and more efficient spinnakers. With masts further back, the shrouds had to be moved back, which made it increasingly difficult for the crew to sit far enough forward to keep the boats balanced fore and aft. So hulls were made less buoyant forward and more buoyant aft.

To return to 1956, Austin Farrar designed a new boat for Stewart Morris, Bolero (667), with which he won the P.O.W. Cup in 1957 and 1960. Her sister ship, Polyester (728) sailed by Michael Peacock won the P.O.W. Cup in 1963. Bolero was a development of Windsprite with a transom six in. wider. Forward she was completely different, the keel line being lowered from the stem to the mast by 1/2 in. producing a hollow section near the keel — the chicken breast. The purpose was two­fold, to give the bow more bite to windward especially in a seaway and to maintain a hollow waterline entry when the bow was lifted on a close reach plane. She was a wonderful boat to windward, but in her early years a little disappointing in light airs off the wind.

Bolero had a big bow tank, a mast support in place of the mast thwart, making it easier for the crew to cope with the spinnaker and the side tanks adjacent to the crew’s position hollowed out to allow efficient use of floor toestraps. She was also fitted with a Fairey Marine mast with its traditional ‘bird cage’ rigging.

The P.O.W. in 1956 was sailed in very light conditions at Torbay — the race took five and a half hours — and was won by David Thorpe in Wildfire (607), who took the lead in the last lap from Sorcerer (551), Dr. Robin Steavenson, crossing the line a length ahead of him.

Another interesting Farrar boat to the Bolero shape was Calypso (676) which had been finished from a shell by the three Scott brothers. This was their second Fourteen, the other being Catalina (668), which they had completed the year before. Calypso proved to be one of the most successful amateur-finished boats to date, coming third in the 1957 P.O.W. when sailed by Bill Scott. Fourth was Witchway (675) Dr. Robin Steavenson, another home finished boat. The growth of do-it-yourself in the class has been one of the notable features of these years. While few have built complete boats, many have purchased a shell and finished it themselves — and some of these amateur constructed boats were every bit as well finished and proved just as efficient as their professionally built counterparts which has been of equal importance oversea’s where professional builders are not as readily available as are in the U.K.

In 1958 there was a return to International racing, with team races at Cowes between Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain. The Canadian team brought over three of their boats, Moonbeam (KC 133), Bruce Kirby, Ite (KC 93), Paul McLaughlin, Wee Wit (KC 199), George (Bud) Whittaker. The New Zealanders brought two and borrowed a third, their own boats being Atua Hau, Geoff Smale, a home finished Windsprite shell, and Calypso (NZ 7), now Calypso II(710) – which had been built by its owner, lan Pryde. Britain was represented by Bolero, Stewart Morris, Surprise (639), Mike Peacock, and Wmdsong (687), Bruce Banks. Each team had to race against the others three times, and at the end of the series, New Zealand and Canada had each won four races and the United Kingdom one. The sail-off took place in extreme conditions, the wind gusting up to 33 knots on the last leg. Canada won the race and the series with a 1st, 2nd and retirement — one of their boats losing its mast during the race — but New Zealand put up a gallant fight. At the last buoy they lay 1st, 2nd and 4th; then one boat split her mast, but managed to finish under jib alone, while another lost her rudder, capsized, was got up and finished with her crew hanging on to the stern acting as a rudder.

However New Zealand was to have her revenge in the P.O.W. that followed, Atua Hau coming in first, five minutes ahead of Ite, one of the biggest leads ever seen in a strong wind. She also won the Old Boats prize!

All the overseas boats were of interest, generally they were much more simply finished off, the Canadians had expanded plastic buoyancy rather than tanks, had a bulbous forefoot and high freeboard, and like Atua Hau had her mast 8 in. further aft than usual and her plate further back to compensate, thus, for a small reduction in main, the boat had a longer spinnaker boom, a more effective jib and better balance. By the year’s end, the class were busily moving masts and centreplates aft. Both boats also had centre main sheets, but this was not to achieve much interest for a few more years. Another factor in Atua Hau’s success was her perfectly cut sails which were made by Geoff Smale and frequently adjusted by him during the week. But it was the NZ designer of Calypso Des Townson who held the view that the 14’s of the day were “unbalanced” who initially decided to move Calypso’s mast aft from the accepted position of the day. When Calypso first appeared she proved much superior to Atau Hau which was then the dominant 14 in Auckland. Geoff Smale then decided to follow suit and moved the mast aft on Atua Hau ( a Windsprite Design ) and found a noticeable improvement in her performance.

The mast position on Atua Hau and its effect on the fore triangle and spinnaker performance were the subject of much comment in the reports of the regatta in the NZ and UK yachting magazines and it was assumed that Atua Hau and her crew was responsible for the concept of moving the mast aft, whereas it was Des Townson who had the idea for a development that had a significant effect on a class, which had designs from all the leading centreboard designers of the day.

At the Owners’ Meeting at Cowes the New Zealanders suggested that full-length battens be introduced, as they had proved popular in their own country. Although it was acknowledged that they increased sail efficiency they failed to get much support at that time.

Another new Proctor design Mk IV made its debut during the year, Mazurka (697) built by Bossom’s of Oxford. She later became a great success in North America.

In 1959 the first Proctor all-metal masts appeared on the scene. In this era two basic types of masts had been popular, the Fairey mast of small section with the traditional rig of three sets of spreaders, etc., and a wooden topmast for those who wanted the minimum weight aloft, and the Farrar idea of a wooden mast with single swinging spreaders for those who wanted a clean air flow.

Now Proctor introduced tapered metal masts of somewhat thicker section than the Fairey mast, but with the single spreader rig.

Later he introduced thinner section masts, but they were not initially successful, although interest in them revived in 1964 when with a modified ‘bird cage’ double instead of triple diamonds they were fitted in several boats. Shdi (796) took simplicity to the ultimate having no rigging on her mast other than forestay and shrouds. She also had no winches. The trend in the 1960/70’s had been to dispense with the jib halyard winch as being too slow in operation and substitute a Highfield lever and this in turn led to the removal of the halyard altogether the sail being fixed to the mast, tension being adjustable from the foot of the sail.

During 1959 Fairey’s produced their version of a low-priced Fourteen. It was a standard hull of the period with bags instead of tanks, slatted side seats which drew their inspiration from the Canadian visitors of the year before, and no chrome, winches or other luxuries, but Fairly Easy (704) as she was then called failed to attract much interest. The year was also of note because it saw the P.O.W. won by Charles Currey — a helmsman who had been at the top of the class for some years, but who, up until then, had seen the P.O.W. elude him. A study of the Replica winners — the first six in the P.O.W. — up until 1988, shows a select body of other skippers whose names appear frequently as runners-up, among them Mrs. Richardson, Mike Ellison, Sam Waters, John Prentice, Phil Morrison, Keith Goulborn, Richard Ewart Smith, Jon Perry, Colin Davidson, Robbie Storrar and James Hartley.

In the Spring of 1960 the first of the famous Proctor Mark V’s made their debut. The story behind them is worth recording. John Prentice having commissioned lan Proctor to design him a boat, looked around to find a builder. He approached Souters, who agreed to build it, but to bring the job down to an economic price, suggested an order for a batch should be placed, to cover the cost of the mould. John Prentice placed the order and then set about getting rid of his surplus boats. The Mark V’s had a stormy introduction but proved their undoubted potential at the 1960 P.O.W. week at Falmouth. With a much finer entry than the Fairey boats, they went extremely well, but seemed dogged by bad luck. This was to be a week when experience and skill counted far more than the latest hull shape, and the running was made each day by Stewart Morris in Bolero, Bruce Wolfe in Mayfly (663) and George Moffat of America in the borrowed Truculent (654). Ordinary mortals in whatever boats they had, simply fell in. Nevertheless, the Proctor V’s were well to the fore.

By the end of the year, many of the experts were placing orders for the beautifully built Proctor Va’s. This was the same shape as the V’s, but with more freeboard forward, the original design having proved rather wet.

In 1961 the much maligned Proctor VI was introduced. When it was learned that both Stewart Morris and Bruce Wolfe had given up their VI’s, loud was the sucking of teeth. But it was discovered that their angling centre-plates were angling the wrong way: with this adjusted, Barrie Perry sailing Scandalus (747) — Stewart’s old boat — finished third in the 1961 P.O.W. and 2nd in 1962, and achieved many other successes. The Mark VI was flatter aft than the V and had more wetted surface; she was at her best off the wind in a fresh blow.

The development of drop keels, centreboards or plates has seen almost as much change as the boats themselves. The early ones, which were operated by winches, were of phosphor bronze and weighed from 100 to 150 Ib. They often had a square or hatchet end giving increased area without increased draft. Gradually plates became lighter and more streamlined, being made of wood with lead ballast – about 60 lb. — on the end. Then came the all wood streamlined shape we know today, operated with the minimum of tackle, and held down by shock cord. Angling plates were introduced into the class in 1946/47, although the principal had been known at the turn of the century. The modern Fourteen angling plate sets at about 3-5 degrees to the centre line of the hull, and the lift so engendered cuts the tendency for the hull to fall off to leeward. The 1976 re-write of the rules allowed dagger plates but no one in the U.K. took advantage of it until 1983 when Phil Morrison designed William (1141) — and since then practically all new boats have had dagger plates for unlike the National Merlin Rocket and National 12’s no attempt was made to ban them in the interest of inland (shallow water) sailing.

Another new design of 1960 was Audacity (732). David Miles and Gerald Durbin developed her from their successful one-design decked 14ft. Mercury class. She was constructed in a novel manner, being made in sheet ply but with moulded sections where the sheets joined at the turn of the bilge, giving the appearance of a moulded hull. She was somewhat lower priced than the Proctor boats and boasted one of the first successful Wykeham-Martin roller furler jibs. Her deep hull was to prove of great benefit at Whitstable in 1961. In some of the wildest conditions in which an attempt has ever been made to sail the P.O.W. she was leading the survivors of the fleet, 7 out of 50, by a leg and a half, when in the fourth lap, the race was stopped. During the race, the seas were reported as being 6ft. and 7ft. from crest to hollow. At least one boat broke its plate on the bottom between waves. The wind was recorded at 35 knots, stronger in the gusts. After the race, the seven who were left were awarded special prizes, including Mrs. M. Birkett who was helming Bolero. The re-sail of the P.O.W. which was held on the Saturday was won by Stewart Morris in Gossip (767).

By now the fleet was re-equipping with new boats. Between 1960 when the first Proctor V’s appeared and 1963 — 86 new boats were constructed, and for the first time the size of the P.O.W. fleet showed a significant increase. Since the beginning it had hovered around the forty-to-fifty mark. Now it climbed steadily by about ten boats a year, until it topped 96 in 1963. This led to the suggestion that the time might have come to limit the entry. In the early days of the Trophy, there had been a similar move to have elimination races to keep the fleet down to eight or ten. but it was decided then that everyone should have a shot at the P.O.W. and that therefore the race should be of sufficient length to allow the fleet to sort itself out. However this was reversed at the Association A.G.M. in January 1964 when, by a majority of four it was decided in principal to limit the entry to the P.O.W. Race. The meeting, by a much larger majority, subsequently set the figure at between 50 and 65 boats.

Two new designs were introduced in 1961, Yeti and Mystere. Yeti(741) designed, built and owned by Guthrie Penman, was constructed of marine ply, with a small chine forward, aimed at assisting the bow to rise and to stop water running up and into the hull. She also had a small reverse chine aft. Her hull was deeply V’d and had buoyancy bags in fabric covers instead of the usual side tanks. Yeti’s proved excellent light weather boats yet with a good turn of speed in a breeze.

Mystere (770) designed by Farrar for Roger White, was a most powerful boat, with a slightly concave section in her buttocks, and a very fine bow that flared out abruptly to a knuckle 7 in. below her gunwale. This ran from her stem aft for about 5ft. From Mystere’s mould, Farrar produced the first British glass fibre hull, but although it caused a stir at the 1962 Boat Show, it failed to satisfy the Measurer, being, it was suggested, double hulled in places, a problem that was to cause International problems a few years on.

Meanwhile an the other side of the Atlantic, Fourteen fleets were flourishing in Canada, U.S.A. and Bermuda. Moulded and glass fibre boats were adopted by them much more quickly than they were over here, indeed, as has been mentioned, in 1963 we still had no glass fibre boats.

In 1961 a British team crossed the Atlantic for an International Team Race at Toronto; Britain was represented by Gossip, Stewart Morris, Gadfly (762) Bruce Wolfe, and Yeti, Guthrie Penman: Canada, was represented by Nimbus (KC 127) Paul McLaughlin, Torch (KC 205) Bruce Kirby, and Caveat (KC 222) Ward McKimm; U.S.A. with Crescendo (U.S. 701) Glen Foster, Salute (U.S. 666) Stuart Walker and Bacalao VIII (U.S. 689) George O’Day; Bermuda with Dream (KB 28) J. Hartley Watlington, Guinea Pig (KB 25) Dick Harris and Pibroch (KC 212) ‘Shorty’ Trimingham. Conditions for the racing were difficult, the wind as was expected being very light, only once up to planing speed, and there was a slight slop;

in the end Canada won with 7 races, Britain 6, U.S. A 4 and Bermuda 1, but the racing was extremely close the result often depending on who was last. At the end of it no one type of boat had proved superior but the American sails had attracted favourable comment as had both the Canadian and American spinnaker drill —4-5 seconds for spinnaker down and foresail drawing, although the tendency was for them to roll the jib rather than lower it. In 1963 a return match was arranged in Bermuda, but with four- boat teams. Conditions were somewhat more breezy which suited the British team who won with 7 victories, the U.S. A. having 5, Canada 4 and Bermuda 2. Of the fleet racing, seven were Proctor V’s, two Proctor VI’s, four Kirby II’s (glass fibre) and three Farrars. The British team consisted of Gossip, Stewart Morris, Scandalus, Barrie Perry, Polyester, Michael Peacock and Ariadne, John Prentice.

In North America by 1963 the tendency was for more and more boats to be made of glass fibre, the two most popular Canadian designers being Kirby and Fuller. The boats themselves were becoming simpler and simpler in layout. Proctor masts and centre mainsheets were widely used. Centreboards were becoming wider with blunt leading edges. Flat jibs with afoot measurement of from 8ft. 6in. to 11 ft. and full mains were the order of the day. C. Smith of Toronto developed a sail in which both the foot and the hoist of the main were passed round the roping but only bound at the corners. This allowed, great variation in draft by tensioning which resulted in most of the boats carrying a two or three part outhaul adjustable from the crew’s position.

In 1962 the P.O.W. was held at Weymouth, and the week was dominated by an American, Glen Foster, sailing his Proctor V Crescendo (U.S.701). He won three races, one by nearly nine minutes, another by five and a half minutes. But, on the big day, after a hard fought battle between Crescendo, Scandalus and Gossip, Stewart won, and the best that Crescendo could manage was 3rd. Glen Foster had filled his boat with most interesting gadgets, all of which worked. The one that attracted most interest was his centre mainsheet, a most complicated arrangement of blocks and slides, which the crew, Charles Forsberg, confided, could have only been designed by a yachting psychiatrist. The device allowed the helmsman either to play the mainsheet in the normal way, or to jam the mainsheet and play the mainsheet traveller, which allows the mainsheet to be eased without letting the boom rise. Crescendo also had plastic fairleads in her gunwale, into which the jib sheets could be slotted when reaching. Two new designs were introduced during the year. Both were low-priced, both were hard chine, and as neither did very well, both were soon dismissed. One was Conquistador (797) designed by Michael Jackson for David Thorpe. She was made from sheet ply and had a flat bottom, and her transom sides were steeply V’d. Her total cost was under £100 but, unfortunately for the low priced boat brigade, she could only manage the middle of the fleet. The other boat was Shdi(796). John Shelley, a New Zealander, designed her with experience gained in designing and sailing the New Zealand Cherub class, itself a development of the National Twelve. She was made of ply with a rounded forefoot, her mast 5ft. 5 in. from the stem and she sported a huge jib, which reached to within 2ft. 6 in. of her transom, and was set on a roller reefing pole. Unfortunately her sails were poor, much of her gear too weak and she spent most of the week in one form of trouble or another.

At Torquay the next year it was to be a very different story, for Shdi came into her own. With new sails, a smaller centreboard and rudder, without her jib luff spar and with stronger fittings, she spent the week in the front half of the fleet, coming 2nd on points. Out of the week’s races she was in the first six in four of them, winning one. Shdi was the first hard chine Fourteen to win a major trophy. Here at least was a low-priced Fourteen that seemed to have the performance of her more expensive sisters. Another interesting point was that, as she was designed from the outset to be sailed by a lightweight crew, she was given an easily driven hull, with a main smaller than usual. In common with Yeti, who was also at her best with a lightweight crew, marked a return to Uffa’s idea of matching the characteristics of the boat with the vital statistics of the crew.

Other new boats in the fleet were Proctor Mark VII’s with a fine entry, less rocker and less wetted surface than either the V or the VI’s. They proved fast, but seemed a little unstable down wind. John Prentice had one, Artemis (802), which had plastic fairleads for the jib let into her gunwale. There was also a new Farrar boat built by John Fisk for Simeon Bull, Le Mirage (828); she had a knuckle forward, but her bow and stern sections were less extreme than her predecessor Mystere. She also had less ‘chicken breast’ and reduced beam. Her hollow water line was carried well aft from her radiused stem. She had four suction bailers, as it was found that by measuring the smallest bore in the bailer these could be fitted within the rule. She also had a large stern tank or quarter-deck and a winch for her centre board, the latter being made of foam-filled glass fibre. She had the stability that one expected from a Farrar hull, and was at her best on the heavier days.

Another new boat was a Kirby II, Full and By (805) George Bennion. This was the Canadian glass fibre design, translated into moulded ply by Souter but with the chines of the original design omitted; she had powerful shoulders and her rocker was well forward.

The main fashion to be seen in the class in 1963 was a variety of types of centre main sheets, which had proved popular in other classes and to which had been attributed much of the technical advantage of Crescendo.

The P.O.W.Cup of 1963 was marked by one of the most close fought battles ever seen in the class, between Crescendo, Polyester and Gossip, with Willowfly (812) Bruce Wolfe occasionally joining in the fray. At the last mark Crescendo was in the lead and it looked as if, on American Independence Day, the Cup would go to America for the first time, but it was not to be. On the final close reach, the more powerful and heavier crewed Polyester worked up to windward and ultimately through Crescendo’s weather. Meanwhile Gossip taking her only chance went for the leeward end of the line — all three boats finished within a few seconds of one another; Polyester being in the lead.