International 14s reprise first world fleet racing title at Long Beach 6/9/06

A 27-year reunion spiked by spectacularly serious sailing is anticipated when the International 14 class meets for its World Championship Regatta with nine days of racing starting Thursday [tomorrow] through 16 September.

Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, host of the inaugural International 14 fleet racing global competition in 1979, will greet more than 70 of the swift and unforgiving two-man boats from six countries and four continents, including six class champions and some participants from 27 years ago.

A prelude of traditional class team racing matching four-boat squads representing designated nations is scheduled Thursday and Friday adjacent to the Belmont Pier. Teams will be determined Wednesday. That will be followed by championship fleet racing Sunday through Saturday 16 September off Sunset Beach – east of Long Beach.

The team racing will start at 1100 both days, conditions permitting. Fleet racing will start at 1300 or 1430 on given days.

Entries from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany and the USA include four of the last five world champion skippers – New Zealand’s Lindsey Irwin, Great Britain’s Rob Greenhalgh, America’s Kris Bundy and Australia’s Grant Geddes, plus Britain’s Roddy Bridge, 1995, and Martin Jones, 1991. Also, Trevor Baylis of Santa Cruz, who crewed for Zach Berkowitz in 2001, will sail with his wife Tina, who steered them to second place in the recent US nationals.

The winner then – Howard Hamlin of Long Beach, sailing with Australia’s Euan McNicol as crew – will be sailing his first International 14 Worlds in fact, only his third 14 event. Hamlin, 53, added the International 14 to his successful skiff portfolio just this year after winning world and other major titles in the 18ft Skiff and 505 classes.

The International 14 class was established 75 years ago but its origins reach back into the early skiff designs of the late 19th century. It is not a true one-design class, rather a development class whose various specifications offset one another within a box rule so owners can tweak their preferences. Otherwise, its evolution has remained on the pace of the sport’s technology with carbonfibre hull, rig and retractable bowsprit construction.

The bowsprit flies a state-of-the-art asymmetric spinnaker of unlimited size, although the main and jib headsail are limited in area. Downwind a well-sailed International 14 – more flying fish than boat – can exceed the wind speed as it skips over waves on the edge of control and beyond.