A light start to the 14 worlds in Japan

The International 14 World Championship got under way at the excellent Japanese venue of Wakayama with the customary two days of team racing over the weekend.

Teams drawn from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, USA and Japan sailed two series of round robins in fairly light breezes, which brought together the USA ‘A’ team and the Great Britain ‘A’ team to contest the best of three final, sailed on Sunday afternoon.

The breeze for the final was considerably more substantial, at 11-15 knots, and the racing was so close that the outcome could easily have gone either way. Great Britain took the first race, but the USA fought back to take the second, before the Brits managed to secure the overall victory by winning the third.

Things have now moved on to the individual World Championship, and the practice race this afternoon (Monday) saw British boats finish in the first three places, with Rob Greenhalgh and Dan Johnson taking first place, ahead of Andy Partington and Ben Vervieres in second, followed by Ian Pinnell and Sam Gardiner in third.

Reigning champion Zach Berkovitz won the title in Bermuda last year with Trevor Baylis, but is sailing on this occasion with fellow Californian Mike Martin, who has previously won world championships in the 505 and 18 foot Skiff classes, and would dearly like to do the same in the fourteens. The pair will face strong opposition from a number of teams, including the previous champions Kris Bundy and Jamie Hanseler from Seattle.

Come what may, the battle for the championship is bound to be intense, with several pairings from Australia and Great Britain determined to topple the recent American domination. Canada can be considered as dark horses, and the rapidly improving Japanese sailors will be out to put on a good show in their home waters.

With no major construction rules having changed in recent years, developments have mainly been concentrated on rig optimisation and perfection of rudder foils. These have resulted in some surprisingly large gains in boat speed, and it will be interesting to see whether some countries have progressed more than others.

It is already obvious that a huge amount of effort has been invested by the host country to make this event a success, and the reward is certain to be a memorable championship.