Ronstan

USA test for International 14 Worlds

Published on May 24th, 2018

The US International 14 class will compete for its National Championship title on May 26-28 in San Francisco, CA.

The I-14 is a development class dating back to the early 1900s with big names over the years, such as Uffa Fox, Bruce Kirby, Stuart Walker and StFYC’s Alan Laflin, Jim Holmes, Peter Szasz, Chris Boome and Zach Berkowitz. Dick Watts sailed on the early I-14 when they resembled small Thistles, with skinny rails and no trapeze.

Competitors will be face off along City Front for the Founder’s Trophy (US National Champion), the President’s Trophy (US National Distance Race Winner) and additional perpetual trophies for First Female, Wind Master’s Trophy (oldest combined age) and the Avenger’s Trophy (best team with an older boat).

Although the I-14 is the oldest One Design class to be recognized by World Sailing, it’s a class that’s inspired feats of innovation and creativity. “They’ve always been 14 feet, but the development aspect has led to a lot of firsts in sailing, such as asymmetrical spinnakers, Cunninghams and more. It was the first dinghy to have a double trapeze,” said US I-14 Class President Terry Gleeson.

“It’s really been a cutting-edge fleet at the forefront of sailing. Compare them to many other dinghy classes, which still look like they were designed in the 70s – and today our I-14s look more like mini TP52s.”

The only hard and fast rules are the 14-foot boat length, 9-foot sprit length, fixed 25-foot mast length, a combined main and jib sail area and only one hydrofoil – almost everything else is open to experimentation. Lightweight carbon fiber hulls with unlimited spinnaker area means the boats hit 20+ knots downwind and 12-13 knots upwind.

With the 2018 I-14 World Championship to be held later this season on the eastern section of San Francisco Bay, known as the Richmond Rivera for its warmer climate, the Nationals venue along the City Front heightens the test with stronger winds and currents.

“These boats literally get blown out of the water at about 25 knots so you can get in trouble,” notes local Mike Lazzaro. “Just getting in and out of the harbor can be tricky. You have to budget enough energy to get home because there’s a lot of short tacking required.”

The challenge of sailing these boats is part of their charm, as is their lower cost and longevity. “A lot of people don’t realize you can sail these boats until you’re over 65,” shared Lazzaro. “It’s not really age dependent; it’s about your skill level. You can have a lifetime’s worth of skiff sailing cheaper than a year of doing an Olympic campaign on a boat like the 49er.”

Gleeson finds the challenge of the boat parts of its attraction. “There’s tremendous camaraderie in the class because we all realize how difficult the boats are to sail. I saw that right away and it’s kept me involved. That, and the boats travel easily. We can fit nine in a shipping container and go anywhere.”

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Source: Amanda Witherell, St. Francis Yacht Club

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