Ceaseless Quest for Patent Immortality
Published on August 13th, 2018
The International 14 is 14-foot double-handed dinghy class that is rooted in development. General limitations such as length, weight, beam, and sail area have seen the class evolve over the years as enthusiasts found the fastest design path around the race course.
Endless tinkering has fostered a boat now exceedingly complex to sail. How complex? Seymour Dodds files this report after taking a tour at the 2018 I14 World Championship being held August 13 to 24 in Richmond, CA
You don’t look too long at an International 14 before the question leaves your lips: How many different thingies are adjustable on the boat? The spaghetti of lines was near overwhelming for a boat of 14 feet, crewed by two trapeze swingers, with presumably one of the four available hands gripping the tiller.
You may have heard of a Vang which the historically savvy 14 sailor will say was a class innovation. Then there’s the Main Cunningham —ditto yet another 14 creation. Of course you’ll get some old salt with loose dentures arguing how these creations were on the personal yachts of the Wizard of Bristol (Nat Herreschoff) during the gilded age of thoroughly delicate yachting.
Can’t overlook the hardly high tech Jib Cunningham and headstay tensioner. The main doesn’t have a traveler in the classic sense but more of a kind-sorta bridle that does the yeoman work. Yet in this crazy dinghy world, 14’s have a common-sensical jib traveler for self-tacking. But as you might expect this is not without nth degree optimization.
It wouldn’t it be a fine boat unless it has halyards: jib and spinnaker and main. Well sort of. The main is usually pinned by tipping the boat over on the hard, but there’s a new main release “thingie” so it can be droppable in extreme wind. All serious boats have a main outhaul…. check!
Trim sheets for mains, jibs, and spinnies which includes a pole guy through the sprit. You can’t get the kite down without either blowing it to smithereens or more properly a retrieval line, plus the sprit pole inner & outer. Did I mention the jib clew ‘blower-offer’ which opens up the leech when the wind gets obscene?
Of course we are adjusting the centerboard up and down, and it can gybe too for a better angle to the dangle upwind. The rudders have sprouted carbon fiber, magical foils that extend out horizontally with their angle controlled with an adjustment apparatus actionable by a twist of the tiller extender. With the short chop of San Francisco Bay, proper foil angle combats going ‘arse over tea-kettle’ downwind.
To make sure the mast don’t come crashing down there’s uppers, lowers and the main shroud tensioner – port and starboard as appropriate. Adjusting the tension while sailing? Add it to the list. And we mustn’t overlook the people hanging on the trapeze wires can adjust their altitudes too.
Given all these technological innovative gadgetries which only the complex, compartmentalized mind of an engineer in the ceaseless quest for patent office immortality and a 1.87% increase in boat speed over one nautical mile. (102.2 feet or 34.199 meters), the award must go a legendary Australian boat (sadly not here) with spreader lengtheners.
During a race when 14 crews look at each other and say “Something feels wrong,” they can possibly manipulate 26 different little, hither & yon strings. And in case they can’t quantify “feels” qualitatively, they’ve got the port and starboard GPS, Compass, Timer, and for postrace analysis, imagery from at least one onboard camera.
Modern i-14 Adjustable Stuff
Jib Clew opener upper
Jib self-tacking traveler
Main “traveler” (sort of)
Main Halyard (ie, release line)
Rudder Attitude Adjuster with 3 possible types of adjustment
Shroud adjuster Lower port
Shroud adjuster Lower starboard
Shroud Adjuster Main
Shroud adjuster Lower port
Shroud Adjuster lower starboard
Spinny belly button retrieval line
Spinny guy through the Sprit
Spreader Length adjuster
Sprit Pole in and outer