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6 September 2006, 09:15 am
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International 14 World Championship
Long Beach, California, USA

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 on Thursday and continuing until Saturday 16 September.
Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, host of the inaugural I-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 for Thursday and Friday adjacent to the Belmont Pier. Teams will be determined on Wednesday. That will be followed by championship fleet racing from 9 to 16 September in the ocean off Sunset Beach east of Long Beach.

The team racing will start at 11:00 both days, conditions permitting. Fleet racing will start at 13:00 or 14:30 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 U.S. Nationals.

The winner then-Howard HAMLIN of Long Beach, sailing with Australia's Euan MCNICOL as crew-will be sailing his first I-14 Worlds-in fact, only his third I-14 event. HAMLIN, 53, added the I-14 to his successful skiff portfolio just this year after winning world and other major titles in the 18-foot 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 carbon fibre 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 I-14-more flying fish than boat-can exceed the wind speed as it skips over waves on the edge of control and beyond.

I-14 fanatic 'Mad Jack,' writing on the class Web site, says: 'They are a challenge and not for the fainthearted, which may put some off. That said, once the basic skills are acquired the rewards are immense. The thrill of flying upwind! The wild rides downwind!'

He doesn't have to sell Eric ARENS. The 67-year-old Berkeley resident, an unofficial class historian, was racing I-14s before some of his rivals here were born-certainly, Samuel (Shark) KAHN, 17, of Soquel, for one. ARENS, who then lived in Annapolis, Md., can tell KAHN about racing at Long Beach in '79 when John GALLAGHER of Annapolis won with brother Dave as crew.

'John was very meticulous about setting up his boat,' ARENS said. 'When he came out to Alamitos Bay in '79 every evening, right there in the club parking lot, he took his boat apart . . . all the rigging, all the parts, to see if anything was broken or chafed. And he sailed awfully well. He knew you had to go right, right off the starting line, and tack early before the lay line for the mark up at the sea wall because you're going to get a lift. They did that correctly every time.'

ARENS and Alan LAFLIN, 66, of San Francisco were rivals in '79 but they've been sailing together for the last six years.

'Since we didn't sail that avidly anymore and keep up with the technological improvements, we said why don't we just get a boat together?' ARENS said. 'We were supposed to each skipper half the time, but since Alan isn't any good as a crew, I crew all the time.'

One thing ARENS does miss is the I-14 class's shift of emphasis from team racing to fleet racing in the Worlds in '79.

'The team racing always came first. It used to mean everything,' Arens said. 'If you were asked to be on your country's team that was a great honor. There were really fine events like you don't see anyplace anymore.'

The I-14 Worlds alternate in the southern and northern hemispheres and are scheduled approximately every 18 months for the summer seasons.

Irwin, whose company makes the sails for many of the competitors, expects a difficult battle to keep his title won last year in a fleet of 83 boats on New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf, site of the 2000 and 2003 America's Cups.

'We're just coming out of winter with no training and not much sailing,' he said, 'and the strength at the top end of the fleet here is higher.'

Supporting sponsors for the International 14 World Championship are West Marine Products, Ronstan, North Sails, Glaser Sails, Irwin Sails, SailingProShop.com, Magic Marine, Acqua di Gio Georgio Armani, Shackle Dog and Labatt's.

Previous Champions

Year Nation Venue Helm Crew Nation
2005 NZL Auckland, Lindsey IRWIN* Andrew PERRY* AUS
2003 JPN Wakayama Rob GREENHALGH* Dan JOHNSON GBR
2001 BER Hamilton Zach BERKOWITZ Tevor BAYLIS* USA
2000 GBR Beer Kris BUNDY* Jamie HANSELER USA
1999 AUS Sandringham Grant GEDDES* Craig WATKIN AUS
1997 USA Richmond, California Charles STANLEY Mo GRAY GBR
1995 DEN Vallensbaek Roddy BRIDGE* Adam GOODCHILD GBR
1993 CAN Kingston Ian WALKER Chris FOX GBR
1991 GBR Torquay Martin JONES* Duncan MCDONALD*
1989 USA San Francisco, California Neal MCDONALD Duncan MCDONALD
1987 JPN Lake Inawashior James HARTLEY Ian TILLET
1985 CAN Kingston James KIDD Hugh KIDD CAN
1983 GBR Pevensey Bay James KIDD Hugh KIDD CAN
1981 USA Annapolis, Maryland Frank MCLAUGHLIN John MILEN CAN
1979 USA Long Beach, California John GALLAGHER Dave GALLAGHER USA

* Competing in 2006

I14 World Championships are run every 18 months in alternating hemispheres

Rich ROBERTS (As Amended by ISAF), Image: action from the 2005 Worlds © Event Media
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