2016 International 14 Worlds
By Brad Ruetenik
After 2 wks of reflection since the end of the most recent I14 worlds in Carnac France, I wanted to put down some thoughts on this most recent adventure. As with all the other 10 worlds I have participated in over the last 20 yrs., this was a great learning event. I always have a great time seeing and traveling to other parts of the world and more important to me, are the opportunities to catch up with, renew, and make new friendships with like minded sailors from around the world. To me, being able to sail my own boat in beautiful locations like France Canada, Australia, England, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Bermuda and even here in the US, are all great experiences. We arrived in France a few days early still worried that our container would not be delivered on time. Fortunately, the Western Australia and US Containers did arrive just in time, our friends from Melbourne were not so lucky as their containers had been delayed in offloading from the ship in Le Harve. Their containers did arrive a few days late for the Team racing, but in time for the individual World Championships.
Team racing skiffs, let alone I14s is quite an experience, this was the original World Championship event racing country against country. The Individual Worlds did not commence until 1979, so from the pre-war years until '79 the Team racing determined the World Champions. Team racing is a good way to shake the cob webs off, especially for those who have not had or sailed their boats for 4-8 wks. during shipping. Each country can field numerous teams, sometimes up to 3-4 teams per country most often organized into A, B, C teams. The racing is round robin, four on four boats / team. This is done on a stepped course with and windward leg starboard rounding, beam reach across, leeward leg with port rounding, another reach then a weather finish. Races usually last 15 min. or so. The US team had a strong start and went 4-1 the first day with a loss to the GBR A team. We were beating the AUS A team when the race was called due to lack of breeze at the end of day one. The 2nd day we completed the round robin by beating the AUS A team placing us into the semi-finals as the 2nd place team tied with CAN A and GER A all with 4-1 records The GBR A team raced against the CAN A team, we raced the GER A team. The best of two ended with the USA team beating GER, and GBR beating CAN. The finals would be between GBR A and USA. The first race saw the USA team push several GBR teams OCS and USA was winning the race when it was called at the finish due to a slow race and no one finishing within the time limit of 20 min. After waiting for more breeze an additional race was started, the GBR team was winning this race when the wind died completely and the racing was called for the day. With the GBR team having a better overall record coming into the finals, they were determined the winners rather than waiting to sail another day and interfering with the Individual Worlds start. All this leads up to one of the most anticipated evenings of the whole Worlds event, the Team Racing awards dinner. Each country performs a skit, which is usually one of the, how should we say it, Most entertaining evenings you've had is some time. The stories are legendary.
For the Individual World Championships the racing was sch. to begin at 1200 daily, it seemed the Sea Breeze started routinely at 1400, however we were sailing in all different wind directions throughout the 2 wks. of sailing due to frontal changes and effects. There were several daily on shore postponements while waiting for the breeze to fill and stabilize which it usually did later in the afternoon. The Worlds courses are generally large courses with long legs. The courses are set with a goal for the winners to finish at around 90 min., with boat speeds typically 10+ kts. uphill and 15-20 downwind, that is a lot of ground to cover. There were generally 2 mi. W/L legs, typically the course was W/L, Triangle, W/L, Triangle, WL with either a windward or leeward finish dependent on breeze direction. The 14 class requires reaching legs as there is no limit to Kite size, therefore this is the only limiting factor. It's who can hold the biggest kite down best and sail high reaching legs, this brings the big boys right back into the mix. Generally the reach mark will be set so as to create a high reaching leg which makes it very difficult to lay the mark with a kite up initially, this develops an entirely different skill set from the typical windward/leeward courses we generally sail, and as I mentioned evens the field for the big teams.
With 80 boats on a single start line and one race / day, big fleet starts become very important. There were often on water postponements to allow the breeze to further settle, but overall we ended up sailing in varied conditions which made for beautiful skiff sailing generally in the 10-16 kt. range One day did bring some increase to puffs in the low 20s. Overall the US fleet had mixed results. At times the boat speeds of the top US boats were really good and somewhat comparable to the top end of the fleet. The biggest things I took away from the sailing is that some of the other top fleets (GBR and AUS) sail together with top level competition more often then we do. They are all top level sailors who are pushing each other harder more often. They have continued to develop new rigs and foils which seems to be the main differences I see. It seems they sail their boats more consistently during their sailing seasons and are working together to make each other faster. When the majority of your fleet is within sailing distance from the adjacent top level club that defiantly affords the luxury of more consistent aggressive sailing at least for majority the GBR teams as well as the Melbourne and Perth AUS teams. We are improving that somewhat with a stronger base here in San Diego which to be honest has become one of, if not the top fleet in the US. LA and Richmond have had decreased numbers recently, and Seattle remains strong as well. Hopefully these numbers will increase with the upcoming Worlds in Richmond in 2018. We ended up as the top US and North American boat at 18th out of 80 boats. I said going in if we were top 20 I'd be happy, top 10 ecstatic. I think we defiantly left some spots out on the water but I'm sure others did as well. Boat speed wise we were often sailing with or faster than the 10 boats who finished ahead of us, we just need to be able to maintain that pace more consistently. If we can continue and improve our efforts to work together as a fleet we can push each other to sail better and get closer to the other top teams. With the Richmond World in less than 2 yrs., this is the perfect time to get into the fleet and lean / enjoy some top level skiff sailing.
As an aside, I was very pleased and encouraged to see how strong the GER 14 sailing scene has become. There were several new GER teams out sailing (21 total). We noted that several were younger adults sailing older boats with older gear, but they were there having a great time and learning the boats. In speaking with several of the teams, they had purchased older boats B3s, Morrisons, B2s etc., had older sails but were all helping each other out and learning together and having a great time doing it. The rest of the international fleet was helping as well, because these are the new sailors that will still be sailing these boats over the next 20-30 yrs. And, I guarantee that they won the Party Trophy. I also noted several more women sailing from all the countries, probably at least 20 in the fleet, some on mixed teams, several sailing with 2 women on the same boat. We also saw some influx from the 49er FX as well and several of the Europeans stepping up from the smaller skiff training boats like the 29ers.
We were fortunate enough to be able to take some additional time after sailing and tour some of the rest to Brittany as well as the Normandy Coast and see some wonderful history, couple days touring in Paris is always fun as well. I'm looking forward to getting the boats back home and picking right back up as I'm motivated to continue to improve and work towards the upcoming 2018 Worlds at Richmond Yacht Club in San Francisco when the world 14 fleets come to visit us.