International 14 sailors enjoy special week at Itchenor

Chichester Harbour is full of weird and wonderful craft - from the glitzy gin palaces in Chichester Marina to the barely-floating home-built sailboats launched from a dark corner of Emsworth Channel.
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Since the early 1900s some of the most recognisable craft on these waters have been the International 14s, with Itchenor Sailing Club as their spiritual home. "14s" have gone through many iterations over the years from a varnished wooden delight to the carbon-fibre racing machine we see today.

As a development class, in which sailors are free to design and tinker with their boat within a set of relatively wide parameters, part of the skill of a good 14 sailor has always been to push the limits of knowhow to make a faster and faster vessel over time. And they sure are fast now!

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See Chris Hatton’s pictures from the event in the slideshow in the video player above.

Action from Itchenor Sailing Club's International 14s regatta | Picture: Chris HattonAction from Itchenor Sailing Club's International 14s regatta | Picture: Chris Hatton
Action from Itchenor Sailing Club's International 14s regatta | Picture: Chris Hatton

Last week, Itchenor Sailing Club had the honour of hosting the most prestigious sailing trophy for International 14s (and arguably one of the most prestigious in the sailing world) - the Prince of Wales Cup, or PoW. In contrast to most sailing competitions in which scores across multiple races are combined into an aggregate result, the PoW Cup is awarded for just one long race.

These days, the PoW Cup is part of a longer week of racing dubbed PoW Week, with just one of the races being designated as the PoW Cup race, the winner of which is crowned the International 14 National Champion. The whole event was generously sponsored by Handelsbanken.

The PoW is coming up to its 100th anniversary, having been first raced in Cowes in 1927. The following year it was held at Itchenor, but it has not returned since until now. The fleet was thrilled to celebrate that history by inviting classic and vintage boats from previous eras to compete in a separate competition at the beginning of the week.

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There was a distinct buzz around the club from sailors of all ages, admiring the painstaking maintenance of these boats and reminiscing about their days in the fleet - however long ago that might have been.

The racing itself got off to a tough start with strong wind preventing sailing until Monday 17th July. But when it came, it did not disappoint. A strong south-westerly 15 knots built up to over 20 at just the same time as the tide was ripping out of the harbour and creating some steep waves. Only one race was possible for the modern boats as the breeze continued to build, but it was locals Andy Shaw & Rob Struckett who took the race and the overnight lead.

The Classic and Vintage boats were also able to take to the water on Monday (their last day), much to their delight. The Vintage event (pre-1950 boats) was won by Andy and Maureen Bates, while James Vaughan and Alistair Wilson won in the Classic (1950-1983) division.

The Tuesday was a different story altogether. Light breeze tested the sailors' tactical nous and crouching muscles for a gruelling 7-hour day on the water out in Hayling Bay. Two races were sailed, won by current World and European Champions Archie Massey & Harvey Hillary, and current PoW champions Glen Truswell and Ed Fitzgerald.

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Thursday was completely different again, with two races held in the harbour in some light-to-medium breeze, but again the two leading boats exchanged wins setting up a thrilling finale to a week on the Friday.

A win for Archie and Harvey in the first race of the day led to them seeking out Glen & Ed before the final race in an attempt to sail them off the course. Glen & Ed managed to escape, though, and take a determined win in the final race and the overall victory in the PoW Week.

Alert readers may have noticed that there has been no mention of Wednesday so far. That's because this was the all-important Prince of Wales Cup race, for the National Championship. Seasoned 14-ers love to talk about epic PoW races of years gone by, and this was certainly one to add to the annals! Held out in Bracklesham Bay, it started innocuously enough, with a light breeze and a slow first lap. Quickly, though, the breeze - and more importantly the sea state - picked up.

Boats started dropping like flies in the swell, with Monday's winners Andy & Rob first to plough into a wave and emerge with too much damage to continue. Those that were able to persevere, though, were treated to a true battle of fitness and nerve, flying over (and sometimes under each wave) at high speed and with great skill, knowing when to push things and when to hold back.

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Some boats fell at the final hurdle on the way to the finish. But Glen & Ed didn't succumb to the pressure, keeping their mast in the air for the entire race and taking the line honours. Second, despite a capsize of their own, was Archie & Harvey, followed by a resilient Douglas Pattison and Mark Tait filling out the podium.

A huge congratulations to Glen and Ed for "doing the double" of winning both the week and the Cup, and again adding their names to a trophy littered with the name of sailing heritage. They certainly earned their Friday night celebration at the sailing club, at which all sailors could let their hair down (to the extent that they hadn't already during the week's busy social calendar) while an impressive amount of silverware was handed out.

Both in the evenings and during the day - one thing that was very clear from this week was the love for the International 14 at Itchenor and among its sailors both past and present. There's nothing quite like these boats, and as 14 sailors like to say from time to time: "imitations come and go, but 14s are forever".

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