There is an illustrious tradition of National 12 sailors trying
their hand in International 14s, going back to the days when
there were only National 12s and International l4s. A few have
mastered both classes: Bruce Banks, Robin Stevenson, Will Henderson.
Not all enjoy this success.
There was a time when there were passing similarities between
the two. Admittedly 14s were undecked, overcanvassed and had
spinnakers and 12s were undercanvassed and clinker built. But
they were both sweetly round bilged, of sensible beam and you
sat them out. Times changed: 12s became wider and wider and,
after brief experimentation, banned dagger boards; 14s became
wilder and wilder - two trapezes and almost five times the sail
area of a 12.
Most 12 sailors know better than to mix with such beasts and
most have the sense to stick with venues they know and the familiar
tedium of the M1 and the A12. But the allure of an inaugural
European championship on Lake Garda seduced a few this spring.
Strange behaviour was observed: 'two 12 helms with a hull that
remained even more obstinately upside down than Mike Jackson's
Gryphon at the last Llandudno championship; a class committee
member spotted going the wrong way down the M3 on the morning
before a committee meeting.
They should have known better. Lake Garda is no place for amateurs.
At around noon, after a quiet morning (this is a vital ingredient
for 14 sailors who, unlike 12 sailors, spend at least half the
time "bimbling" with their boats), the Garda Doctor
fills in at a steady (vicious ) force five, funnelling between
cliffs a couple of thousand feet high. The professionals were
clocked at 23 knots but even they had all fallen in n at least
once by the beginning of the second race. The amateurs (regular
Nationa112 sailors) fell in rather more often and complained
of gear failure and planned radical modifications for their boats
- the results showed them 52nd and .56th in a 63 boat fleet.
However, the semi-professionals (14 sailors first and foremost
but known to sail 12s as well did rather better - Mike Moss came
home 5th and Roger Yeoman managed 12th despite several months
away from sailing.
On the other hand, we did discover that sailing in interesting
places has some appeal. The hotels can be massively better than
the best at our seaside resorts - better value and warmly welcoming
to sailors; the food beats anything that Tynemouth or Harwich
can offer; and the water is likely to be warm (and in Lake Garda
it was also salt-free). Even the rigours of transport are not
too severe (although the cost of ferries and tolls can't be ignored);
fourteen hours driving on autoroutes, autobahns and autostradas
beats a few stuck on the M25 at the Dartford tunnel any day.
(However, service areas are a bit thinly spread - your correspondent
would still be stuck at the side of the road 10 kilometres short
of Calais had Ronnie Millar not appeared at the right moment
with a jerry can).
Back in the seventies, the National 12s -and the International
14s organised a joint regatta somewhere like Santander or La
Rochelle or was it both? After Garda 90 the 14s are already thinking
about their next European holiday (the class hierarchy regard
it as building the class in Europe- but the rank and file see
it simply as finding good places to sail). Why don't we try it