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Budget Ultra-High Performance Sailing

by Mark Jardine 14 Jan 12:00 GMT

On a cold winter's day down at Marconi Sailing Club I took a look at what could be the best bang-for-your-buck boat I've seen. A truly budget high-performance double-hander in the form of Tristan Walker-Hutt and Tom Clayton's International 14 'Fawkes' a name that was chosen with a Harry Potter reference and a nod to Phoenix Marine and David Summerville who helped with the refit on the boat.

For an International 14, the setup looks relatively simple with neat control systems, but foregoing some of the more complex arrangements which are seen on other boats. Complementary control lines are tailed to each other, with an example being the rudder attitude control connection to the jib sheet system, and points such as the wing-bar are used as fixings where possible, such as with the mainsheet strop.

The International 14 itself was built in 2004, for Andrew Partington who used her to great effect winning the Prince of Wales Week in 2008. It's a Morrison 12 full carbon build, giving it the stiffness that is required in these boats, and has now been combined with a modern rig, new carbon wings, new foils and the latest control systems. Phoenix Marine also removed the old 'measurement bumps' which were required back in 2004, but are no longer needed to conform with class rules, making the hull far cleaner. They also removed the old adjustable weight system bringing her down to the minimum class weight and everything was finished off beautifully with a nitrous blue Durepox respray.

"We bought the boat for £1650. It was in need of a lot of love, but just about sailable. We thought this was a great opportunity to get into the modern International 14 fleet at a good price!" said Tom.

When it comes to a boat that is manageable, the International 14 is pretty much as fast as you can get in skiff sailing apart from the 18ft Skiff. With an older hull but an updated rig, the power to price ratio proved irresistible as Tristan explained:

"One of the benefits of carbon construction is the longevity and keeping the boat fresh! The reality with 14s is, as long as they've been well looked after, they're nearly as stiff as the day they were made and this boat is a great example of that. We've pulled the rig tension on hard and everything has been rock solid. We can't wait to get out and sail it now!"

The tweaks made to the boat have enabled Tom and Tristan to fit the latest control lines as David from Phoenix Marine explains:

"With the increased efficiency of rudder hydrofoils on 14s everything has had a tendency to move back in the boat; the front of the wings are behind the middle of the hull. With that the control systems on this boat had to be moved back and we custom moulded new mounting points which were laminated in around 1m from the transom (right by the crews legs upwind)".

"With the new rigs and large square top mainsails, vang loads have gone up so we stiffened the existing boom and resprayed all of the spars in Awlcraft 2000 Clear."

"David and his team have carried out an amazing job," said Tristan. "There were challenges such as the alloy front wing aero bars which needed to be rebuilt in carbon. Phoenix have a mould shop which they utilised to create all new carbon wings which can be fitted straight onto any M12 hull". The work Phoenix Marine have done really has brought the boat up to modern specification.

The fittings on the boat are all from the current Allen range, with a couple of XHL blocks in the ultra-high load areas such as the adjustable forestay. Ropes have been supplied by Kingfisher Yacht Ropes who have been keen to work with the ultra-low stretch demands of the 14.

"We've possibly over-spec'd a couple of areas, but they should hopefully do the job well," said Tom.

Modern skiffs have some superb systems on them, such as jib sheet tracks with a control line for sheeting angle and a second line for the sheet itself automating tacking.

"The main ropes I'll have to think about while helming are the mainsheet downwind, the jib sheet upwind and the rudder attitude to control the foil on the back, but make no mistake this is a crews boat!" said Tristan. "The objective of everything we've done is to make it as simple and easy as possible to sail."

"We've tried to keep everything as clean as possible with the take-ups all hidden away. Anything that you can trip over, you're going to trip over, so our aim was to reduce the chances of that happening," described Tom. "We've come from the 49er class, so have tried to mimic that layout to a certain extent. The rudder control is of course very different with the foil, but everything else is pretty similar."

"There are two schools of thought when it comes to high performance development boats; either the boat looks like the inside of a piano and is covered in string and hundreds of different controls, or you go as simple as possible. With this boat we're steered towards simplicity, but we can adapt and add things later if we feel it's necessary," explained Tristan.

There are similar boats available to purchase on the open market every now and then, and also several sailors within the fleet who have more than one boat and would be happy to help out with a new team coming into the fleet, making this an affordable route into ultra-high performance sailing. With a few weekends of work and a total budget of around £5-6K, you can get a competitive International 14.

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