Anyone with a view of Kaneohe Bay has a rare opportunity this weekend to see some remarkably fast sailboats in action, racing on our winds of paradise.
Take a look at 164
pounds of speed
The Kaneohe Yacht Club is hosting the second Biennial Pacific Rim Championships for International 14s, a class of development racing dinghies.
As their International 14 name implies, they measure just 14 feet at the waterline, but their retractable spinnaker poles can, when extended, bring their overall length to 25 feet.
Their 25-foot masts allow them to employ mainsails and jibs measuring 200 square feet and to fly spinnakers of unlimited size, but typically they are about 350 square feet.
With that much sail area and just two crew members aboard, it doesn't take much wind to make these 164-pound water rockets really fly. And with the help of hydrofoils that lift them above the water, flying isn't just an figure of speech.
Although the I-14s have a history going back some 75 years, as a development-class dingy they continue to feature cutting-edge design technology.
Their twin trapeze setups were adopted in 1984 to allow the crew to hike out to balance the huge sail area being utilized. And carbon fiber hulls and masts became standard equipment not long after.
In 1996, the I-14 class merged with the Australian 14-foot Skiff class, and although their designs were significantly different, they reportedly showed little speed difference in the 1997 World Championships in San Francisco.
According to I-14 officials, that merger, along with the availability of off-the-shelf boats for new owners, increased the number of racing fleets worldwide.
There are now I-14 fleets in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S. And, at the 2000 World Championships in Beer, England, 120 boats were on the starting line.
According to KYC race organizer and participant Andy Bates, 18 boats are competing this weekend: two from Australia, two from Japan, four from Canada and 10 from the U.S.
The teams from Japan feature the top finishers from their national I-14 finals and one of Australia's top five I-14 sailors, Warren Sare, is also taking part in this weekend's regatta.
Bates credits CSX Lines as one reason for the race's good turnout, as it provided the Canadian and U.S. teams nearly free shipping from the West Coast. Additionally, West Marine has provided $500 in prizes for the winning sailors.
As a special gift to Hawaii's I-14 fleet, Bates and another competitor, Ben Wells, will donate their boats -- one each -- to the KYC Junior Sailing Program and the University of Hawaii Sailing Team. This will bring Hawaii's fleet to nine boats.
Before the racing begins today, interested advanced Junior Sailors and prospective owners will have an opportunity to take a ride aboard one of these go-fast dinghies, Bates says. The ride-alongs will begin at KYC at 9:30 a.m.
The gun for the first of today's three races will go off at 1 p.m., while tomorrow's first start will be at 2 p.m.
Spectator boats will be available on a limited basis for those who would like to see the action on the water.
Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.