Still, there is little doubt in the minds of those following the races that Columbia can go faster through the water. Olin Stephens, who designed both hulls, predicted she would, and tank tests and competition have demonstrated it conclusively. Yet Columbia must have her wind clear to do her stuff, and the tactical genius of Bus Mosbacher has twice prevented that in the past four crucial races. Thus, as predicted before the campaign began, the human element has been the most important factor in the battle of the 12s.
The drama of the struggle for the honor of defending has largely eclipsed interest in the challenger, yet she is the basic reason for all else. What of Sceptre? My opinion remains as it was after sailing aboard her on the Solent in May: she is a real racing machine, with a meticulous and efficient organization, she will be sailed well and hard and quite possibly could be a real threat to our continued possession of the America's Cup.
Any evaluation of Sceptre has been difficult because of the curiously hostile press she received in England during early trials against Evaine. According to these reports, Sceptre was a lemon (SI, July 28), but at the end, in the words of Captain John Illingworth, RN, a Royal Yacht Squadron member acting as observer and advisor, "Sceptre was beating Evaine regularly, in light as well as heavy air, up wind and down." Of this, little was written. In the competition between the two boats, there grew two groups, the "septics" and the "antiseptics." Both have come to Newport, the septics to continue to tune Sceptre and the antis to continue crewing a trial horse, this time Gleam.
Sceptre's program since arriving in Newport has followed the early training pattern of the American boats. Each day, fair or foul, she drops her mooring in Brenton Cove and slips discreetly away from the fleet to practice starts and other maneuvers for long hours against Gleam. Frequently her enormous French Herbulot spinnaker is to be seen blossoming against the rocky shores of Narragansett Bay. As Gleam was also used as a trial horse by Vim, there naturally arises the question as to how Sceptre is doing in comparison. Unfortunately, Gleam's engine was restored before the New York Yacht Club cruise, making a considerable difference in her performance. Yet, for what it is worth, so superior in speed has Sceptre been that she has experimented with towing "warps, fenders and buckets," in an effort to equalize the contest for practice purposes, and the antiseptics have even "run the engine to keep up."
With her jaunty sheerline and the white ensign of the Royal Yacht Squadron snapping at her stern as she lies among the fleet, Sceptre is, all hands agree, a handsome and purposeful vessel. On the ways at the Newport shipyard Sceptre seemed to depart more from American practice below the waterline than above. With her apple bow, short thick fin keel, sharply raked rudder and fairly slack bilges in comparison to the powerful after sections of Columbia, there will be tested not only boats but a philosophy of design.
But, as John Illingworth said, "the difference in speed between a good and bad 12-meter yacht is so small there is no way to determine it except by matching them in a race." And in a race, as both Vim and Columbia had amply proved, heart and genius are needed for even the fastest hull. The Sceptre crewmen may or may not have either or both, but no one can deny that they have confidence and determination: their professional captain, Stanley Bishop, brought with him from England a box of proper size and shape to carry "the old mug" safely home. Bishop's father was in one of the Shamrocks, his grandfather on Valkyrie; both failed, but now he and his mates intend to do the job.