Early this month boats from 18 countries, the most thoroughly international small boat flotilla ever seen in the U.S., arrived in St. Petersburg, Fla. for the world championships in the Flying Dutchman class. From Italy came Defending World Champion Mario Capio's sleek green Alpa; from Norway the pale blue hull of Olympic Champion Peder Lunde. The Soviets appeared with a boat, the first they had ever brought to race in America. Australia got there, too, but not until Skipper Roily Tasker and his strapping, tow-headed crewman Andy White had indulged in some heroic backyard naval architecture.
"We were here four days," said Tasker, "and the boat still hadn't arrived. We were getting a bit hot under the collar."
When the boat finally showed up, they got hotter still—her transom had been smashed in shipment. Tasker and White turned to with their tool kit, rebuilt the stern and submitted the boat to the race committee for official measurement.
"Two inches too long," said the measurer. Back went Tasker to the toolbox, sawed an inch off the bow, planed an inch off the stern, and this time the boat skinned through.
Finally came the most deadly earnest of all the competitors, Danish Sailmaker Paul Elvstrom, who had already won four Olympic gold sailing medals and five world championships in various other classes. "I am here," said the hardheaded Elvstrom, "to prove that Elvstrom sails can beat the others in the Flying Dutchman class as they have in all the other classes." Elvstrom then confirmed the reports that he would sail as crew, while a protege (and employee of the Elvstrom sail loft), Hans Fogh, would skipper. Here again Elvstrom was being practical. Should Hans Fogh lose, there would be no loss of Elvstrom pride. But if Elvstrom as skipper should lose then Elvstrom the sailmaker would also be a loser.
Elvstrom need not have worried, even though the regatta was close. While England, Norway and Australia went all out to take a race each in the first three of the series of seven, Elvstrom nursed his young pupil safely into second place each time. In the fourth race the wind blew a gusty 25 mph, and as the boats swept around the course, Elvstrom coached and scolded Fogh: "When you can beat me every time, you can tell me how to sail. Then you can say everything I say to you." As each puff of wind came in, Elvstrom moved his 200-pound frame with weightless agility around the confines of the 19-foot Dutchman, sliding smoothly in and out on the tricky crewman's trapeze, trying to keep the boat up on a plane. His moods changed with the wind. A calm, and his face grew solemn as an Oriental's, his eyes almost closed. His head twisted slowly for glimpses of other boats. Then came another puff. The boat spurted over the finish line the winner of the fourth race; his moonish face became furrowed and he broke into a gap-toothed grin.
Three races later, after a safe seventh, a third and a classic start in the last race that forced the very fast and determined Australian boat into a disastrous tacking duel, Elvstrom and company had wrapped up the regatta.
Afterward, Hans Fogh, the prot�g�, made no bones about why the Danish boat had won and left no doubt who, in his mind, was the master of the sailing world. "I have never seen a Dutchman as fast as the Australian boat," he said, "but their tactics were poor. The race was our good tactics against their fast boat."
Whose good tactics?
"The boss, Paul," said Fogh. "He very smart in the head."