rain and 30-knot squalls, which lashed the gray water into savage seas.
Easterner, sailed for the first time throughout a race by designer Ray Hunt,
defeated Weatherly. She relished the wet windward work, showing power not
matched by any rival. For Columbia, the heavy-weather slugger of '58, the day
brought disaster. Leading Nefertiti shortly after the start, her mast snapped
at a weld, leaving her helpless. Two crewmen went overboard, one being
retrieved by the team of Australian observers following close astern; and only
the fact that he had just moved to the edge of the cockpit to take a bearing
kept Navigator Olin Stephens from being under the guillotine of the boom.
Columbia was back
in action Thursday. But the week really was distinguished by Nefertiti and
Weatherly continuing to pile up victories. When they finally met again on
Saturday, a win by Weatherly would mean a 3-1 edge over her strongest rival.
Conversely, a victory by the Hood boat would give Nefertiti the most impressive
record since the j-class defender, Ranger.
Mosbacher got the
best of the start in a breeze of some 12 knots, but both came to the windward
mark together, Nefertiti inside on the turn. Downwind, the two ran for a long
time as though pulled by the same string, until finally Weatherly opened out a
few lengths. Helmsman Hood bided his time. About a mile from the leeward mark
came Nefertiti's move, sharpening up to blanket Weatherly. There was a series
of maneuvers, marred somewhat by faulty sail handling aboard both boats,
culminating in two rips in Weatherly's spinnakers, but she managed to lead at
The wind had now
freshened to 18 knots. Earlier Nefertiti had failed to show power in such
conditions. Not this time. Hood tacked at the buoy to clear his wind, but when
Weatherly covered he merely drove off, then proceeded to work out to windward.
About halfway through the leg Mosbacher in desperation instituted one of his
famous tacking duels, but it failed to gain. Later, nearer the Narragansett
shore in smooth water, he tried again, and this time narrowed the gap until the
port coffee grinder winch failed. From then on, tactically unhampered,
Nefertiti sailed away to cross the finish line nearly a minute ahead, a
deserved and impressive victory. Her final won-lost total for the trials was
10-2, while Weatherly finished the series 7-4. Columbia was 4-5, and Easterner
had only a single triumph in 11 starts.
On any basis,
Nefertiti's overall performance was impressive. A brand-new boat, with an
untried crew and—oddly enough—a skimpy sail inventory, she still managed to
win. True, on at least three occasions she was presented with victories by
rival helmsmen, who had allowed her to sail divergent courses, and she won
another race through Columbia's breakdown. But there is no gainsaying that as a
new boat she has the greatest potential for improvement, and is already mighty
hard to stay ahead of around a course. Perhaps more of this may be attributed
to Hood's and McNamara's smart cockpit work than is generally realized, while
the muscle trust amidships and forward has contributed by handling the giant
genoas and spinnakers with only a few lapses, one of which is shown on page
performed like a new boat. She was plagued by mishaps, most of which should not
have happened to a vessel so meticulously maintained, yet her crew was
impressive in recovering from chance disasters—as when a jib halyard failed—and
she still won. Bus Mosbacher remains the master tactician and helmsman of the
12s, with an uncanny knack of working to windward. In average conditions—winds
of 15 knots or less—no other boat seemed quite as fast on all points of
sailing. Before Saturday, she had even seemed stiff to windward in heavier air.
Perhaps getting caught with a light mainsail that went out of shape was the
reason for her apparent lack of power, an impression she will have an
opportunity to rectify in later trials.
It is the former
champion, Columbia, that is hardest to evaluate. She may have had the best crew
work of the quartet, yet she lost races seemingly won. Nobody feels the
modification of her keel hurt her speed, and her sails are as beautiful as
ever. The difference must lie in improvement by her competitors, or less
efficient helmsmanship, and is probably some of both. Young Glit Shields is
under tremendous pressures, and as the youngest skipper perhaps needs time to
adjust to big-boat competition. By the August trials he may have found his
touch, returning Columbia to her old status as the boat to beat.
the enigma she has always been, showing flashes of speed, but never becoming a
winner. Steadily, toward the end of the series, she was reducing the margin by
which she was defeated; she lost a couple of heartbreakers that might well have
been victories. With new sails now on order and all hands more familiar with
the boat, she could show a great improvement in moderate conditions, and is
already acknowledged the best in heavy going.
The four boats
will meet again for the final trials beginning August 15. While the boats tack
and countertack, the cup committee will be watching, binoculars poised and
stopwatches clicking. And behind the solemn committeemen will be a wall of
spectator craft whose passengers are crowding into Newport this summer not only
for the races but, as reported on page 38, for pub crawling, celebrity hunting
and the general pleasure of being around this dowager queen of U.S. resort
towns in her busiest season.