- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Sweeping across these pages, with Emil (Bus) Mosbacher at the helm, is the boat that will defend the America's Cup. This dramatic picture was taken at Newport last week as "Weatherly" won five of six races and defeated her last rival, "Nefertiti." Earlier she had eliminated the former defender, " Columbia." Now Mosbacher and his crew have a fortnight to prepare to meet the Australian challenger, "Gretel." On the following pages Sports Illustrated presents the first photographs ever made aboard "Gretel" under sail. They are the work of Yachting Editor Carleton Mitchell, who has sailed on all seven modern America's Cup boats and is the only qualified American to be invited aboard the challenger. With his pictures Mitchell offers an account of what it is like to sail on "Gretel" and an appraisal of what Mosbacher must face when he sails against her.
'GRETEL': DRIVING TO WINDWARD IN A RAIL-DOWN BREEZE
The final trials to name a defender of the America's Cup moved to a climax with a dispatch that rocked the fleet anchored off Newport. They were over before many thought they had really begun. Nonetheless, the majority of onlookers who had followed the races, first with Columbia and Easterner and finally with Nefertiti, agreed that Weatherly was the best American boat—partly in personal tribute to the mastery of Bus Mosbacher at the helm.
Weatherly had demonstrated herself without peer in light and moderate breezes, but—and this could be an important "but" in the sometimes heavy winds of September—there were some who felt she had not sufficiently proved herself in the opposite conditions. At some point on the wind-velocity scale the speed curves of the two boats would cross—the assured slipperiness of Weatherly in faint airs versus the assumed power of Nefertiti in a blow. A defender should be at her best in average conditions, and many felt this could only be assessed through performance in various weights of breeze, sadly missing the three final days. Although the score stood 3-0 in favor of the blue Mercer sloop, there had been only one race, thrice repeated in virtually identical conditions of light airs and calm seas.
On the other hand, Weatherly had looked very well in her last encounter with Columbia , when she had delivered the coup de grace to the former champion in winds of 18 to 22 knots. Four summers ago similar conditions had been known as " Columbia weather," yet this time it was Weatherly that stood up straight and drove to windward with speed and power, while Columbia plunged and sagged off to leeward. A day earlier, Weatherly in even stronger winds and a rougher sea had given a good account of herself against Nefertiti, being only seconds astern at the weather mark. Certainly, Weatherly could not be said to have gone badly at any point on the wind scale.
The same was not true of Nefertiti. Not since the lamentable performance of Sceptre had there been such disparity in vessels of the 12-meter class as during the final three days. Only a wind shift the first day, which turned a twice-around windward-leeward race into three reaches, saved her from a supreme embarrassment; and on the next two the gods were not so kind. Her margin of defeat was four minutes 41 seconds on Friday and five minutes 39 seconds the last day, adding up to a lot of blue water. Almost universal was the feeling that no amount of ability in strong winds could counterbalance defeat by Gretel in the light going that, on the record of past meteorological conditions, is almost certain to occur at some point during the cup matches in mid-September.
Now Weatherly has ample time to prepare for her defense against Gretel, probably by workouts alone and against the three eliminated boats. Yet missing will be the element that has previously appeared to be one of the greatest American assets: competition right down to the wire, everything depending on the outcome of each race. This time the defender and challenger will pursue similar training schedules against trial horses.
The elimination of Columbia was a bit of a shock to the Australians. "Fancy having to go against something faster," commented one of Gretel's crew as the Australian boat and her trial horse, Vim, met for a practice match last Wednesday.
On the way out of Newport harbor there had been a cockpit discussion about the proper weight of genoa. Wind spilled from a dark cloud hanging over Castle Hill, but it seemed calm beyond. Helmsman Jock Sturrock ordered a 4.5-ounce jib hanked to the stay. Yet it soon became apparent that the wind was becoming general, filling in from a sullen sky to the northeast. So an 8-ounce jib was readied instead, as the clipped accents of Sir Frank Packer sounded from the radio loudspeaker in the navigator's compartment, setting a course.
Near the Texas Tower being built to replace Brenton Reef lightship, Vim waited for us like a circling ocelot ready to pounce. For me there was a moment of nostalgic recognition to see her on the starting line, complete even to the Hood mainsail she carried during her historic battles with Columbia in '58—a still-beautiful sail that had been carefully preserved for these climactic practice sessions.