The Object Is to Win the Race
There's always a big wind there, and there's always a big sea running. It's tricky and it's dangerous. A man has his hands full driving up the Molokai Channel."
So says Sumner A. Long ("My friends call me Huey") of the waters pictured on the opposite page. Long knows what he is talking about. Twice in the past he has driven up the Molokai at the end of a Trans-Pacific Race, and he probably would be a part of the 31-boat fleet heading out for it once again this week except that he is busy on another ocean. As Long's old rivals start across 2,225 miles from Los Angeles to Hawaii, Long and his 57-foot yawl Ondine are leaving Newport, R.I., bound for England's Eddystone Rock, in a revival of a transatlantic racing classic that has not been run since 1931.
Neither Huey Long nor Ondine was around in the 1930s, but in the '60s and late '50s few important ocean races have been sailed without them. In the 1961 Trans-Pacific Race, Long sailed Ondine to a second place on corrected time. The year before that he was Class A winner in the Bermuda-to- Sweden race. He has sailed the famed biennial 635-mile Bermuda Race four times running, races of the Southern Circuit three times. He has sailed in the Annapolis-Newport race, the Block Island race, the Storm Trysail race, has twice raced from Miami to Montego Bay and twice from Buenos Aires to Rio.
At one time or another Long and Ondine have raced England's Cowes and around the buoys in Long Island Sound, and Long is the only American ever to have entered Australia's Sydney-Hobart race. Since her launching slightly more than three years ago, the present Ondine has, in fact, sailed more than 77,500 miles, the equivalent of three times around the world or one-third of the way to the moon, traveling at an average speed of three and one-half knots. Her owner has traveled even farther and very considerably faster.
Huey Long is a product of middle-class Boston suburbia who looks a little like George Raft and a little more like the grinning cartoon face that asks, "What, me worry?" That very face, in fact, grins from an ashtray on his desk in the offices of Long, Quinn and Boylan, 37 floors above New York's Park Avenue. From there Huey directs 12 different shipping firms and a vast fleet of commercial ships. Keeping a secretary and at least two telephones busy at once, Huey recently answered a reporter's questions, dictated a business letter, held a phone conversation with Ondine,s professional sailing master (who was beset with haul-out problems), challenged an employee's methods in negotiating a deal ("You trying to make us look cheap?") and concluded a deal of his own for $6 million. Then he picked up a gym bag and went off to Vic Tanny's to lift some weights—"just to keep from getting rusty."
The rust prevention continued with several vodka Martinis at The Four Seasons, and another after a shower in Long's Sutton Place apartment, which is a comfortable, cluttered blend of sportsman's trophy room and interior-decorator French. To frighten prospective brides away from this bachelor sanctum, a monstrous blue sailfish looms ominously on one wall. After his shower Long was off again double-time across town (no cabs were handy) to pick up a date—who was just as pretty but no brighter than the one he had had the night before—for more Martinis and dinner with a Greek shipping line representative at an expensive East Side restaurant. After that there was a dash downtown for a late show at the Bon Soir, where a false-nosed fellow imitating Rosemary Clooney had him in stitches. At 8:45 the next morning Long was back at his desk, with his motor racing again.
Born 41 years ago, Huey Long experienced no special kind of childhood to fan a competitive spirit to flame. "Yet," he says, "competition has been the strongest single force in my life. Winning—winning at anything I undertake—is the goal. Take the firm. People ask me why I'm not satisfied with my fair share of the market. I say because unless we fight to get every last bit of it we won't get our fair share."
Long discovered early that his share of life was to come via the sea. As a boy he played hooky from school to wander down through Boston's Faneuil Hall market to the docks on Atlantic Avenue, there to watch the ships come in. "I looked at them," he says, "and I guess I had in mind someday I'd like to own them." He sailed toy boats on the Charles and, he says, "sometimes they would sail right away from me." He collected stamps and coins. "Just looking at them was adventure," he says. "I was fascinated by the origins of stamps, by the figureheads on foreign coins, by the idea that these represented countries I had not even seen." He no longer collects either. "I've seen all the places," he explains.
Long got his first lessons in navigation as a cadet at a nautical prep school, went on to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at King's Point and then served for two years aboard an oil tanker and a passenger ship meandering along the northern and eastern coasts of South America. "It gave me a healthy respect for the sea," he says. "In a hurricane off Cape Hatteras, I was 17, standing night watch. I couldn't see for the wind and rain. The storm broke up the life boats, smashed the serving china. The ship was rolling 33 degrees. And for the first time in my life, I was seasick."