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Only three knew where the wind blew
Hugh Whall
July 08, 1963
While the East Coast sweltered and a fleet of 85 boats searched in vain for a breeze, three others—'Jubilee,' 'Challenge' and the yawl shown above-sailed a race from Annapolis to Newport in their very own weather
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July 08, 1963

Only Three Knew Where The Wind Blew

While the East Coast sweltered and a fleet of 85 boats searched in vain for a breeze, three others—'Jubilee,' 'Challenge' and the yawl shown above-sailed a race from Annapolis to Newport in their very own weather

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Most ocean races are arranged so that all of the boats, whether big or small, start off more or less at the same time. The result is that the big boats quickly sail past the little ones and head out into a race of their own. This is likely to make the affair two separate races, with the front runners enjoying—or suffering through—one kind of weather, while the rear guard sails through another.

In planning last week's biennial Annapolis-to-Newport race, the New York Yacht Club's Commodore H. Irving Pratt hoped to even up this imbalance by a new starting wrinkle. It was designed to spread the inequalities between the entries over both ends of the course and make weather and tide conditions more nearly the same for the whole fleet. To this end, he split the fleet up into seven groups according to their handicap and started each group separately over a period of seven hours.

For a while, the plan worked fine. The boats in the smallest class got under way at 10 a.m. in the lightest air, and each group followed in order until five in the afternoon when the class A group, including the scratch boat, Sally Langmuir's tirelessly campaigning Bolero, crossed the line. Next morning, after moving unevenly down 130-odd miles of Chesapeake Bay toward Chesapeake Lightship, the point where the course turns northward into the Atlantic, the whole fleet seemed to be inching together through a narrow gap in the bay tunnel project. Big, small and middle-sized boats with multihued spinnakers provided a parade of color as they ghosted through in clusters.

As one group approached the bottleneck, an ore carrier of 60,000 tons or more went through the gap, its horn bellowing dismally, as the harried pilot tried to avoid the swarm of shrimplike sailing yachts bent on holding their courses no matter what. A few miles further on, the whole fleet rounded the lightship within a span of five hours and 40 minutes—a mere moment for an ocean race.

Then—unfortunately for the Commodore's dream of an equalized race—the weather took charge. The great slack-sided high-pressure system that sat over the East Coast, keeping those on shore sweltering in the summer's first heat wave, sent the fleet searching for any breath of air its skippers could find along the shores of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. While most of the boats searched in vain, the three leaders, Challenge, Dyna, and Jubilee, picked up an 18-knot southwester that blew them so far ahead of the other boats that the race turned into two races after all. As it finally turned out, more than 35 hours passed between the time the first boat crossed the line and the time the race was officially declared over—with one boat still stuck in the calm.

George F. Johnson's month-old, black-hulled sloop Challenge was the first to finish, followed by Clayton Ewing's big yawl Dyna, the scourge of Chesapeake Bay, the East Coast and the Great Lakes. Like Challenge, Dyna is made of aluminum, designed by Spark-man & Stephens and built by Wisconsin's Burger Boat Co., top builders in the aluminum field. Because she seemed to do the right thing at all the right times and went where there was the most wind, Dyna wound up overall winner of the race by a healthy margin on corrected time, beating Challenge, Jubilee and 85 other boats.

Aside from the big three, which found the wind, the other class winners were boats with perhaps even more heroic crews who kept them going somehow in the light airs. Steven Castle's Sea/lower repeated her victory of two years ago in class B. Sun Dance, owned by Clinton Loyd of Larchmont, took class C, and class D was won by the 1961 overall winner, E. Newbold Smith's Reindeer. (Dyna, the big winner this year, was the best in class A two years ago.) Due to sail this week on the transatlantic race from Newport to Plymouth, Dyna was using the Annapolis race as a shakedown cruise for her crew. Before leaving Maryland, Skipper-Owner Ewing had seen to it that no weld in the big aluminum yawl was left unexamined, no toggle unmagnafluxed for the big race. The unassuming Ewing, who wins more races than most (he has two Mackinac wins, a first and third in class for the last two Bermuda races plus his first in class A in the 1961 Annapolis-to-Newport race) but gets less publicity, took his win calmly as he got set for the transatlantic start. "We didn't blow out any sails on the race up here and didn't bust any gear. All we have to do is get the provisions aboard and we're ready to go," said the man who thinks nothing at all of a mere four-day layover between one ocean race and another.

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