As a reader of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since its inception and as a salt-water sailor who has had a good deal of blue water in his socks, I was most disappointed in your flat-out statement in "Back to Schooners," (SCORECARD, Aug. 5) that a tough old Grand Banks schooner is "easier to handle and just as fast as the J boat or the 12-meter."
I wonder whether the writer of that opinion ever sailed on any of the three types of boats to which he referred, or if, in fact, he knows what in blazes he is talking about. I have had the pleasure of racing on several schooners and, although lots of fun, they can be man-killers when it comes to handling. I also question whether the Bluenose or the Gertrude L. Thebaud could ever have beaten a 12-meter, let alone a J boat, working to windward.
Certainly there is little doubt that a Gloucester or Grand Banks schooner could give any sloop ever built a real shellacking on a beam or broad reach, but for an "authoritative" magazine to make such a brash statement which, by implication, encompasses all points of sailing is either one whale of a typo or plain ignorance.
ABBOT M. GEER
New York City
?For a visual comparison of a J boat—the 126-foot, 1934 America's Cup winner, Rainbow—and the original 142-foot schooner, Bluenose, see below.—ED.
A SITTING BLUEBIRD?
Regarding Donald Campbell and the new Bluebird (Speed King? Or Just Son of Speed King?, July 29), I would like to add my bit to Kenneth Rudeen's excellent story. I feel qualified to comment on the 1960 Bonneville Salt Flats attempt as I was FIA observer there. I knew Sir Malcolm as well as Donald and Leo Villa, who has served as mechanic for both. I also own the old Bluebird.
On the Flats for Mickey Thompson's runs as well as Campbell's, I was one of the few crash witnesses. Trying to guess the speed of the car just prior to the crash seems of small importance. The fact remains that in 1.6 miles and with the Bluebird sliding sideways on the course, it was going fast enough to develop lift that carried it 696 feet through the air. My guess would be about 300 mph, which is a reasonable figure, considering that Art Arfons in his jet-powered Green Monster dragster has many times exceeded 200 mph in just a quarter mile.
In checking my notes I find that after a half mile Bluebird started to veer, and for the next mile Campbell struggled to straighten it out. Did Donald "lose it," or hadn't the faulty steering with which Bluebird arrived at the Flats been corrected?
I go along with Villa who said Campbell had "put his foot down." On the evening before the accident Donald told me that he was to make braking tests the following morning and would try some "hot" starts, allowing himself at least half the course for stopping.
Another point: "No one blames the car itself." This is simply not true. To start with, there was steering trouble. Some veteran Salt Flatters considered the wheels and tires too big, the front-seating position undesirable. In event of a yaw the driver had no way of ascertaining the car's attitude until too late to correct it. The lack of braking chutes raised many eyebrows, and Bluebird's shape was criticized as to possible lift and instability at high speeds. (Note the addition of a large tail fin since the Salt Flats.) One thing you can say for Bluebird, it is the strongest car ever built. Otherwise Donald Campbell wouldn't be with us today.
I feel that too much personal criticism has been aimed at Donald. Who can blame him for seeking a longer course? The 10 or 11 miles at the Salt Flats is woefully short and inadequate for a potential 500 mph vehicle without drag chutes. Certainly he cannot be blamed for wanting rescue precautions after his Salt Flats experience.