Sailboat races arc
not always to the swift. In "Constellation" and "American
Eagle" the U.S. has two potential cup defenders, either of which could no
doubt hold her own against Britain's "Sovereign" and "Kurrewa"
(see cover and page 27) if speed were the only criterion. During the next three
weeks, therefore, as it tries to decide which of the two new yachts to pick as
defender or whether to pass both of them by in favor of old "Nefertiti"
or older " Columbia," the U.S. selection committee will be less
concerned with a boat's speed when she is footing than with her crew's behavior
in the jibes, tacks and sail changes—the seconds when alacrity on deck and a
skipper's split-second judgment are what matter most. Properly handled, the
spinnaker heading aloft in a tight bundle on "Eagle's" lee side as she
nears a windward mark in the picture opposite may open at the precise moment
necessary to give her a huge downwind advantage over her opponent. On the other
hand, impatience, clumsiness, an order barked too soon or too late may turn the
big chute into a vast, flapping handicap. As shown on the following pages, the
crews of "Eagle" and "Constellation" have practiced maneuvers
like these in turn after turn during race after race, knowing that only by
their near perfect execution can the cup be successfully defended.
For the first time
in the century-old history of America's Cup racing, the challenging boat from
overseas will be selected only after a grueling schedule of trials in U.S.
waters—the waters in which the winning boat will race for the cup itself. Last
week, as the trials began, the sleek blue 12-meter Sovereign beat her
pale-green rival Kurrewa V to the finish three times. At Sovereign's helm was a
British yachtsman as articulate as he is versatile. The son of famed Polar
Explorer Robert Scott, Peter Scott
(below) is a noted explorer in his own
right. He is also an author, a painter, a former champion dinghy sailor, a
former champion glider pilot, the president of the International Yacht Racing
Union, a naval hero who won a D.S.C. while in command of an English motor
patrol boat in World War II and an ornithologist who has amassed the greatest
collection of living wild geese ever assembled.
Right now Scott
has a full-time job trying to steer Sovereign to victory over Skipper Stug
Perry and Kurrewa V in the trials off Newport for the honor of being the 1964
challenger. On these pages, he tells what this taut competition has meant to
the British effort and what it may mean to the contest for the cup itself.
WE MEAN TO TAKE IT
sailed to England 113 years ago to win an ornate silver jug for a race
around the Isle of Wight. Not long afterward this trophy passed into the
custody of the New York Yacht Club, and in the intervening period 18 yachts
have come to the United States to challenge for it, and 18 times failed. Does
this mean that the goal is unattainable? Certainly not. But it suggests that
the task is rather difficult.
A challenge for
the America's Cup is an act of faith—a belief that what for so long has seemed
unattainable can in fact be attained if the effort is great enough, if the
yacht is well enough designed and built, if the sails are well enough made, if
the crew is well enough trained. It is a challenge in more senses than one,
like the challenge to climb Everest or to discover the North and South Poles.
There must be a first time, runs the argument, why not this time if we try
harder than ever before?
I suppose a
competitor in any sport these days must have some sort of a quick answer to the
question: What are your chances? One approach is to clasp his hands over his
head in the manner of some boxers and say with all the confidence at his
command that he is bound to win. At the other end of the scale is the admission
that if he is going to win at all he will need all the luck he can get because
it is going to be very difficult indeed.
As skipper of
Sovereign, I find my approach to the 19th challenge perhaps nearer to the
second than to the first. But if we are realistic enough to know the difficulty
of our task, we do not lack confidence or determination. There are, we think,
good and solid reasons for believing we have a better chance than our 18
predecessors. The most important of these is that for the first time the
challenging yacht club has two new boats to choose from. The U.S. has always
had at least two and sometimes up to five actively participating candidates
from which to select the right boat and the best crew to meet a solitary and
largely untested challenger. This year Britain's challenging club, the Royal
Thames, has two new 12-meters, Sovereign and Kurrewa V, both designed by David
Boyd and built at Robertson's shipyard in Scotland.
They are almost
identical except for minor differences in their keels and the layout of their
decks. Sovereign began racing in the middle of last summer and has been
constantly at sea since April 1 this year. Kurrewa V, on the other hand, first
went sailing on May 3 of this year. In three sharply fought series of races
near the Isle of Wight in May and June, honors were almost even at 10 races to
Kurrewa, nine to Sovereign, while a short, informal race for television was won
by Sovereign to square the official score. The two boats are evenly matched.
This is proved not only by the final score but by almost every race. In their
next-to-last meeting in British waters the two boats sailed for six hours in a
fluky wind that twice swung through 180� like a pendulum. At the end Sovereign
crept over the line a scant 11 seconds ahead—half a boat's length.
their muscles in the Solent, both boats were then shipped to the U.S. to resume
competition at the scene where the cup races will be held, in the waters for
which they have so carefully been prepared.