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The Coxes now live in an 11-room house on two and a quarter acres in Darien, Conn. Their house is a low, white, rambling affair with a sweeping yard and a pond. "Bill does not do any yard work," says Libby Cox. "Absolutely not. He wouldn't pick up a stick in the yard." Leaving others to pick up the sticks, Cox usually headed out for weekend racing at one of the yacht clubs that ring Long Island Sound. Such was the relatively unruffled course of his life until one afternoon late last fall when he got a phone call from Bill Luders.
"He told me he was thinking of putting together a syndicate for a new 12-meter," said Cox. "He did not know if it would work or not. Perhaps not, but if it did, would I be interested in being the skipper of the new boat?" Recalling the conversation at Newport, Cox, in the deep-blue, heavy-knit sweater and red polished-cotton pants that make up the official American Eagle uniform, permitted himself a brief smile. "I told Luders that I would think about it. I told him that I would have to talk to Libby first and see what she thought about the idea. Actually, however, I changed the order. I resigned my job, accepted the role as skipper—and then I went home and told Libby what I had done."
What he had done was more than just consent to be skipper of a potential cup defender. He had bought a piece of the action and become one of the managers of the syndicate with Luders and Pierre S. du Pont. Eagle was started in Luders' loft on Nov. 11, 1963, and Bill Cox followed the construction period every day through the yard.
" Cox had about as many sleepless nights as Luders, I guess," says Construction Boss John Flynn. "He gives more of himself than anybody I have ever seen. He never gives up trying to improve Eagle, and you can't refuse him anything he asks. What is that old soap slogan—99[44/100]% pure? It's not pure enough for Bill Cox."
"Some people," mused Cox, "say that we get so wrapped up in 12-meter racing that we don't ever just sail for fun anymore. Well, I still like to sail for fun, but you do get wrapped up in a project like this. I like the 12-meters," he went on, in a calm understatement that would cause anyone in Newport to choke on his gin and tonic. "I like their style. I like sailing around the buoys all in one afternoon and then ending it. We are what you would call matinee racers in this division."
If Bill Cox's sailing is all fun, he ought to tell his wife about it. "I don't know," says Libby Cox. "I have tried to get him to take some time off, some time away from this terrible tension that keeps building up. But he won't do it. He is on the phone all day talking to people—the syndicate's phone bill must be absolutely staggering—and he spends every moment thinking about it.
"We haven't even seen Newport, only the road between this house and the shipyard. We joined the beach club; it is a very nice place, and Bill went there once but he didn't swim. Sometimes I wonder if he will ever relax. He can't just go for a sail aboard someone's big cruiser, for example. We get a great many invitations, and I would love to go. But it wouldn't feel right to Bill. He'd just pace."
"My tendency to be thorough," said Cox himself, in some surprise, "seems to exasperate some people. The New York Times here"—he held up the clipping—"did a sketch on me. They called me a lint-picker. Well, perhaps I am, but they should have chosen a kinder phrase." He took a pencil and carefully crossed out the words.
The Aurora Syndicate's faith and that of Bill Luders in Cox began to pay off from the moment Eagle was launched and started showing her stern to the other would-be defenders in Long Island Sound (SI, June 22). The press instantly stamped Eagle the boat to beat, and reporters began moving in on Cox. He made a first—and last—public statement: "The difference between the boats has been a small difference," he said. "We have got to win by more and we must be careful we do not get overconfident."
And the saga of American Eagle went on: by the time she arrived in Newport to start the observation series the score was Eagle 6-0 against all comers, Constellation 2-4, Columbia 2-4 and Nefertiti 2-4.