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TENSE SAILOR FOR A TAUT SHIP
Bob Ottum
August 31, 1964
Skipper Bill Cox of the would-be cup defender 'American Eagle' is strung as tight as the standing rigging on his boat and, like its spars and stays, defies the wind with unobtrusive force
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August 31, 1964

Tense Sailor For A Taut Ship

Skipper Bill Cox of the would-be cup defender 'American Eagle' is strung as tight as the standing rigging on his boat and, like its spars and stays, defies the wind with unobtrusive force

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Commented Cox: "We do not win these races; the other fellows lose them." And at the Eagle's Nest on Beacon Hill Road the fledgling sailors were constantly reminded that the important races still lay ahead. At long last, on July 26, during the New York Yacht Club cruise, Constellation managed a smooth victory over Eagle, to hand the latter her first loss in 16 starts.

Said Cox: "We greeted that first defeat almost with a sigh of relief. We knew that sooner or later it had to come. I told the crew, 'Now, let's see if we can put another string together.' " They could not. Eagle lost to Constellation again four days later in air so light the race deteriorated into a drifting match, and again the next day. "All right," said Cox, at the end of the cruise, his taut nerves and those of his crew twanging nicely again, "now we're losing too many." So he made a list of suggested hull changes for Luders, marked them A, B and C in order of importance and sent Eagle back to the boatyard. "There was no loss of morale," he explained. "We had known all along, for example, that Eagle was less superior in light air. Now we're fixing that."

Eagle came out of the shed with some of the lead scraped off her keel and her rudder made smaller, in something of the pattern of Constellation's. Cox accepted the obvious improvement in her light-air performance as no more than what he expected, and as the final trials began he went on to other improvements. When a race is to be won, Cox is less interested in what's right than in what's wrong. But for one moment at the Eagle's Nest last week he did pause just long enough to consider a kind of perfection. "There is a moment in sailing," he said, "under the right wind, with the sun shining on the water and the boat set just right, when life is almost perfect. Sailing in a race adds an element of extra excitement."

"If Bill did get a chance to race for the America's Cup," said Libby Cox, looking fondly at her husband, "and lost, I think he would accept the loss with his usual great reserve. Any pain he felt would not show."

Cox picked up a cooky from the coffee table and munched it with short, nervous bites. "And if I were to win," he said, with the ghost of a smile again, "I think I would feel happy inside."

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