Unfortunately, anticlimax set in. Eagle received a lay day to test sails, fog blotted out another race and lack of wind on the third day saw Constellation win over a shortened course. On Friday there were whitecaps for a change, a 15-mile southeasterly blowing at the start. After sparring, Constellation broke on top when Eagle was early and had to run down. Billy Luders had come aboard to replace Bill Stetson in the cockpit, for it was felt by all hands that this might be the big one. But his presence was of no avail. Constellation still ate out to windward during the first leg, protected her lead downwind, added more on the next upwind hitch and received the gun by 2 minutes 5 seconds. On the way home the Constellation crew tidied ship, on the chance that the selection committee might feel like paying a call.
The only thing that came visiting was fog—that night, the next day, the next and the next. Newport's normal summertime "smoky sou'westers" had gone to warmer climes, and fronts stalled before reaching the coast. Instead, a clammy gruel rolled in straight off the Grand Banks, fog so thick that even the Jamestown ferry had trouble finding her slip.
It finally lifted on Tuesday, and American Eagle snapped her losing streak. After waiting two hours for wind, the race committee anchored in desperation in a faint northeasterly slant, which died as the boats tried to start. Five minutes later the wind came back from almost due east. Eagle got it first and took off. As the breeze gamboled around the compass, the planned beat became a reach, the first reaching leg a run and the second reach a beat. Eagle led at that point by approximately 100 yards. On arriving at the buoy, she flattened down on the port tack. When Constellation came on the wind, she promptly split. To the surprise of all beholders, Eagle let her go unmolested, preferring to take a chance on a favorable slant rather than to risk covering. The gamble worked, even though it violated the tenets of match racing, and Eagle arrived first at the weather mark and the finish.
Finally, on Wednesday, a good breeze struck in, not the hard test that the committee had been hanging on to get, but enough to be indicative of the rivals' capacities in heavier blows. In an easterly wind touching 15 knots both skippers got away with clear air after being early and having to dip down to restart. Constellation lost no time in working out as decisively as she had done in lighter going. Navigator Rod Stephens, taking bearings every two minutes, found that Eagle had dropped back 15� by the time of his first reading, and another 8� in the next two minutes. According to his figures, Constellation had built up a lead of 300 yards after 33 minutes, a lead that increased as they went around the course to 1,540 yards at the finish—three-quarters of a mile in distance, four minutes 29 seconds in time, enough to settle any doubts. Thus it worked out that 15 races were sailed before the pivot date of the Caritas Cup and 15 after. The Bird had been on the top of the seesaw with a clean sweep of the first half, but Constellation had gone to the top with all but two of the late-season matches, when they counted the most.
Now all Constellation needs to do is prove her superiority next week over an English boat that, for the first time in the history of cup racing, earned her right to challenge in a series of trials held in U.S. waters—trials that in curious ways paralleled the seesaw course of the Americans. The two English boats, Sovereign and Kurrewa V, were both designed by David Boyd, and much of the time they sailed as tightly matched as a pair of one-designs. By mid-August they were tied at 12 victories each. But by last week Sovereign had moved ahead in the waters off Newport with 19 wins to Kurrewa's 14. Perhaps more significantly, she had won 10 of the 14 late-season races sailed in American waters. Two days after the Americans picked Constellation the British picked Sovereign as the boat to beat her.
It seems to me a sound choice, not only because of Sovereign's record but because of the way people connected with her have gone about the serious job of organizing a boat for cup competition. Anthony Boyden's crew program began in '59, the year after the Sceptre debacle, when he asked Rugby Football Player Paul Anderson to get together "a few husky chaps who were also sailors" who would devote their summers to practice and then take six months off for a cup campaign when a boat was ready. Anderson enlisted three fellow members of the Harlequins, a leading Rugby club of England, and they worked out on the old 12-meter Flica II until Sovereign came along. Because some of her men were well known individually as land athletes, the publicity about them has obscured the fact that together they have become a well-rounded and well-drilled crew that also includes some of Sceptre's Scottish team from the Clyde.
Sovereign's helmsman, Peter Scott, is a man of almost Renaissance talents: painter, ornithologist, writer, champion glider pilot and president of yachting's highest forum, the International Yacht Racing Union. Most important right now is the fact that he is also an astute tactician with a good feel for a boat. Backing him up is Sailmaker Bruce Banks, who supervises the trim of sails he made himself as well as advising on tactics. Thus Scott is free to concentrate on the helm and maneuvers.
While it is impossible to say how good the hull of either Sovereign or Kurrewa might be in comparison with Constellation, all other things being equal, it is an open secret that tank tests at Stevens Institute showed the Boyd models to be better than anything developed prior to the American vessels of '64. Therefore it is to be assumed that the British representative will not be radically outbuilt, although I must confess believing Constellation comes as close to being a design breakthrough as is possible under the 12-meter rule.
It is above decks that the difference will be most apparent. Sails are vital. America's Ted Hood has established an unquestioned mastery in this realm. In early-season practice on the Solent, where Kurrewa was using Hood sails, she beat Sovereign; when she was not she might or might not win, but the difference in her performance was noticeable. Since then, the British have engaged in a crash program to get better sails. Whether they have succeeded, and how much so, remains perhaps the biggest question to be decided as they race round the buoys next week.
In fact, quite a few questions will be resolved over the cup courses which can be answered no other way. Although the crystal ball in Newport has been obscured by the weather, I say the America's Cup is destined to remain on its pedestal on this side of the Atlantic. Peter Scott says not. The only certain thing is that both sides want the better boat to win—and each side hopes it has the better boat.