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The next minute was the hard one. Little to do except think and chew gum as the two boats closed. I bore off slightly in hopes of getting farther to leeward of Eagle so we could sharpen up later and end our approach on a higher than reciprocal course. No dice. Bill Cox, as expected, bore off to an exact reciprocal.
Now Eagle was only 100 yards ahead, and we were closing at a combined rate of 12 knots. "Break jib," I called, and Bob Connell and Fred Kulicke spun the coffee-grinders. The jib stops broke, and the big sail snapped full with a dull pop. Eagle's jib broke out seconds later. The speedometers showed speed increasing gradually—6.1, 6.3. Then, just as we came bow to bow with Eagle, over 7.
Now was the crucial moment. If we timed our swing just right we would get on Eagle's tail. Just as the bows overlapped I spun the wheel. Cox spun Eagle's at the same instant. We shot head to wind, the jib slotted over, the coffee-grinders spun and all sails snapped full. Meanwhile Eagle completed her jibe and was exactly where we had been 20 seconds before. We were still all even.
I eased the helm to let Constellation gain headway before jibing and, keeping one eye on Eagle, the other on the speedometer, hollered for the main to be eased. Eagle was trimming her own main furiously, sharpening up and no longer on an exact reciprocal course. "Don't rush it, Bob," I told myself. Better to bear off slowly and then spin through the jibe with full headway. Six knots on the speedometer. Fast enough. "Ease main," I shouted and spun the wheel hard over. Larry Scheu rushed aft to help Rod pull the three-part main sheet over in two great heaves. No need to run the sheet through blocks in this weight of wind. She came faster if jibed all standing. As the boom swung over, great bights of mainsheet smacked across the cockpit, dropping in the water for a second before the sail filled on the new tack and the sheet was snapped taut.
"Now trim!" I shouted—as though it were necessary to tell this crew what to do. Larry was already tailing, as Fenny heaved the main in hand over hand. Dick Goennel and Buddy had the winch handle in place, ready to grind her in.
The sheet was sucking through the blocks, but oh to have it even faster! Constellation was ready to go, go higher, but she had to wait for the main. Now the sheet was on the winch, Fenny still grappling with it. Bob Connell, on the coffee-grinder, kept the genoa full as we slowly arched closer to the wind. Seven knots now and nearly on the wind. Time to spin her over again. No words were needed. As we eased into the wind, Don Wakeman let the genoa back for an instant to accelerate our swing, then cast off the leeward sheet. It was Steve's turn now to put out as he grabbed fathom after fathom of line to bring the big jib around. Freddy started flailing at the coffee-grinder. Larry watched, ready to ease main as soon as it was full.
"One minute 10 seconds, Bob," said Eric, announcing the time it had taken us to complete one circle. That meant that with five minutes 10 seconds still to go we had time for two more circles. Meanwhile Eagle had managed to gain on us ever so slightly. As we passed, instead of being on reciprocal courses she was perhaps 10� closer to being on our tail than we to hers.
There were less than three minutes left as we completed our third circle. "What do you think of going for it after jibing?" I queried. "Yes," was Rod's only comment. "O.K.," said Eric. The success of the start might well hinge on this decision, since we could be early at the line if we jibed and went for it full bore.
We made a slower jibe than usual to get a bit farther from the line, and once the sail came over I hollered, "Slow trim," a welcome order to Fenny. "Now," I thought, "if only Eagle will jibe in our wake. We can kill enough way to keep from being early, and if she attempts to pass we'll speed up and force her over the line early."
No such luck. Instead of jibing, Eagle reached away from the line. It was obvious she would tack for the windward end and have full headway at the gun. We could have reached off for the leeward end and crossed with full way, too, but I hated to be separated from Eagle by the full length of the line. "Trim hard," I shouted to Fenny, who gave me a what-the-hell-now look as he grabbed the sheet. "Ready about," and two seconds later, "Hard alee," followed by, "Trim for on the wind." My plan was to approach the committee-boat end on port tack, then cross on starboard tack hoping to get a safe leeward position.