But the distance races were only a prelude. The spectacle began when the small boats, looking like confetti, descended on the sound. It was a day of small, fluffy clouds that belonged more to the trade winds than to the North Sea. A faultless breeze was blowing off the land and all across the sparkling course the spotless Dragons with brightly varnished hulls tacked and tacked and tacked again. A yellow buoy-mounted flag, the first mark, lay ahead under the Danish coast. Bobby Mosbacher, a brother of the more famous Bus Mosbacher and a first-rate sailor in his own right, lay in the lead. Behind him, in a duel as hot as the cold war, was a Russian boat. Far behind these two came a horde of Dragons, among them King Constantine of Greece.
There are really only two ironclad equalizers, death and sailing. A king racing a sailboat can be pitted against a commoner on equal terms: the rules say that a boat which is in the right is right no matter who or what her skipper may be. As the Dragons approached the mark behind Mosbacher and the Russian, it was obvious that Constantine, monarch or not, was going to get his. Under sailing rules he was required to give way to the boats surrounding him, even though it meant losing several places he could not afford to lose. Royalty being as hard pressed as it is these days, the other boats might have courteously parted and allowed Constantine to round the buoy first and go about his business. Entering a bar, perhaps, a lesser skipper might let His Majesty through the door first. But not in sailing. In sailing it is just, "Get out of there!" or, "Look out, you!" no matter what the skipper's rank.
The other Dragon skippers did not give a coat of varnish to the King. They forced him around the mark on the wrong side, made him jibe, tack and then thread his way embarrassingly through another flock of onrushing boats. Of course, the King, who is an excellent sailor, had no one to blame but himself for his predicament and took his beating gracefully.
It was not always so when the championships began to go awry. As it was, a Dragon named Williwaw owned by G. S. Friedrichs Jr. of New Orleans became the first American ever to win the European championships, while four-time gold medal winner Paul Elvstrom salved Danish pride by winning four races in a row in the 5.5-meter world championships. Still, the centennial seemed to hop one, skip one, and not even the setting, the bikinis, the beer and black-tie parties could quite offset those misleading sailing directions, poorly run races, misplaced marks, midrace course changes and races canceled for no apparent reason. The celebration was, in fact, too much of a celebration to be much of anything else.