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In the 52 years that he has been alive and smiling Thomas Patrick Dougan of Newport Beach, Calif. has known good times and bad, at work and at play. On the golf course he has sometimes eagled and frequently bogeyed. At poker he has sometimes filled an inside straight and has often drawn junk. In World War II, because of four teeth lost on the playing fields (where wars are supposedly won), he was rejected as officer material and made a Navy cook.
Pat Dougan has been bilked once or twice in the business world, too, but he has ended up a success—such a success that in early 1964 he could afford to take as reckless a step as any genial, brainy Irishman ever took. In a tax-heavy age when very few men can even afford the thought Dougan up and bought the handsome but obsolete 1958 America's Cup defender Columbia. He not only bought her, but on short notice he jumped right into the 1964 America's Cup selection trials against newer, smarter boats and took a licking, losing 15 races and winning only three.
As anyone with a grasp of yachting history knows, in America's Cup competition the record of smart, genial Irishmen is definitely not good. Sir Thomas Lipton, Belfast's lovable old dispenser of tea leaves and Gaelic charm, tried for 30 years to win the cup and never did. But with utter disregard for the Irish jinx Pat Dougan is once again pitting his Columbia against three other expensive, windblown American beauties, Intrepid, Constellation and American Eagle, for the honor of defending the cup against Dame Pattie. Although her crew—sailing another ancient defender, Weatherly—has already faced the other contenders in a set of preliminary trials (SI, June 26), Columbia herself will meet them for the first time in the observation trials off Newport this week.
Columbia, like two of her rivals, Constellation and Intrepid, was created by the master designer, Olin Stephens. Because Intrepid is the latest 12-meter yacht to emerge from Stephens' complicated brain, she is the obvious favorite, but railbirds who want a good long shot might consider Dougan's boat for several reasons. For one thing, although there is a certain mellow similarity between the two men, Dougan is definitely not a latter-day Lipton. As devoted as Sir Thomas was to the America's Cup quest, he never personally got into the fray much deeper than his wallet. In his most lucid moments Sir Tommy barely knew the difference between a bowsprit and a boomkin.
In contrast, as owner and skipper of Columbia, for the past year, Pat Dougan has not only been paying through the nose, but he has also been up to his armpits—and occasionally over his head—in the actual campaign.
Furthermore, although Dougan's Columbia, statistically speaking, is now the oldest contender, she is no longer the old-fashioned girl she used to be. The original Columbia came off Olin Stephens' drawing board in 1957. She was one of the first 12-meters of the postwar era, designed to get more power out of synthetic sails than the pre-World War II 12s could ever get from their baggy canvas. She was good enough to defend the cup against the feeble English effort in 1958, but never was good enough, or sailed well enough, thereafter. The fact that a new America's Cup course was adopted in 1964, putting a heavy premium on work to windward, was sufficient to make the old Columbia obsolete.
Indeed, by returning East for another try with a boat that he insists on calling Columbia, Pat Dougan comes close to committing fraud. Counting ribs, skin, keel, bulkheads, scantlings, spars, fittings, rigging and whatnot, there is only about 30% of the original Columbia in Dougan's boat. To be completely honest, Dougan should change her name from Columbia to Califumbia, because most of the present boat, though based on redesign work by Stephens, was constructed in San Diego. Because of all the alterations, Dougan's Califumbia (or Columbia, if you insist) is, in effect, the second newest and second most promising 12-meter yacht in the trials.
From amidships aft the new Columbia is entirely new. The original wineglass configuration of her after sections has been replaced by a more V-shaped form. The keel of Columbia is now like that of her younger sister, Constellation, the successful defender of the cup in 1964. To make the most of her measured waterline length, in the after sections of the hull Columbia's lines have been drawn out like those of the still younger Intrepid, the newest contender.
Columbia's deck, never too junky, is now as uncluttered, efficient and uninviting-looking as a hospital bed. From the centerline her deck slopes downward two or three degrees to her outboard rails, and she does not even have a toe rail to help keep her deckhands aboard. To survive and do their work commendably on a bouncy, windy day, Columbia's deck slaves need the brawn of King Kong and the surefootedness of a chamois.
From tank tests it is known that the new Columbia is as much an improvement over Constellation as Constellation was over the original Columbia. Since there is no comparable tank data available, no one knows how the revamped Columbia measures against Intrepid, the newest girl in the game. Columbia might prove to be no match at all—or she might be just as good, or she might be better. Designer Stephens confesses: "My sympathies, generally speaking, are with the newer boat. Anybody who does this kind of work likes to see his newest ideas proved out. But, pulling against this feeling, I have a fondness for the older boats, Columbia and Constellation. It is important to remember that the more you try to improve 12-meter design, the more you run the risk of stubbing your toe and falling down badly."