On the second day it seemed that the Aussies would get their wish. A spectator fleet of more than 500 assorted craft streamed out of Newport Harbor in crisp fall sunshine to be met by long swells but little wind. In fact, the race committee postponed the start, waiting for the breeze to make up its mind. When the signals were hoisted at last, they were once again for a course of 75�. Again, after very little preliminary jockeying, both boats started near the buoy on the starboard tack, with Dame Pattie to leeward.
In only seven knots of wind and with no cresting sea to bother her, the Dame moved better. This time, instead of sagging, she began to squeeze up. At the end of six minutes she had arrived at the point of backwinding her rival, and Bus tacked away. On the ensuing port tack the Dame seemed to be pointing higher, while Intrepid footed faster. From astern, it was hard to tell which was ahead until Intrepid came about. This time Bus took the initiative not because of disturbed wind but to take advantage of a slight header. When Intrepid crossed ahead of the Dame and camped on her wind, it was the signal for Jock Sturrock to inaugurate a tacking duel.
Aboard Dame Pattie backs bent and arms flailed as crewmen on deck cranked coffee grinders and tailed genoa sheets in the familiar organized confusion. In contrast, Intrepid looked oddly tranquil. The same frantic activity was going on aboard her, but most of it was hidden belowdecks. Six times the two boats came about as quickly as they could gather way. Then Dame Pattie made a move that turned out to be the climax of the race.
In hope of being able to clear his wind by luring Intrepid into a new tack while he stayed on the old one, Jock tried a false tack—going head to wind, as though coming about, but then falling back. Unfortunately for the strategy, Intrepid's Vic Romagna was assigned to watch Sturrock's every move. When Jock stopped grinding his wheel over as he would for a real tack, Vic spotted it immediately and tipped off Bus. Mosbacher lazily brought Intrepid head to wind, took advantage of her shoot, and just as lazily swung her back to cover. She never dropped below six knots on the speed indicator, but Dame Pattie lay almost dead in the water. Olin Stephens once defined the ability to accelerate as "one of the imponderables of yacht design," yet he somehow manages to achieve it in each new hull. With this ability to accelerate, coupled with the speed she was able to maintain, Intrepid simply leaped away.
Before the defender rounded the first mark 53 seconds ahead, the breeze had begun to freshen and the sea to build. On the second and third weather legs conditions resembled the previous day. Yet Dame Pattie gained seven seconds on one and lost only 13 seconds on the other. Had she been able to keep up or gain downwind, she might have been able to stay within striking distance, but a poor selection of spinnakers plus poor spinnaker handling compared to the flawless sets and jibes of Intrepid cost the Dame distance on the reaches, while she deliberately gambled on a wind shift by tacking to leeward on the run. "If you're running second," explained Norm Wright later, "you might as well try something different." So the Dame ended up second by 3 minutes 36 seconds, a much greater margin than she might have lost by.
It was now obvious that the only hope of the Aussies lay in less wind, and they were perfectly candid in saying so. They elected to race the following day after receiving a forecast of light to moderate breezes coupled with diminished seas. But with hurricanes playing around offshore, the crystal ball of the meteorologists was even more clouded than usual. When the fleet assembled at the starting buoy on Thursday, there was almost a repeat of conditions on the opening day. A fresh northeaster caused a vicious cross-chop of sea to run across roller-coaster swells.
The start was a replay of the two previous ones, each skipper in his favorite position: Jock to leeward with his wind clear, Bus to windward where he would be free to tack when he pleased. As soon as both were in the groove, the difference in angle of heel was as startling as the amount of solid water Dame Pattie was taking aboard. Jock said afterward that three men had been kept busy pumping most of the way around the course. With little delay, Intrepid began opening out to windward and ahead. It came as a surprise to most spectators when Intrepid tacked first, but Navigator Toby Tobin had spotted a wind shift that enabled her to lay the mark. Dame Pattie followed immediately, and on a long port tack the two sailed into the weirdest obstruction ever seen on an America's Cup course. Dead ahead of Intrepid a Coast Guard helicopter hovered at the level of the defender's spreaders. Coming closer, it became apparent that the crew of a small capsized sailboat was being rescued. Still Bus held on, reluctant to give way. At the last moment, when it looked from astern as though the top of the defender's mast might be chopped off by the aircraft's whirling rotor blades, he bore away sharply, taking quite a knockdown from the downdraft.
Unfortunately, it was the last excitement of the day. Intrepid pulled steadily ahead, gaining on every leg but one, the first reach, when the Dame got back one second. In four races, adding up to a total of 24 legs, the challenger was faster on only three—for a total gain of 1 minute 37 seconds. The margin at the finish of this one was 4 minutes 41 seconds, more than half a mile in distance. It was not a rout, as anyone will see by going back over the result of the trials, when Intrepid had regularly handed out defeats of similar or greater magnitude—and in weather that favored her less. Yet it was certainly a decisive victory, and one demonstrating a superiority that could not be overcome—except perhaps in radically different conditions.
After the race, asked what those conditions might be, Jock Sturrock replied, "Dame Pattie was designed to be at her best in winds of 12 to 14 knots, but she may be better in 8 to 10." Since the Aussies had requested a lay-day in the face of a forecast of 25 knots, Jock was then asked if he hoped for 10 knots on Saturday. With a wry grin he said, "Five knots might be better."
For years I have listened to the theory that the best chance a challenging nation might have to take home the cup would be to tailor a boat specifically for winds at one end or the other of the weather spectrum—in other words, to create a light-air flyer or a real powerhouse. If, the theory goes, the challenging nation could gamble on a boat built for such special conditions and was lucky enough to get them, it might well beat a defender that would have to be an all-round performer to win the American trials.