SI Vault
Joan Gould
August 12, 1968
When the late Ring Lardner derisively equated sailboat racing with grass growing as a spectator sport, he may have spoken more truly than he knew. To the connoisseur of such matters, the condition of a lawn on a great estate by Long Island Sound can tell much about the man who lives behind it. Many a shrewd sociologist can surmise from shrubbery whether the money that maintains it is old money or new money, whether the land that supports it was acquired from an ancestor or from a forced sale. Just so in the yacht clubs that complement such an estate, a man's attitude toward racing will betray to his fellow sailors his past and his potential, his sources of strength and his possible fatal flaws, and they will hold him in contempt or admiration accordingly.
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August 12, 1968

Wind From The Northeast

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At five minutes before the start the committee fired another cannon.

"Flag end of the line is favored," said Dyce, who had put on his own foul-weather suit, "but Hunt is nosing around the committee boat end."

"I'll bet he is," replied Samuelson.

So that was it. The tactical decision—not just for the start but for the first leg—had been made. At four minutes before the start they headed back toward the committee boat.

"Sixteen boats today," said Nat. "Not bad in this weather." Only a beginner ever counted the fleet.


Two and a half minutes before the start. They passed the committee boat and headed away from the line. Nat tried to remain detached, but he could feel his wrists quivering. He laid his right hand on the deck to steady it.

"Two minutes." Still heading away from the line. "One and three quarters." Silence between the calls, like a trough between waves. "One and a half."


Sixteen boats approached an imaginary line that stretched across the water from the committee boat at one end to an orange flag at the other. To cross this invisible line even a fraction of a second before the starting gun meant a recall. To cross the line a few seconds too late, behind the bow of another boat, meant spending the crucial part of the race eating his backwind.

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