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AUSSIES AND FRENCH HOOK UP
Carleton Mitchell
August 31, 1970
In a duel of rare excitement Australia's "Gretel II," seemingly beaten, got past "France" to go one up in the first America's Cup international race-off ever sailed. On Monday "Gretel" went ahead 2-0
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August 31, 1970

Aussies And French Hook Up

In a duel of rare excitement Australia's "Gretel II," seemingly beaten, got past "France" to go one up in the first America's Cup international race-off ever sailed. On Monday "Gretel" went ahead 2-0

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Even the victors were shocked by the margin after the race had been so close for five-sixths of the distance. "It's a shame," exclaimed Mike Greenaway, Aussie crew alternate and team physician, as France neared the finish. It was a race either boat deserved to win, but neither deserved to lose by more than a few lengths. The speed potential was almost identical in the conditions, sail handling was good and both skippers showed themselves masters of match racing. It might well be called the most interesting trial race since '58. One debatable tactical decision, abetted by a fluke of wind, had compounded into defeat. Thus observers in Newport were even more shocked by the aftermath next day, when the French camp issued a revised crew list for Monday's race: the names of Louis Noverraz and eight out of 10 others aboard did not appear. The new helmsman was Pierre (Poppie) Delfour, long a member of the Bich �quipe. Earlier rumor had reported him returning to France in a huff after his replacement as starting skipper by Noverraz.

Although Monday's contest was another cliff hanger, with the lead changing hands several times between the Australians and the French, Gretel made it two straight with a 1:32 victory.

By comparison the American final trials are proceeding with less fireworks, but hardly more conclusively. In the first encounter of the week, on Tuesday, Weatherly was leading Heritage in the first division and Intrepid had opened a whopping lead on Valiant, when another nor'wester had expired. Weatherly had previously tacked to get between her rival and the mark, a cardinal tenet of match racing, but Intrepid stood on without covering Valiant. When the new breeze struck in from the Point Judith shore, a tongue of wind licked toward Valiant. Too late Bill Ficker tacked. Intrepid headed almost back to the start and finally arrived at the first mark 2:42 astern. Even though Intrepid whittled two minutes off Valiant's lead before the finish, it was dubious consolation.

Heritage had hoped for a new lease on life, and her victory over Weatherly by 6:19 on the opening day seemed to justify Skipper Charley Morgan's optimism. However, Heritage thereupon lost twice to Valiant and once to Intrepid, and when Intrepid beat her again on Monday she was eliminated from the trials by the selection committee—suffering the fate that had already befallen Weatherly late Thursday.

Although Weatherly was superbly sailed by George Hinman and Briggs Cunningham, the '62 defender could not hold the newer boats in offshore conditions. Weatherly's earlier contribution as a yardstick had been invaluable and "the two old men of the sea, with the oldest old girl," in the words of Laura Cunningham, have had more fun than anyone else afloat.

For Intrepid and Valiant the pressure grows. Following their inconclusive race on Tuesday, they met only once again, on Friday. In the same fluky conditions that plagued France and Gretel, they sailed a race that was not truly a test. There was no proper windward leg and the course was shortened to 10.8 miles. It went into the books as a victory for Intrepid by 23 seconds, evening the score between them for the final trials. Members of the selection committee wanted to see more.

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