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Hugh D. Whall
March 12, 1973
Ugly little Cascade' infuriated ocean-racing purists on the Southern circuit with her strange, gawky rig and low handicap, but what smarted most was her smashing victory in the Miami-to-Nassau classic
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March 12, 1973

Sailing Up A Squall

Ugly little Cascade' infuriated ocean-racing purists on the Southern circuit with her strange, gawky rig and low handicap, but what smarted most was her smashing victory in the Miami-to-Nassau classic

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If Lightnin,' a Class E 38-footer from the board of Sparkman & Stephens, was going to strike Mu�equita it would be loosed by Skipper Ted Turner. Turner, the owner of an Atlanta television station, had twice captured the SORC, most recently in 1970 with the former America's Cup contender, American Eagle. When he won the windy Sydney-to-Hobart race with the 67-foot Eagle last December, he said, "This is the last picture show." What he meant was big boats of her vintage (1964) were becoming obsolete; new trends in design, new wrinkles in the rules were consigning the immediate future to smallish craft like Lightnin'.

Turner is a paradoxical individual who "loves turmoil," as he puts it, but also is a perfectionist about the details of sailing. If he believes he can get an additional hundredth of a knot out of a boat by trimming the mainsheet an inch, he will have that inch. He enforces his wishes with clearly enunciated bellows. Just leaving the dock with Turner can be a vocal adventure. Sailing with him in a gale exposes one to a voice of near-Biblical fury.

Throughout the SORC, Turner had a "secret weapon" in his sail locker—and often up and pulling. This was a superlightweight Dacron spinnaker by Ted Hood that enabled Turner to overtake ostensibly faster boats as if he was reeling them in. Said Walter Greene of Cascade's crew, forgetting for a moment his own boat's radical configuration: "That sail is the most significant thing on the circuit."

But it was not significant enough to catch Mu�equita in the finale. "What kind of a boat is that, a camper?" yelled a rival skipper as Mu�equita put out from harbor. "Nope," John Dane shouted back, "it's a converted PT boat." Her own virgin-white spinnaker was taut and straining as Mu�equita surfed across the finish line for her sixth straight class victory—and the SORC championship of 1973 with a score of 2,233.250 points. Second by a mere 8.250 points was Lightnin', third by another 44.500 points was Ted Hood's Class E Robin.

But not even a finish so fine could distract SORC men for long from their preoccupation with Cascade. Rival sailors might not have liked the cut of Jerry Milgram's jib, but they could not say the same about his boat's. It has none. With winches the size of teacups and sails the size of handkerchiefs, manned (personned, sorry) by a coed crew including Eleanor Swett, the sister of Designer Britton Chance and a lifelong sailor, Cascade just kept pouring it on until the Nassau Cup. The weather had most boats on their lee rails, but Cascade fell into a hole in the wind and was soundly thrashed. Even so, she finished fifth overall for the entire SORC.

At 34 Milgram is an associate professor of ocean engineering at MIT. He got the inspiration for Cascade's so-called cat-ketch rig (cat for catboat, the familiar jibless craft whose mast is far forward; ketch for the two-mast arrangement) not from the university's computers, as one might expect, but from a number of sources, including a 19th century Block Island fishing boat.

Establishment sailors, who were beginning to call her Milgram's Baby, as in Rosemary's Baby, did not see the yellow eyes and cloven hooves in the boat's ugliness so much as in the fact that she did not carry such standard appurtenances as Genoa jibs and spinnaker poles (although she does fly a spinnaker of sorts). Worse yet, Cascade was so maddeningly swift that before a race Skipper Milgram would merely lounge around on deck as the fleet started, keeping his craft out of the melee. Then he would put her in gear and coolly march past boat after boat.

Cascade's speed caused fear, her ability to dispense with backbreaking winches and hard-to-handle sails caused resentment, her low handicap rating caused fury. And like the antiturbine men at Indy (who were successful), the traditionalists are in a mood to shoot her down.

Cascade has a low rating precisely because she carries no sail forward of the mainmast and a moderate amount elsewhere. When first rated, after being launched last year, she was given a low, low 22.00. Lightnin', a sloop of comparable size, has a rating of 27.2. Her rated sail area is 550 square feet, Cascade's only 325.

At a recent meeting in London of the men who make the ratings, Cascade was already well known as a budding rules beater. It is said that Robin Glover of the technical committee of the International Yacht Racing Union became so enraged over the low number accorded Cascade that he had to be "physically restrained."

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