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The committee is empowered to increase ratings when it believes a boat is exploiting the rules. Cascade's rating was summarily raised 10% to 24.2. Milgram, probably needing restraint himself, managed to get it reduced to 22.8 for the SORC. He achieved this by shortening the rig and making a few other, smaller adjustments.
Milgram says he now has learned that next month his boat's rating probably will be hiked again—and he fears that this time he will be ruled right out of effective competition. It was never Milgram's intention to be the focal point of such a controversy, but once he began to win big it was certain the Establishment would stop laughing and start yelling for the law. Sailmakers foresaw a shrinkage in huge and profitable sails, hardware manufacturers liked Milgram's inexpensive little winches not at all, a number of marine designers fell he had thrown a grenade at yachting esthetics.
Milgram came late to his explosive game. Prior to Cascade his latest exercise in boat design had been a 5.5-meter sloop that had sailed, alas, like a Thames barge. On his MIT salary Milgram could not afford to fancy Cascade up, even if he had wanted to. He had her built for the bottom dollar at a Mattapoisett, Mass. yard. He fitted out the stark interior himself and also built the rudder and keel. All the same she cost $50,000, not counting the value of Milgram's labor.
Cascade first reared her ugly head in blue-chip competition in last summer's New York Yacht Club Cruise while under charter to Ellie Swett. As a club member she was eligible to enter. Milgram, not a member, was not—although he sailed along. Cascade, which had her 22.0 rating then, caused extreme agitation among the NYYC toffs by taking two firsts and three seconds. And she missed two of the NYYC races because a mast broke.
Many in the SORC fleet expected—or perhaps secretly hoped—that a similar calamity would befall her in the traditionally rough, 403-mile Fort Lauderdale race around the toe of Florida. And calamity came, but because of the missed buoy, not because of any breakdown. The wind was wild enough. When it really breezed up, it sank a tugboat—whose crew, in rare romantic fashion, was rescued by an SORC racing sloop.
On the whole the SORC weather favored Cascade, as her crew quickly conceded. When the wind is on her beam, she flies. On a beat or a dead run, she does not. Never did she have a breeze better suited to her than in the 176-mile Miami-Nassau. She waffled off the starting line last as usual, but as her staysail flapped up and bellied with the beamish southeasterly, she leaped ahead. Within 10 minutes she had Lightnin' abeam in her own Class E and was fast catching up with Mu�equita, which had started a full 15 minutes earlier with Class D.
That night, with Jerry Milgram in polite command, Cascade cruised across the Gulf Stream toward Great Isaac Light as if on holiday. All around, the winking running lights of competitors kept her crew company. At Isaac several boats were spotted sailing illegally toward shortcuts among the rocks—boats that later went unpenalized. When Cascade had committed her own costly error in the Fort Lauderdale race a boat named Devastator had promptly turned her in. Such is sailing.
The fleet spilled into Nassau Harbor next day to the boom of the committee boat's cannon. It was sunset when Cascade, running under a blue on blue spinnaker (of sorts), pushed her homely bow across the line to win a prestige battle if not a glorious war.
Bob Derecktor, a designer of pretty boats, put Cascade into true perspective. "Any boat that wins," he said, "is never ugly."
Added Arnie Gay, a veteran skipper who crewed aboard Robin this year: "Cascade is a boat that out of hand may be ruled out of order; a boat that is grounded in history; a boat that is as American as apple pie. It's just a damn shame."