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As the band played, the small, select crowd flowed from bar to bar around a Miami Beach swimming pool in a swirl of color, the sailors trousered in Breton red and blazered in blue, their wives jauntily correct in modish sportswear. Between sips these models of nautical chic cast sulky glances at a wispy-haired figure drifting aimlessly about. He was Professor Jerry Milgram of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he was getting the acid eyeball not because he wore a too-tight green sweater over threadbare brown pants above black Navy-issue shoes with floppy laces. Milgram was guilty of a crime more heinous than contempt of clothes. He had designed the ugliest ocean racer in sailing memory, Cascade by name, and—chuckling fiendishly in his lab, no doubt—with such cunning that she had been granted a whacking great advantage over conventional boats her size. At this point Professor Milgram had already given the assemblage two ego bruises, and was about to deliver a third.
When the swans of the sea spread their lovely wings in the Southern Ocean Racing Conference, the winter's outstanding competition for people who take sailboats offshore, uppity little Cascade swam along. At first she was easy to snoot. She did not do exceptionally well in the opening St. Petersburg-to- Venice race and then, although she finished strong, she blew the St. Pete-to- Fort Lauderdale haul by missing a course marker. With four races to go she lay 27th in a fleet of 125 boats.
And who cared. Ah, but then, but then. Cascade won the Miami-to-Lucaya race. A rustle at the bar. Cascade won the Lipton Cup off Miami. The cocktail-party smiles began to freeze. And then early last week Cascade captured the classic Miami-to-Nassau race, the SORC's premier event. The smiles were frozen stiff. By Friday's concluding race of the SORC season, the Nassau Cup, Cascade's crew knew its own party was over; there were not enough points available in that brief thrash to overcome the dreadful Fort Lauderdale error, which had brought a time penalty of three hours five minutes. But for that, however, Cascade might have been the overall SORC winner from here to Hans Christian Andersen. And win or lose, she left traditionalists with the same sinking sensation that Indianapolis 500 car owners had a few years ago when the turbine came calling.
Cascade did do one nice thing for the SORC. By not winning in a romp as she could have, she permitted a couple of boats named Mu�equita and Lightnin' to race to a stimulating photo finish. As the 31-mile Nassau Cup began, Mu�equita was ever so slightly ahead. A Ranger 37 whose name is Spanish for little baby doll, she was skippered by Click Schreck of New Orleans, a former Olympic sailor, and crewed by as aggressive a team as the circuit could claim. Among those aboard were John Dane, the former Tulane collegiate sailing champion, and boat dealer O.J. Young, who had sweet-talked a big paint and varnish man named Jack Valley into buying Mu�equita. Their conversation had gone something like this:
Valley: I want a boat that will win the Southern circuit.
Young: Got just the one for you. New Gary Mull design. Not big, but classy. I can't guarantee the circuit, but Class D is yours, believe me.
Young: Absolutely. I'll get you the boat, the crew and the sails. All you have to do is pay the bills.
And the bills came to not much more than $50,000—bargain-basement these days.
Valley got his money's worth in boat, crew and sails. One black and squally night during the Lauderdale race, when others were playing it prudent, Mu�equita busied along partly on her hull, partly on her spreaders. She was horizontal so often a New York judge might have found her without redeeming social value. At times the wind piped up to 60 mph. Quit racing? Nevah. "We'd go up a wave and throw a reef in, then go down and shake it out," said crewman By Baldridge afterward. Mu�equita won Class D that race. She won Class D every race.