On the course set
aside for the small centerboards it suddenly seemed as if a pod of brightly
colored whales had come cruising through the action. But it was not exactly
whales—it was the bottoms of overturned boats all over the place. Things got so
bad that after the race was finally finished and the sailors wetly withdrew to
the clubhouse to dry off, the results were thrown out because it was discovered
one of the marks had drifted in the heavy seas. Nearby, divisions two and
three, the small cruisers and the noncruising keel boats, were not able to sail
even one leg. In the swirl of wind and sea, their second race was washed out
when a marker broke loose, leaving the skippers searching all over the local
ocean for their turning point, much to the embarrassment of officials who had
anchored the buoy.
greatest havoc of all was taking place on the multihull course. One enormous
cat with a solid wing for a sail—it came across the water like a 747 making a
crash landing—suddenly lost the wing. The craft shattered into pieces that
littered the water (and later the beach) on all sides.
multihull, a 25-footer owned by Lee Griswold, broke a crossbeam and fell apart,
while somewhere on the waves not far away a similar C cat, Spirit of '76,
looked as if she had been hit head on by a catamaran torpedo: both bows started
to come unstuck.
And what of
Beowulf? She was leading the race, naturally, but she was in as much trouble as
everyone. Eventually, her boom broke apart, with the jagged ends of the
aluminum spar jabbing through the trampoline. Like so many others, she did not
finish—which meant that Dashew had spent his throwaway race with two more
events still to come.
As the fleet
limped home to dry out, Beowulf had two firsts and a second on the handicap
system and three firsts on the boat-to-boat scoring—a seemingly unbeatable
score. But the regatta was not over, and if Thursday had been black, Friday was
This time it was
not the wind. There was the black cat, all repaired, knifing along in moderate
winds toward the final weather mark—so far ahead of the field that everybody
was out of sight astern. She was winning the boat-to-boat with ease and was
obviously ahead on handicap. Less than 200 yards remained to the orange buoy
when Dashew, alternately swinging in and out on his trapeze to control the
angle of heel, swerved Beowulf upwind. And that is when everybody looked aloft,
as the skipper said later, with horror.
The mainsail was
fluttering down; the lock that holds it up had suddenly opened. Quickly the
crew wrapped the halyard around a winch and began hauling the sail back up
where it belonged. But they ground too fiercely, breaking a faulty mast step,
and now with even more horror they watched the whole rig—mast, sail and
all—topple slowly over the side.
ex-philosophy major, Dashew took the mishap well enough. "I really got mad.
I wondered if it was all actually worth it," he said. "But then I
thought back 15 minutes to when we had been reaching along at 26 knots, and I
got hooked all over again."
Several hours and
a great many more repairs later Beowulf took off in Saturday's last race,
winning it by an anticlimactic easy mile. Unhappily, it was too late to
overcome the low handicap score posted by Harvey and Stewart's much smaller
When the regatta
was over and points tallied, co-winners were Blackaller in his Star and Paul
Tara of Santa Cruz in his International 505. It meant that the official best
boat of the regatta had turned out to be really two boats with identical
scores. And neither was the one everybody knew to be the fastest unofficial
boat—a situation that pretty much describes what sailing is all about. There
would be fuel for new arguments for another year, since each sailor probably
went away still convinced that his was the best boat afloat.