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Sea of Turmoil
Carleton Mitchell
August 26, 1974
Doubt shrouds the ultimate rivals as America's Cup eliminations begin, animated by fierce striving and speculation
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August 26, 1974

Sea Of Turmoil

Doubt shrouds the ultimate rivals as America's Cup eliminations begin, animated by fierce striving and speculation

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Now comes the biggest question of all: How fast is Southern Cross in relation to America's best? Probably in no other sport is it harder to create a form sheet, as pure speed is not necessarily the deciding factor. Part of the Australian confidence stems from Intrepid's success. Gretel II was the faster boat four years ago, and Courageous is no faster than Intrepid. As Gretel II is unchanged since the last cup matches and therefore constitutes an accurate yardstick ("We are even using the same sails," Jim Hardy says), and as Southern Cross is faster than Gretel II, Australian designer Bob Miller must have come up with something superior to the present American crop of Twelves.

The counter to this by those in the know is the conviction that Intrepid is vastly superior to the boat that still was able to win in 1970. The highly controversial modifications made then by Brit Chance have been removed; Olin Stephens went back to the original '67 lines, then improved on them with extensive tank tests. Although she is not of aluminum, some of the lighter metal was used in strengthening the hull after skinning out every unnecessary ounce, and at least 1,000 pounds of lead were added to the keel. Further, under a "grandfather clause" allowing previously built boats to retain their fittings. Intrepid can still use her old titanium mast, lighter than the aluminum spars now required. Finally, she is being "dry-sailed," which means she is lifted out of the water each night, eliminating the possibility of absorbing extra weight. If Intrepid can get by Courageous to be selected defender, she will represent the best this nation has to offer, and no alibis—but it will be a sad commentary on the progress of American design, especially if Southern Cross proves faster. That remains to be seen.

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