Although he won
only two races and lost six, Hood remained his usual smiling tacit self, very
humanly confessing ignorance as to why Independence sometimes moved well and
too often did not. In a tacking duel on the last windward leg of the first race
of the trials, Hood lost 20 seconds to North on Enterprise. In the last race of
the trials, in the same sort of soggy, medium-heavy southwest wind, he made up
more than 30 seconds in a similar close duel with Enterprise. How did Hood
explain the improvement? He shrugged.
Before the series
was done, the tough seas of one race had knocked the computers, which measure
wind speed, direction and boat speed, off the mast of Hood's boat. On another
brisk day the halyard hook holding up the mainsail gave way, forcing him to
finish the trials with the head of the main jury-rigged.
honors ultimately went to North. In the course of eight days one of
Enterprise's jibs was ripped at the seam and another was shredded beyond
repair; a spinnaker shackle failed; several sheets were cut on protrusions; and
the track of the head carriage broke so that Enterprise finished the series
with her main jury-rigged aloft like Independence's. North's overall record was
four wins and six losses, and bad luck was not the only factor in the defeats,
as North was the first to admit.
If there is one
lesson an America's Cup skipper must learn, it is to cover the opposition, that
is to stay between your rival and the next mark in order to control his wind.
In the first trial race of this series, North split wide away from Hood on
Independence and, by so doing, turned a 12-second lead into a 34-second
deficit. When the press asked him why, North said, "Sheer stupidity on my
part. I have a tendency to do that, because in California where the wind is
steady, we can get away with it. We had a 10-degree shift on that leg. We
waited and waited for it to shift back. It did not shift back. I have learned
experimental sails, North has used nylon and Dacron and Kevlar, triaxial weaves
and unwoven goods—just about everything except hemp sack and wrapping paper.
One of his jibs on Enterprise is called the "Blue Max" because it is
pale blue. Accustomed to his zest for innovation, the press wanted to know: Is
this blue stuff something new? No, North explained, the man who cut it happened
to favor blue. Another jib was the shade of green commonly used in the Pliofilm
trash containers sold in supermarkets and so is called "the garbage
bag." Why green? Because, North explained, somebody donated the material to
color but it was Turner who got the headlines from the start. Before he had won
so much as one leg of a race, he invited his baseball team, the Atlanta Braves,
to watch him do his thing on the briny. "If I have to watch them lose, they
might as well see me try to win," he said. By the time the ballplayers
arrived, Turner had run up four straight victories, something the Braves had
not done since late May. A few of the visitors, notably Henry Aaron, who is now
in charge of player personnel, confessed that the tactics of the tall boats had
them somewhat muddled. When one Brave said the tacking was not clear to him,
Turner said, "Tacks are like snow-flakes. They all look alike but every one
is different." Vic Correll, a Brave catcher, had done some sailing while
playing ball in Latin America, and to prep himself for the 12-meter event
bought a copy of Roger Vaughan's The Grand Gesture, the excellent book-length
account of the futile Manner campaign three years ago. So impressed was Correll
that he started collecting the autographs of 12-meter men in his book.
As if inspired by
their boss, back home in Atlanta the following night, the Braves won in extra
innings, Turner-style, from the San Diego Padres. Trailing by two in the 10th
with a man aboard, the 21st Brave to go into the game was Correll. He knocked
one out of the park to tie the game up. Then with two outs and Jeff Burroughs
on, Junior Moore hit a double to the fence.
On the water, it
was Turner going for the fences—and reaching them. After this first of three
sets of selection trials (the next round begins July 16), Courageous stands
7-1, Enterprise 4-6 and Independence 2-6, but the actual difference between the
boats is perhaps not so great as those scores suggest. In previous trials,
boats that ranked more closely statistically have in fact been more erratic in
performance. In the nip-and-tuck 1974 battle between Courageous and Intrepid,
for example, the winning margins, even on shortened courses, exceeded one
minute more often than not. In only five of the 13 races last week was the
difference more than a minute; in six it was less than half a minute.
It is doubtful if
there has been any earlier series with more honest weather conditions. The
boats were never blown out or fogged out; there were few extravagant wind
shifts and not so much as half a day of sagging, five-knot air with holes a
boat might fall into. It was very steady going, and Turner and Courageous made
the most of it.