He was the skipper of Courageous in her first defense of the America's Cup. He was skipper of Independence, the prospective defender that lost out to Courageous two years ago. In 1956 he had the 5.5-meter berth on the U.S. Olympic sailing team virtually in his pocket, needing to place only 13th out of 14 in the last race of the trials. The shackle on his main halyard parted, so he lost the spot to Andy Schoettle, who went on to win the bronze medal. The same year Hood won the North American Sailing Championship. Four years later he again lost the Olympic spot in the final race, this time to George O'Day, who went on to win the gold. In 1973, at the helm of Robin—the same one that he is racing this winter—he took third overall in the SORC. The following year he won the SORC in one of his Robin Too II's.
Hood's early successes this season came at a rather dark moment for the SORC. For the first time since the series was organized in 1952, crewmen died in competition. In the tough winds of the Fort Lauderdale race, Tom Curtis, a New York yacht broker serving on Obsession, a new boat, was struck by the boom when it swung across in an unintentional jibe. He was dead before a Coast Guard helicopter could get him to Key West. In the third race, just after sundown, Tom Curnow, a crewman on the boat Pirana, went over the stern. A line thrown to him fouled on the propeller. The navigator, Nils Muench, got to Curnow in the water with a line, but the slack mainsail filled when the boat yawed on a wave, pulling both men under a big sea and causing Muench to lose his grip. Curnow has not been found.
Both the third and fourth races of the series require the competitors to cross the Gulf Stream twice. The fourth race, called the Lipton Cup, is the flukier of the two because one crossing leg slopes south, bucking the Stream diagonally. In this year's Lipton Cup, freakish air coupled with meanders knocked the previous results into a cocked hat. As a consequence, some of the leading boats held their positions in the standings, and some went down the tubes, among them good old Robin. A number of small red-hot boats fell so far behind in the light air on the eastern side of the Stream and were carried so far north that they still had 80 miles to go on the 135-mile triangle when the first big boat crossed the finish line. A new 45-foot Williwaw, gambling that the wind would clock, tacked over in the middle of the Stream. When the wind backed instead of clocking, Williwaw was farther from the first turning mark 10 hours after the start than she had been at the line.
As a consequence of such flukiness, Robin finished a wretched 45th out of 66. She was able to hold her edge over some of her closest rivals but lost badly to others. She dropped 64.5 points to Acadia, the 2-year-old Bermuda Race winner, and 40.5 to High Roler, the San Diego boat that had been second. With two races to go, Robin stood fourth overall, 19 points out of first. A bit of a comedown, but still a good showing for an old girl in a fast-moving set.