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For the booming sport of yachting, this was a year of big news made by a growing swarm of small boats. Record fleets in all sections of the country reflected the awakening of more and more Americans to the fact that a yacht, in the modern sense of the word, is any boat used for pleasure; and that any American can afford to be a yachtsman and get into the fun.
In distance racing, the biggest plum was snatched by Dan Strohmeier's Malay (since lost in hurricane Carol), winner of the 1954 Bermuda race. This 635-mile classic is the one which American (and foreign) deep-water sailors would rather win than any other. In the record number of 77 starters, one of the smallest and least favored to win was the 39 foot 5 inch Malay. Built in 1939 as a cruising boat, she had never won a big race and Skipper Strohmeier, though a keen racing man, had never before raced to Bermuda. Moreover, she cost about one tenth as much as the more expensive yachts built expressly to win this blue-water derby.
Malay was helped by conditions favoring the smaller boats; she also had a good crew and they sailed the right course. Nearing the island, they began picking up larger boats, and it dawned on them that, with the help of their handicap, they wouldn't do too badly.
NO THOUGHT OF WINNING
The thought of winning, however, was so far from their minds that they finished the race and turned into their bunks without bothering to ask the committee how they had fared. Next morning, while going into Hamilton Harbor under power, they hailed a passing charter boat: "Who won the race?" Back came the answer: "Malay." That's how Dan Strohmeier learned he'd taken the greatest ocean race of all.
Another surprise was the superb showing of the Argentine entries. Seven of them shipped their boats north. Good boats, too, but none had sailed to Bermuda and none had ever raced against such formidable competition. Three wound up in the lower part of the fleet, but the record of the other four was outstanding. Trucha II was second in Class D and second only to Malay in the over-all standings. Fjord III was first in Class C and seventh in the fleet, Joanne was third in Class C, and Fortuna was fifth in Class A. American prestige was maintained not only by Malay's win but also John Nicholas Brown's Class A victory in Bolero, and by Carl Hovgard's Circe, which was first in Class B and third in the fleet. But the showing of the Argentine Trucha II was particularly significant because she is of the new, light displacement type which is beginning to make itself felt in the biggest distance races.
THE UGLY DUCKLING
The most talked about and most successful boat in distance racing this year is one of these new boats?the ugly duckling Hoot Mon (next page). Owned jointly by boatbuilder Worth Brown, businessman Lockwood Pirie, and sailmaker Charles Ulmer, the 39 foot 8 inch yawl (small by ocean racing standards) made a shambles of the winter distance races in southern waters. After placing fifth in the 113-mile Great Isaac race?won by 1952 and 1953 southern-circuit champion Carleton Mitchell in Caribbee?Hoot Mon won the Lipton Cup race at Miami, the Miami-Nassau race and the St. Petersburg-Havana race. Proof that this was no flash in the pan was provided when she sailed north in the spring, winning Class C in both the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island race and later the Port Huron-Mackinac race.
Hoot Mon's victories were not received with universal joy by owners of ocean racers, despite the popularity of her three owners. The reason: Hoot Mon is new, different and in some respects radical, and other skippers are afraid that she represents a new trend which will make their boats obsolete for competition. She bears a resemblance to the Star boats, with a tremendous overhang fore and aft. Her waterline length is only 21 feet 7 inches (compared to her over-all length of 39 feet 8 inches), leaving her with far less drag below the water than the conventional deep-water racer. First built in 1952, she never went really well until this year when her owners removed some of the fineness from the under-body and lengthened her two masts to provide more sail area. Now the ugly duckling is a feared competitor wherever she enters.
THE BERMUDA RACE RUMOR