Olin's brother, was the most picturesque member of the afterguard. The
afterguard nicknamed him the "Red Devil of Ranger" from the color of
his working clothes, as noticeable from afar as a red buoy marking a harbor
entrance. His belt was hung with a heavy assortment of knives, marlinespikes
and various instruments for loosening and tightening things—the tools of his
job, which was to comb the boat to make sure everything was shipshape. When
Ranger was racing, Rod's principal responsibility was to see that the crew
performed its various assignments both flawlessly and expeditiously. In his
official capacity of "rover" (and he had four assistant
"rovers" to help when needed) it was his duty to straighten out a
crisis whenever it arose, his red trousers distinguishing him as he galloped
around the boat between the precise lines of white-clad crewmen, hauling with
Rockette-like coordination on a sheet or halyard. Rod Stephens was perfectly
equipped for his maverick tasks, combining a yachtsman's keen mental sense with
a muscular agility which was the envy of the professional crews, who called him
"Tarzan Junior" ( Vanderbilt was "Tarzan"), a man able to spin a
balky winch with the same ease he could go up the bar shrouds hand over hand to
sit on spreaders over 80 feet above the deck. He, too, had an accordion aboard,
and on Ranger's journey out to the starting line he joined in duets with Zenas
In charge of
trimming headsails and spinnakers (including an 18,000-square-foot parachute
spinnaker, the largest sail in the world) was Arthur Knapp, today still one of
America's best small-boat skippers and the perennial winner of Larchmont's
frostbite dinghy regatta. During his Ranger career Knapp kept his hand in with
small boats when he had a chance, unshipping a dinghy he kept on Vara and
sailing it in whatever harbor Ranger happened to be moored. Knapp gloried in
heavy winds, and on one occasion, to his chagrin and to the vast delight of the
Ranger afterguard, a powerful gust capsized his dinghy immediately in front of
an Edgartown dock weighed down with a large contingent of sports-writers
covering the New York Yacht Club cruise. In port, when he wasn't sailing his
dinghy, Knapp stalked the decks of Ranger, cocking his ear to winches, whirling
them, and, possessed of Vanderbilt's same meticulous sense of care, oiling out
their squeaks from a large oil can that identified him as markedly as the red
trousers did Rod Stephens.
The fifth member of
the afterguard was Vanderbilt's wife. She was the first woman to race in a Cup
series on an American defender. Mrs. Sopwith was actually the first
"after-guardswoman," having sailed aboard her husband's yacht Endeavour
I in 1934 and again with him in 1937.
Both wives acted in
the capacity of "observer"—their assignment being to keep an eye out on
the competing yachts and advise the helmsmen of their movements. Gertrude
Vanderbilt recalls that often, particularly on rough days, her main concern was
fighting down the queasiness she felt, trying to keep binoculars focused on
Ranger's rivals, often so far astern that they showed up only
intermittently—black dots dancing sickeningly on the glistening sea.
In 1937, unlike the
grim braintrust of 1934's Rainbow, the Ranger afterguard was a happy one, gay
in its members' confidence, accordion music and song drifting from their yacht
as she approached the starting line. One of the favorite "chanteys" was
Glory, Glory! Hallelujah! with special lyrics composed by Gertrude
The skipper stands
up at the wheel
And drives the boat along
When everything is lovely
All his orders are in song
He sings in quite a different key
When anything goes wrong—
As Ranger sails along.
The navigator's lot
You'd think that he'd get sore.
He shouts "You'd better lack at once:
We're heading for the shore!"
The skipper only smiles and says,
"Stand on a little more."
So Ranger sails along.
Rod, he climbs the
About twenty times a day;
He says he has a job to do
Of tightening up a stay.
We know he's only looking at
The girls around the bay—
As Ranger sails along.
Those aboard the
committee boat are said to have enjoyed the music, but it was a levity which
could hardly be acknowledged by competing J boats.
Endeavour II a disappointment compared to Ranger, didn't stand a chance in the
1937 Cup series. Ranger was so fast that despite sailing only one 100% race—the
flawless performance her skipper strives for—Vanderbilt brought her across the
finish line to win by 17 minutes five seconds in the first race; 18 minutes 32
seconds in the second race; by four minutes 27 seconds in the third race; and
by three minutes 37 seconds in the fourth race to retain the Cup.