To make sure he won't lose at Melbourne, Walet has had his brand-new Dragon, imported from Norway at a cost of $3,500, out on his home waters of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans an average of 16 hours a week since last April 27. His crew, composed of his father, Eugene Walet; Carlos Echeverria of Montezuma, Ga.; and Gilbert Friedrichs of New Orleans, has been honed so sharp they can change a spinnaker sometimes even faster than their seven-second standard. On Oct. 1 the boat will be put aboard a freighter for Australia. Until Nov. 10, when Walet and crew fly over, they will practice in a borrowed Dragon. Then there will be two weeks before the Olympic races begin to get used to the wind and water at Melbourne.
"The prevailing winds in Australia are strong," said Walet. "That's the way I like it. I prefer to sail in heavy weather. There'll be 28 boats in the Dragon races. If anybody gets caught in a jam at the start, it'll be serious. But that won't worry me either because I'm used to racing in big fleets. But the point system is different. In this country in each race you get one point for every boat you beat and an extra quarter of a point for each race you win. Every race counts, so consistency is a big factor. In the Olympics there will be seven races, but only six are counted, and you can throw out any one you wish when the results are tabulated. You can be hopelessly beaten in one race and still win the series. And when you do win a race, you get a whole flock of points. For that reason it is important that you try to win the first race.
"I feel we'll have to get a fast start. The Dragon races will be won on the windward leg. That's where they separate the men from the boys. And those guys we'll be sailing against aren't plumbers. If they were, they wouldn't be there. But we'll make out all right. I know my boat is ready and that my crew is good. The only reason that I would have for losing is that the other skippers are better."