"Suppose," he continued, "you don't get picked to defend the cup. What are you going to do with the boat? They could have taken the ocean racing rule and ironed it out for the America's Cup racing. When you get through with an ocean racer you still have a good cruising boat instead of an absolutely useless item."
Over in England a London newsman predicted gloomily that "the cup races still have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel."
Even Sparkman and Stephens, the naval architects whom Sears, on his own hook, had retained to test hull models, began to wonder if they were testing for a ghost ship and if reviving the cup had been "all wrong."
Then what can only be called the influence of the America's Cup began to work. In late summer, syndicates suddenly started springing up like a fleet of sails appearing over the horizon.
In Rumson, N.J., Henry D. Mercer, chairman of the board of States Marine Lines, and two business associates, Cornelius Walsh of Spring Lake, N.J. and Arnold Frese of Greenwich, Conn., announced they were putting up the capital for a 12-meter and retaining Philip Rhodes to do the design.
In Boston, almost at the same time, Chandler Hovey, who skippered the J boat Rainbow in 1937, formed a syndicate (so far composed only of himself) and hired C. Raymond Hunt to come up with plans for a 12-meter.
And finally, Henry Sears was in a position to give Sparkman and Stephens the assurance that their models would materialize into a ship. He had a syndicate to back him up now, with a member whose name was Briggs Cunningham.
"I did my best to keep out of this," said Cunningham, in explanation of his about-face, "but boats are not business. And Olin Stephens' design, which I think is potentially the fastest boat, by all odds, has the best chance."
Although Cunningham has not skippered a 12-meter since 1940, he has kept his hand in by winning national championships in the Atlantic class and will in all likelihood be at the wheel of the Sears boat next year.
On the design side, Sparkman and Stephens are doing their best to make Cunningham a prophet. They have gone to the testing tanks at Stevens Institute in Hoboken, N.J. and already have a couple of models in the water there. The last America's Cup defender, Ranger, was a tank-tested Sparkman and Stephens design that beat the challenger so badly it earned the name "super J boat." S. and S. will settle for nothing less than a super-12-meter this time.