SI Vault
September 21, 1959
Baseball and Old Age
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September 21, 1959

Events & Discoveries

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The Rule's principal trouble is that it works too well. Even though they cherish and defend the protection it gives them when the going is heavy, few yachtsmen really desire the equality promised by The Rule when winds are fair. It's all very well to be legislated into a measure of equality with the big bully up ahead, but who wants to be equal with that cocky little squirt just behind? As every racing sailor knows, there is such a thing as too much equality. Hence every racing sailorman worth his salt, and every yacht designer worth his slide rule, is constantly and endlessly, asea and ashore, working and scheming to beat The Rule. To keep abreast of them, the guardians of The Rule must be constantly ready to alter course in the endlessly veering winds of advanced yacht design.

Last week as these worthies—the Measurement Committee of the Cruising Club—made ready to launch their latest version of the constantly amended Rule, a famed racing skipper and designer put to sea off Stamford, Connecticut determined to blast a hole in it. His weapons were the redoubtable 39-foot racing sloop Storm, a spinnaker, an oversize staysail, a huge Genoa jib and a great empty space where Storm's mainsail is usually rigged. Like most despots, The Rule is a traditionalist at heart and believes as most yachtsmen do that a mainsail is the most important piece of machinery on a sailboat—particularly a sailboat, such as a sloop, with only one mast. Any other sails a sloop might choose to carry, i.e., jibs and staysails, must therefore be considered of secondary importance and must count less in terms of penalties imposed by The Rule. "A sloop without a mainsail," as one yachtsman put it somewhat indelicately last week, "is like a man without his pants."

The analogy was intended to give an impression of helplessness and this at first glance it did; but in Bill Luders' practical application it proved to have a deeper accuracy. In his indignation over outraged tradition, the speaker plainly forgot that many men, as the brief costumes of athletes attest, are very effective without much in the way of pants. With spinnaker and staysail to drive her before the wind, an outsized Genny to make up for the nonexistent mainsail on the windward legs and a comfortable, nearly-four-hour time advantage under The Rule, Luders' Storm romped through the light airs and an 85-boat fleet, an easy winner of the Stamford Yacht Club's Vineyard Trophy, confounding the fully rigged contenders and The Rule alike.

"We've proved our point," said Storm's captain when the race was done, "and we don't plan to try it again. But who knows? Maybe we've got something here."

Coon Racing

Nothing like the Olympics or Pan American Games, but there was a coon-and-dog water race down at Martine Allen's lake near Candor, North Carolina the other afternoon. A correspondent of ours writes in to say that it was something new for the Sandhills country—maybe something new anywhere. They have formed the Cabin Creek Cooners Club on the strength of it, and another race is coming up in October.

Coon-dog water racing goes something like this: the coon is placed in a wire cage about four feet square, and the cage is mounted on a flat-bottomed boat. There's a pulley rig to haul the affair from starting line to finish, some 450 feet across the lake. The coon is shown to the dogs, then begins the boat trip with dogs in swimming pursuit. Once on the opposite bank the boat rig is jerked up an 18-foot pole, thus keeping the coon out of reach of the lunging dogs.

So what happens? Said Martine Allen: "Man alive, in all my experience with dogs, I've never heard dogs bark so, nor have I ever seen such swimming as when that coon started across the lake on that boat." They claimed the barking was heard for three miles. But some of the hounds swam silently. One fast swimmer caught up with the boat, got his front feet on it and took a free ride. The dogs had to bark-tree the coon atop the pole, but some failed; in coon-hunting language "they had stiff necks."

They raced in seven heats or casts, six dogs to a swim, and Ben Byrd's Rusty, a red-bone hound, was judged to have bark-treed first. That means the winner.

It rained at racetime, couple of inches in one hour, but Allen enjoyed it all: "It was the wettest and most enthusiastic bunch of spectators I've ever seen at any kind of sporting event. Everybody was happy, including the coon because he didn't get a scratch."

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