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MARBLEHEAD Race Week, a yachting event of major importance for several generations, is wearing a new look. It is still an important fixture and continues to share with Larchmont Race Week the prestige of drawing the biggest fleets ever assembled. Winning a class title at either "Week," however, is no longer the most sought-after yachting honor.
Paradoxically, it is the growth of yachting that has dimmed the luster of a Race Week triumph. Throughout the country countless other regattas have sprung up. The growth of one-design classes has resulted in the holding of national, world, Atlantic and Pacific Coast and Midwest championships as well as district competitions and many sailors would rather point for one of these contests than take the time to travel to Massachusetts for Marblehead Race Week.
SMALL FRY FESTIVAL
What Marblehead may have lost in national importance it has gained in fun. It retains all the tradition and still provides the thrills of a gigantic spectacle—there were 421 boats racing on opening day of this year's week. In lieu of the stately yachts of yesteryear the waters were dotted with hundreds of small fry. Aside from a dozen ocean racers competing in a special cruising class, the largest boats racing were the U.S. One Designs and the International One Designs, 37 and 33 feet respectively. The biggest fleets were in the 16½-foot Town Class (60 boats), the 24-foot International 110s (58) and the tiny 10-foot Turnabouts in which 50 youthful skippers battled it out.
Some of the excitement at Marblehead was furnished by the weather. In midweek a squall hit part of the vast fleet. In a matter of seconds 15 boats capsized, numerous masts snapped and sails were ripped. Seventy boats failed to finish. In this moment of distress the power-boat skippers, who often are roundly cursed by racing sailors for disturbing their wind or causing swells which slow them in a race, suddenly became fast friends. The Coast Guard and the Marblehead Police Boat were on the spot pulling sailors out of the water and taking disabled boats in tow but they couldn't have managed without the help of scores of private power boats which rendered the same assistance. Partly because of this alert rescue work but even more because today's sailors have been well schooled in junior sailing classes on what to do in case of capsize (especially the importance of hanging on to overturned boats until rescuers arrive), no one came close to drowning.
The defeat of the squall was only one of several triumphs. Race Week's most sought-after prize, the Leonard M. Fowle Memorial Trophy, went for the first time to a woman, Barbara Bloomfield Wood of Prides Crossing, Mass., for her victory in the International Class in Saga. Unable to race in one contest she still amassed enough points in the others, with three firsts, a second and a third, to take the title and the Fowle Trophy as well.
ONE FOR THE SOUND
Rodney Long of Mystic Lakes (near Winchester, Mass.) for the fourth straight year led the Snipes (about 20), winning not only the Race Week title but also the New England Snipe Championship which a Race Week victory in this class stands for. Owen Torrey Jr. of Long Island Sound topped the Stars in Cygnet to win the Charles Francis Adams Trophy. Torrey won four of the seven races yet still was only one point up on Stan Ogilvy's Flame, another of the top Stars from Long Island Sound. These two were among the few sailors from outside the New England area who went to Marblehead this year.
In the huge 110 fleet Robert and Stanley Nichols' Ripper became the first Marblehead boat to win since 1946. Their victory came the hard way. Recalled for a premature start in the last race, they later managed to pass all but three boats to place fourth and win the series.
The Lightning Class, one of the most popular and fastest growing in the country since its introduction in 1939, has been slow to catch on in Marblehead, but this year 30 of them raced. The winner was Dick Price's Celest.