Years Among the Stars
Chapter XI - Flexible Spars and Germany's Brief Supremacy
Spar flexing was first witnessed in America during the World's Championship of 1937, when Walter von Hütschler brought his Pimm to Long Island Sound. The exhibition put on by him and his crew Joachim Weise, in the art of manipulating spars to control draft, was a revelation. As in the case of Waterhouse, at the Olympics the previous year, few, if any, realized what they were seeing. They attributed Pimm's showing to the marvelous coordination between skipper and crew in handling the boat. That too deserves mention, for I have never seen more perfect teamwork. It was not until the series was over that some inkling of the theory involved began to dawn upon those, who had an opportunity to study Pimm and its equipment at close range. It was 1938, therefore, before Star skippers in the western hemisphere, and such other parts of the world that knew little about it, began experimenting with flexible spars.
The Manhasset Bay yacht club was again headquarters. The entry list reached a new high, thirty-six, which was one more than the year before. While the event could not have had a more gorgeous setting, getting thirty-six Stars out to a starting line, a good six miles distant, was quite a problem. The local clubs and the home fleet are to be complimented upon the efficient manner in which this was handled.
As to the series itself, Milton Wegeforth, of San Diego Bay, was the eventual winner. Duplicating Iselin's performance of the year before, he took the series without finishing first in any race. Without intending to detract in any way from Milton's well earned victory, for after all we pay off on the point score, it was von Hütschler who stole the show. Except for a freak accident in the first race, which was won by Harold Halsted, he would have made a clean sweep of the series. It was blowing hard that first day, in fact for the Sound it was pretty rugged going in the majority of the races. There was nothing new about grooved or slotted masts, hence what happened had no bearing upon flexible spars. The slot in Pimm's mast must have been cut slightly off center, so that there was not quite enough wood left in the lip, which forms one side of the slot, as it neared the top of the mast. The lip split and broke off, allowing about three feet of bolt rope to come out of the groove. That distorted the shape of the mainsail. Pimm gradually fell back and finished in twentysecond place. That did not even cause a ripple of interest, as no one yet realized that Pimm's spars differed from the rest. It was blowing hard and a number of the entries had sail trouble of one sort or another. Barney Lehman, in fact, carried the stick out of the Pasha, a regular rigid mast. I mention this because people are prone to blame dismastings upon flexible spars, having forgotten that in heavy weather, some masts went over the side in the Star class, long before there were flexible spars, and in all other classes as well.
After that first race, it was all Pimm. The German boat took the next four races and its performance was equally impressive in all kinds of weather. Two of the races were sailed in heavy winds and seas, one in a medium breeze with a cold driving rain and another, after many postponements, was started as the sun was sinking in the west and was a light air race throughout. It was not unlike the old, but apparently erroneous saying, "There is no second," which was handed down from the first race for the Americas cup in 1851. According to the book, "The Yacht America", written by Messrs. Thompson, Stephens and Swan, the authentic hail was, "what's second," and the reply was "nothing." It was not quite as bad as that, but almost, considering the length of the course. Certainly no Star has ever defeated the field in four World's Championship races by any such decisive margin, before or since. In spite of that first race, Pimm was runner-up and only five points behind the winning Wegeforth. There is always some aftermath to every world's title event, based upon IFS. In this case, however, there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to what the result would have been except for that freak accident in the first race. In the light of what we know today, there was really nothing astonishing about it. Flexible spars, properly handled, will always run away from rigid ones.
On the opening day the boys were gun shy, as usual, and the start was ragged. Sam Smith and Ed Doyle passed close to the committee, before the half hour gun, and were checked in as "accounted for." They were in tow of a Coast Guard boat, which took them a little too far to leeward, but they must have heard the bark of the one pounder, calling attention to the signals. For some reason, they did not board their Stars and bend on sails in time, and started five minutes after the rest. In spite of that, Sam had his boat going and picked up sixteen of the entries before he finished. For the second year in a row, by not paying sufficient heed to the signals, he muffed a good chance of placing in the money.
Ed, who did not finish that first race, I fear was greatly disappointed in his showing. He had allowed himself to be talked into the idea that he had a good chance of winning against the galaxy of talent. Many a neophyte has gone home happy for having beaten half a dozen boats. With no big league experience and his younger daughter as crew, Ed should have realized that he was in that category. Then too, the year before he was the host commodore, around whom all interest centered, in a one club show. At Manhasset Bay, with all the neighboring clubs, brass was scattered about as thickly as fleas on a dog's back. The limelight could not be kept focused upon any one club dignitary, besides which his status was different - he was a contestant. I believe he felt slighted and that added to the letdown. From then on he lost interest in Stars. It was a shame, as he was a promising skipper, if he had only given himself half a chance.
Another, who practically eliminated himself from the series before it even began, was the Italian skipper Mario Perretti. He risked a port tack start, only to find a whole flock of starboard tack boats headed at him. He went about, but had no place to go except into the committee boat. I was watching the line, with the microphone near my mouth, ready for a possible recall. Turning my head, I told the spotter behind me to make a note that 1458 was disqualified. Of course, you have no right to tell a contestant that, for no matter how obvious the foul, he is entitled to sail his race and be heard. It was not intended for his ears and he was not supposed to be able to understand English, but he got that. Mario let fly a volley of Italian cussing that would have even put Earl Blouin to shame. It was probably a good thing for him that we did not understand what he called us. I mean a good thing for him.
That was the first time we ever used a loud speaker. They are certainly a great advantage, not only for recalls, but in keeping spectator boats away from the line and for instructing mark and course officials, without having them come alongside. I had not yet learned, however, that it was a good idea to shut the dern thing off, when not in use. Bob Atwater, who had his own ideas as to what the angle of the line should be, decided to change it just before the preparatory. He told a couple of the Coast Guard boys to let out more chain. The rest of the I.R.C. had not been consulted about this. I heard the chain running through the hawser pipe and asked Bob, in no uncertain terms, who was chairman of the committee. I learned later that my voice was heard within a radius of half a mile. So the spectators that year were treated to plenty of choice language, in both English and Italian.
A peculiar incident happened in the fourth race. Woodie Pirie had brought a Star from the lakes, which had nothing but aluminum hardware. It was blowing hard. His rudder post broke just before we made the warning signal. He hailed us and wanted to know if he could use a substitute boat. We asked if he could get one on such short notice, and he said that he could. There is a rule allowing emergency substitutions, so after a brief consultation, permission was granted and it was announced over the loud speaker. We had no idea that he intended changing boats with Phil Upton, another contestant, nor would it have made any difference if we had.
There was so little time to make the exchange of boats, that Phil had to jump overboard and swim to the Gemini, in order to be off the Ibis before the preparatory. Pirie finished fourth, and if it had stood, he would have placed third in the series. He was protested, however, and the I.R.C. was forced to reverse its own original ruling. The protest was based on the fact that the rule further states that no emergency substitution can be allowed, if the entry gains any advantage thereby. What we did not know was that Ibis, in the lake region, had the reputation of being a good heavy weather boat, while Gemini, with her aluminum fittings, was considered a light air craft. I still do not see what else the I.R.C. could have done on the spur of the moment. There was nothing in Ibis' performance to justify its local reputation and no time to hold a debate. Had this condition (of which we knew nothing) not existed and had we refused Pirie's request, we might have been acting contrary to rules.
There was a lot of international Star racing in Europe in 1937. The class continued to grow. Each year we were showing a profit and our surplus kept growing. It was at the annual meeting that year that we decided to impose a twenty-five cent World's Championship tax upon each active and associate member. This, plus interest on our savings accounts and securities, computed as of July 1, was to constitute the World's Championship fund. That money was to be sent to the fleet holding the event. We knew it would only partly defray expenses, but we expected it to grow, until the point was reached where a small fleet, without any other local backing, could at least hold the series and give prizes. Except for the war, the fund would have been sufficient for that purpose today. Of course, it would not have covered any extravagant entertainment. There are two schools of thought on that subject. Some feel that fleets with almost unlimited financial support, should not be allowed to establish a precedent that others cannot afford to live up to. On the other hand, you cannot very well tell your host how much money he should spend on your entertainment. A poor man cannot be expected to entertain as lavishly as a rich one. Everyone understands that and does not expect it.
There being nothing else of outstanding note to report for 1937, this seems like the logical place to take up the matter of spar flexing. Let me impress it upon the reader that the following is only a very crude description and simply intended to give the layman a general idea of the theory, so that he can visualize the process.
In making a mainsail, the luff and foot are cut, generally speaking, with a convex (outward) curve. When the sail is roped and the luff and foot are drawn taut in a straight line (as is the case when pulled out on straight spars) the material in the cured segment flows into the body of the sail, giving the sail its draft. Remember that on rigid spars, that draft remains in the sail and nothing much can be done about it. Only time and use will gradually flatten the sail, until it has to be put aside for heavy weather days.
Now then, with flexible spars, if the mast is given a forward bow and the boom a downward bow, approximating the curve that was cut in the luff and foot of the mainsail, the sail will be pulled back into its original unroped shape. That is to say flat, approximately as it first lay on the sailmaker's floor. Another very crude example would be to flatten one side of a drum. The drumhead would naturally become baggy. Spring the rim back into shape and the drumhead again becomes flat and taut. Of course no one wants an absolutely flat sail, nor could it be obtained, since the curve in the luff and foot is not a true arc. The amount of draft, however, retaining what there is of it in the proper part of the sail, can be regulated by the amount of curve given the spars. This should enable anyone to understand the theory. Not only was it a new theory, but a fundamentally sound one. It is the only effective method of controlling mainsail draft ever devised.
I do not profess to be an expert on flexing spars. My authority for most of the statements I make on this subject, comes from a pamphlet called "Flexible Spars", written by Walter von Hütschler, who developed the theory and probably knows more about it than anyone else. He was also employed for a few months by a firm with which I was connected and I had quite a number of long talks with him on the subject. Some years before that, the same firm took care of the Stars from abroad that were entered in the 1937 World's Championship, Pimm among them. By this I mean that it delivered them from the steamer to Port Washington and back. Little attention was paid to Pimm on arrival. It did not have an exceptionally fine finish and its fittings were more or less of a homemade variety. On the return trip, however, it remained in the shop for two nights, and Tom Parkman went over it with a fine tooth comb. The mast was weighed and every inch of it was calipered. Tom built many masts similar to that one; more, I believe, than any other builder has ever turned out. They weighed about forty pounds and very very few of them have ever broken. That fact will be confirmed by Donald M. Walker, Star insurance officer.
When flexible spars were first introduced in North America, we made several glaring errors. We had a pretty good idea of the theory but did not understand how to properly handle them. We thought that the curve in the mast was produced by force. We believed, when close hauled, that this was done by keeping the step aft, the backstays taut and then forcing the mast forward at deck by means of the partner. A mast can be curved that way, but it means making constant and none too accurate adjustments. The position of the mast at step and deck is something which should be taken care of during the tuning up process. After that, the whole thing should be practically automatic, as I will try to explain.
Contrary to the usual method of rigging rigid spars, the middle shrouds (which fasten to the mast about twenty-two feet and three and one-half inches above deck) are kept taut and are aft of the lower shrouds (which are slack) on the chainplate. The jib stay is kept taut and the headstay slack. While the mainsheet trims to the center of the cockpit, its dead-end fastens to the end of the boom. Hence when the sheet is trimmed (which is the only force used) not only is it bowed downward in the middle, but the end of the boom is also pulled down. That takes care of the curve between the middle shroud and the top of the mast. The aft pressure of the middle shroud and forward pressure of the jib stay, produces the forward curve between the middle shroud and the deck. On a puffy day, as the pressure of the wind on the sail increases, so does the tension of the middle shroud. That causes the bow to increase and the sail to become flatter. Thus it will be seen that the draft automatically regulates itself. When the sheet is eased, for reaching or running, the spars straighten and the draft is restored. When properly set up, the skipper seldom has to touch anything during a race.
Two other grievous mistakes were made in the beginning and, in some instances are still being made. The one led to the other. Skippers had an idea that they could have a sail cut with as much draft as a tent and by flexing their spars, could make it as flat as a board. They thought that one sail would answer all purposes from a drift to a gale. That is not the case, because wood is not rubber and there is a limit as to how far you can bend it before it snaps. Flexible spars, however, do make it possible for one sail to serve the purpose of two, namely a flat and medium sail or a medium and full sail. Spar flexing will not cover the entire gamut, but in an effort to do this, thinner and thinner masts were built. Those have been the masts that have broken and have given flexible spars, and quite unnecessarily so, a bad name. Of course all dismastings, and the number has been greatly exaggerated, cannot all be attributed to these buggy whip masts. Collapsed spreaders, due to fragile fittings, and inexperienced handling account for probably better than half the dismastings. In like manner, winning in light air has had little to do with spar flexing. It is always an advantage to reduce the weight aloft, if you can keep the mast in the boat.
Unfortunately the very word "flexible" creates the impression of something very willowy and light. Actually extreme elasticity does not make for more efficient spar flexing. On the contrary, these willow wands are very difficult to control and, upon the least provocation, will take all sorts of fantastic curves and twists. Ultra slender masts were tried out on Stars long before flexible ones were ever thought of. Tim Parkman's famous "rubber mast" that weighed about twenty-six pounds, is a good example. It cost Tim more than one series before he realized that he would have to discard it. There are quite a few Star skippers today that are suffering from the same trouble he did.
The most efficient flexing is obtained with a fair curve, but not an extreme ones By fair curve, I mean a curve such as you see in an archer's bow, when the string is drawn back before the arrow is released. If the bow was just a slender willow wand, what would happen? When the string was pulled back, it would almost bend at a right angle and not be an arc at all. To a lesser degree that is what often happens to an ultra-slender mast, usually where the jibstay intersects it. In some cases the top of the mast takes a hook, not unlike the steam bent masts we once saw on the old "R" boats. Then too, there is the corkscrewing. Any of these gyrations throw a hard spot into the sail. The more experienced skippers can control this to some extent, but the less experienced ones have great difficulty in doing so
Frankly, for the foregoing reasons, I would like to see some restriction placed on masts, which would eliminate the buggy whip and produce masts of the Pimm type. We know that the latter are substantial and flex more efficiently. Too much thought is being given to keeping light sticks in the boat and not enough to developing the art of spar flexing, which is still, to some extent, in the experimental stage. A weight restriction would not do. Aside from the fact that the same woods are not obtainable in all parts of the world, moisture in the woods is too great a factor. A mast that weighed in, when new, after a winter in a dry shed, might easily be a couple of pounds lighter by spring and be thrown out. Circumference measurements at three or four stations should be able to control the situation. Aluminum fittings should be barred. They disintegrate without warning, especially on salt water, and are a menace.
It might interest the reader to know that a resolution to empower a special committee to formulate rules to strengthen masts, was submitted to the membership, by ballot, and overwhelmingly voted down. Except for the length, most everything connected with spars and rigging has always been optional. Star members resent anything that appears to be an attempt to infringe upon their liberty. They feel that the leeways allowed in the past were responsible for the continued development of the Star class. For years Star members have borne the brunt of expense and criticism, connected with experimenting with various ideas to improve one-design racing. Once the idea was perfected, other classes have copied it. It is nothing new to them and they do not give a hoot in hell about outside criticism. The Star owner feels that if he wishes to take the risk of losing his stick, that that is his business and his only. This and the fact that Star members make their own rules, and do not have them made by a small group of officers, is something that the outsider does not, and probably never will, understand.
Time cures all evils. It will not be long, I believe, before the buggy whip mast and aluminum fittings die a natural death. In the average series there is at least one good hard blow or squall. Those who gamble on light air and light rigs, will soon get sick of seeing the point score, which they built up in four races, thrown into the ash can on Black Thursday. I do not mean by dismastings, which are really infrequent, but by other troubles resulting from too light and fragile Equipment. Remember that the great majority of Star owners have never lost a flexible mast, the writer among them.
Again let me impress it upon the reader that flexible spars are not a crackbrain contrivance. The art of draft control, by means of spars, may still be in its infancy, but flexible spars, after sixteen years of use, have proven sound in both theory and practice. For yachtsmen in general to close their eyes to anything so basic, is sheer ignorance. I dislike making predictions, but flexible spars are here to stay and will eventually be used by all racing yachts in some form. T he word flexible, in some minds, may be synonymous with fragile and that is probably why other classes fear that adopting such spars would involve danger and expense. They should realize that you cannot condemn an idea because a few people have overdone it, to their own detriment. There has never been an injury caused by flexible spars and, properly used, they are an economy. Right now, benefiting from our experience, other classes could adopt flexible spars, under common sense restrictions, which would eliminate everything they fear, thus modernizing their boats. So let us get away from theory and review briefly the practical and proven advantages of draft control by means of spars.
To begin with, a skipper, using rigid spars, is stuck with whatever suit of sails he bends on. No matter how good a weather guesser he may be, that suit of sails can only be really efficient on one point of sailing, either close hauled or free, but never both. He may hold his own with rigid spars on one point of sailing, whichever it happens to be, but the flex rig will run away from him on the other.
When close hauled, for a boat with rigid spars to hold one with flex spars, the wind must be steady and the draft in the former's mainsail must be just right for wind of that velocity. If puffy, the boat with flex spars will gain on every puff or between puffs, as the case may be, since the draft in that sail adjusts itself to the velocity of the wind. If there is a decided change of weather during the race, the skipper with flex spars, regardless of what sail he is using, is in a better position to cope with that change. Furthermore, the skipper with flex spars faces less of a mental hazard in deciding what sails to use. It is an important decision, of course, in championship competition, but it really resolves itself into guessing whether it will be very light going or very heavy. If it's anything between, whichever sail he decides upon will take care of the situation reasonably well.
Then too, flex spars have another advantage that is seldom mentioned. If the sail does not set perfectly or We draft is not just where the skipper would like it, this can be corrected to a great extent. I do not mean that an impossible sail can be made into a perfect one, but minor difficulties can be handled, whereas on rigid spars the sail has to be sent back to the sailmaker to be re-cut.
Next comes the question of economy. With flexible spars, two suits of sails are sufficient. The life of the sail is much longer, because it is not constantly being pulled out. On rigid spars, a drafty sail, after one season, is usually too flat for light air use. That means a new full draft sail the next year, while the flat sails begin to accumulate and are of no use to the owner. I have had drafty flex mainsails, which after three or four years of use, had almost as much draft left in them as when they were new. Assuming even that you lost a mast each year, which is an absurd assumption, still flexible spars would be an economy, since a suit of sails today costs more than twice as much as a mast. As I have explained, however, by using a little common sense, there is no reason why you should ever lose a mast. There is no good reason, therefore, why anyone should hesitate about flexible spars, unless he feels that he does not have sufficient nautical knowledge to deal with this more scientific element of yacht racing.
By the time the 1938 World's Championship was held at San Diego, California, flexible spars were pretty much in general use throughout the world. It was a series marked by very light air. This time, Pimm, with the same team of von Hütschler and Weise, was not to be denied. While the German boat won the title, it did not run away from the rest of the field, as it had done the previous year. Harry Nye, who seemed to be more proficient in the art of spar flexing than anyone else in the western hemisphere, won the first and last race and was only beaten by two points. Those two, however, had a big edge on the rest. Pimm was in the money every day and Harry's Gale only missed once. Jim Cowie and Niles Martin managed to squeeze in a first and second respectively, in the third race, while the two leaders were having a private scrap of their own. Otherwise the series was pretty cut and dried, except that it proved that von Hütschler was not invincible.
A horrible thing occurred in the second race. The power boat that was supposed to shift the home stakeboat for the finish (it should have been done for the first round) failed to show up. Pimm won by a minute and a half, so there was no question about that. Then all hell broke loose. Some boats passed between the committee boat and the stakeboat, some just left the stakeboat on the proper hand, as per instructions, and others did both, crossing one way and then swinging around and crossing the other. Poor Pop Corry, who was I.R.C. chairman, almost had kittens. It was impossible to keep track of what was going on. By rights, the race should have been called no contest and been re-sailed. It was feared, however, that such action might cause international complications, as a visitor was the winner. The contestants were most cooperative and agreed that the best plan was simply to take each boat's time, as it first crossed the line, regardless of which side of the stakeboat it passed. It was not what the writer would consider a legal solution, in fact compromise decisions of that nature are all wrong, but it in no way affected the final results.
The big cup made its first trip across the Atlantic and was raced for at Kiel, as the clouds of war began to gather on the horizon. Once again it was Pimm, but this time by a more decisive margin. Straulino, of the Italian navy, was runner-up, ten points behind von Hütschler, and another German entry, Dr. Hanson, of the local Kiel fleet, was third. Wegeforth, 1937 champion, was the best among the U.S.A. entries, being a poor fourth, twenty-five points behind the winner.
The series was sailed under very trying conditions. Rumors of war caused quite a number of scheduled entries to withdraw at the last moment. There were several disqualifications, described by an eye witness, as resulting from fouls of the most flagrant sort - skippers taking wild, crazy chances. This was probably due to the nervous strain under which many were laboring. After a knock down and drag out opening race, calms made two double headers necessary. Without the last double header, the series never would have been finished, for the Holland, British, French and American entries received notices from their consulates to leave for home immediately. German and Italian skippers and crews were under orders to report to their units, but given a forty-eight hour leave to complete the series. It is a great pity that Europe's first World's Championship had to be raced under such conditions.
From an account written by Elizabeth Miller (now Mrs. Robin) the final reception was something never to be forgotten. She states, in part, "It was also the hour of realization that we are, and always will be, an association of people who admit no prejudices and who stay until the dark hours strike for the sake of sportsmanship." Outside communications were cut off, cables were not accepted and telephone service was discontinued but the Star class stayed to the bitter end. Many preset were already in uniform. Toasts were drunk with solemn-eyes, and friends, who within a short time, might be facing each other on the battlefield, parted with unspoken thoughts in their hearts.
Everyone was unanimous in their praise of the courtesy and hospitality which was extended impartially to all visitors. As might be expected of so methodical a nation, arrangements for handling the event were perfect down to the smallest detail. There is one thing which must be said of the German and Italian fleets before the war. To them rules were something to be observed and carried out to the Nth degree. They did not just scan through them, as do fleets in so many localities, and then promptly forget what they are supposed to do. The fleets of those two countries, and it was more or less characteristic of all European nations, always filed their forms on time and made them out properly. We never had the slightest bit of trouble with them.
There was never any
excuse about not understanding instructions because they were in English,
because they put men in charge of such matters that could read and write
Although officers were being elected by ballot, the annual meeting still had the power to amend rules. Enrique Conill, vice-president, was to have been chairman, but he, as well as all French continental entries, were ordered at the last moment not to leave the country. Pop was the I.R.C. chairman which was all right, but the meeting made him chairman of the meeting and that was all wrong. He was not an executive officer. Some delegate, I believe from Holland, brought up this measurement problem. Barney must have discussed this, as he was racing in Holland the week before and no other Europeans knew anything about it. Everyone began to shout at Pop in half a dozen languages. A resolution was introduced to do away with all measuring rules. Pop, who had no idea what it was all about, heard everyone shout, believed that some sort of motion had been carried and so ruled. Most of those there did not know what it was all about either. The one who saved the day was von Hütschler, who was acting as secretary. The minutes he sent in were so garbled that the G.C. could not make any sense out of them.
bviously that was intentional, as Walter can write English perfectly. It gave us the out we needed. We quoted a few lines of that indecipherable jargon and stated that, as much as we regretted it, whatever amendment had been passed was all Greek to us and we could do nothing about it. Actually we did not know what it was at the time. There was never any repercussion. The whole thing had been adjusted and the few who did know what they had voted for, probably realized what a crazy thing it was. Imagine any sort of racing class without measurement rules!
There are many stories floating about after every World's Championship, but probably never were there quite as many as after that one. Most were of a pretty serious nature, among them, however, were some amusing ones. Hitler had invited Pop to be in a parade to be held at Berlin and, war or no war, Pop was determined to go. If he had done so, he most likely would be there yet. Liz and the others had to practically drag him out of Germany. He had converted all his dollars into marks, so when he reached Norway he did not have a red cent. The border was closed and no country would cash his marks. He went over in the bridal suite, as a guest of the North German Lloyd and came back on a tramp in what amounted to steerage.
It is said that at one party, in a private home, Pop shocked all the guests by asking for butter. There was a dead silence. Then the hostess, a most gracious lady, called the butler. The shades were drawn. She went to the safe, worked the combination and produced one small pat. By so doing she risked being confined in a concentration camp for the duration.
All foreign Stars reached their home ports safely. Those that went overland by trailer, were given a military escort to make sure that they would have no trouble in crossing. The American Stars were put on fishing boats and sent to Norway, from whence they were eventually shipped to the U.S. on a tramp steamer. The World's Championship trophy was salvaged by von Hütschler. He got out on the last steamer that left Norway before all ports were closed - so again the Star class was lucky, for otherwise we would never have seen the trophy again. Some may wonder why it came back to America, since von Hütschler won it that year. The rules provide that the same fleet cannot hold the event two years in a row. That was one little item the Germans must have overlooked, as it would have been very simple to have had him transfer to another German fleet. Under the circumstances, however, the place had to be determined by the total point score for the past three years - and there is where Wegeforth's fourth place counted. It gave San Diego enough points to get the 1940 series.
Once again the title event went back to the west coast of North America, where it remained for two years. In 1940 the Cowie brothers, sailing Rambunctious, were the winners. They startled the Star world with a big roached mainsail, the like of which had never been seen before. The sailmakers had sworn on a stack of Logs (the Log being the Star owner's bible) that the length of the battens would always govern the roach. They had assured us that that it would be impossible to make a mainsail with an excessive roach, because it would collapse. Well Cowie's sail did collapse - but what of it? It collapsed each time the boom crossed the cockpit, but all Jim had to do was give the boom a shake and it flipped right back into position again. That sail threw a bomb shell into camp. Some rule had to be adopted, and quickly, to prevent that sort of thing. There were many suggestions, but we finally came up with an across sail maximum measurement. This was taken from a mid-point between head and tack and head and clew. The sail is measured on the floor, with the wrinkles brushed out, but not stretched. It is not a too accurate measurement. Some day we may devise a better method of governing both roach and draft. For the present it at least serves the purpose, as we care nothing about a slight variation of an inch or two.
The 1940 series was a three-way battle between Jim Cowie, Bob White and Woodie Pirie, who finished within three points of each other in the order named. Needless to say, with Europe at war, no entries came from across the Atlantic. Freddie de Marigny, representing Nassau, made his international debut, a none too impressive one, as he finished last. But after that, did he improve - and fast! Coached by Walter von Hütschler for a few months, he proved to be an apt pupil. From an also-ran, within a year, he moved right up among the top-flight skippers of the class.
Here is a bit of news, which very few members of the Star class even knew. Walter von Hütschler would have been second vice-president of the I.S.C.Y.R.A. in 1940, except for the fact that a whole flock of votes for him came in more than a month after the ballots were counted and the results of the election announced. Some may think that there should have been an extension of time, because of the war, but there were votes for von Hütschler received in time, and so would the rest had they been mailed in time. There is seldom a year in which there are not political situations in some part of the world. If the counting of the annual ballots was postponed for such causes, the results of the elections never would be known.
When the 1941 World's Championship was sailed at Los Angeles, the United States was not yet at war, but everyone knew that it was simply a matter of time before it would be. Many of the younger skippers had been called into selective service. Had it not been for Charlie de Cardenas, the event would not have been international as no other entries came from outside North America proper. The fact is there were only thirteen entries, the smallest field since 1923.
We were already cut off from most of the European countries. Italy, somehow managed to send in its 1941 dues. We also had an application for charter from a new fleet in Austria and a request for six numbers. Those were the last communications that came through from any of the warring countries on continental Europe.
George Fleitz won his first gold Star that year for the Los Angeles Harbor fleet, the old fleet having resumed its former name. Harry Nye was runner-up and Barney Lehman, in spite of one disqualification, placed third. Rascal, with which Frank Campbell had been winning everything in sight for a couple of seasons, along the Eastern seaboard, did not seem to take kindly to the long Pacific swells. Frank brought her in fourth, fifteen points behind the winner, and another myth about a so-called "unbeatable million dollar Star" exploded. That being the second consecutive year the event had been held in the fifth district, it had to shift location according to rules. Harry Nye, on aggregate points for the past two years, took the event to Lake Michigan. No eligible fleet had competed for three years.
So ended twenty-three
years of between war racing in America. Europe, which became Star minded
in the early thirties, had only enjoyed eight years of it and the progress
made by European skippers in such a short time was really remarkable.
Germany's Star supremacy was from 1936 to 1939 inclusive. Except for Bischoff's
Olympic victory, ironically enough, Germany's other major Star honors
were won by proxy, that is by a Brazilian sailing with the Hamburger fleet.