Years Among the Stars
Chapter VII - Merrily We Rolled Along
The Big Cup began its endless journey in 1927, never again to be raced for on the same waters for two consecutive years except in 1950. The first stop, before making a complete circuit of these United States, was Naragansett Bay. Since then, in round figures, it has traveled about fifty-six thousand miles. By 1927 the Star class had spanned the Atlantic, having a small fleet on the Solent in England. It also extended to the Far East. Stars were racing in the Philippines. There were thirty-two fleets and we were really beginning to roll.
Headquarters were at the picturesque Warwick Country Club, with its vast expanse of lawn, overlooking Narragansett Bay. Prior to the series, torrential rains and winds, of gale force, lashed the New England coast. One entry, coming by water, was storm bound behind the Point Judith breakwater for two days and only just did reach its destination in time. The early arrivals did not find Warwick too cheerful a spot. The club had the bleak and desolate aspect of a summer hotel in winter. The yachtsmen, unable to go out for so much as a tune-up spin, sat huddled around the open fires. Rhody, on her home waters, was the odds on favorite, with Ace second choice. Big Bogardus and his almost equally big crew Purvis, totaled over four hundred and fifty pounds. They had been sailing around there for some weeks and the locals had a high regard for their ability. The Hoku, from Hawaii, was, therefore, considered a likely dark horse, if Narragansett Bay lived up to its reputation for wind. On the morning of the first race, the sun broke through the clouds and Warwick Neck was revealed in all its glory.
This was the first time that our international race committee conducted a World's Championship. When the new blue and gold I.R.C. flag was broken out at the masthead of the C.G. seventy-five footer, which served as committee boat, another important step forward had been taken. Five clubs cooperated with the association, each sponsoring one race and presenting daily prizes for that race. Frankly we were a bit doubtful as to how the clubs might accept this new arrangement. Club officials, however, seemed happy over the fact that they did not have to assume the responsibility of running any of the races. By sponsoring a race the club received just as much recognition and did not risk any adverse post-mortem criticism or publicity if something went wrong. Much credit was due Sol Makepeace, in charge of advance arrangements. Today, as the result of many years of experience, the Star central office is able to send to the unfortunate individual assigned to this necessary but thankless task, many typewritten sheets of instructions covering all details. At that time Sol had to figure many things out himself. To have what you want, where you want it, when you want it, makes officiating at such an event a pleasure. If, however, at the last moment you find that a hundred and one minor items have been overlooked, it's enough to permanently ruin the most amicable disposition in the world.
After the 1927 series we were completely sold on the idea of never using a private yacht as a committee boat, if it could possibly be avoided. Say what you like, on a private yacht the members of the race committee are placed in the position of being the guests of the owner. If the commodore's wife is late or the liquor has not been put aboard, and the owner says, "Let's wait another ten minutes," what can you do but wait and delay the start? You must ask permission for everything you do and the paid captain usually objects on general principles. If the owner and his guests invade the section of the boat restricted for the committee and begin to buzz about at the start or finish, you cannot tell them to shut up or to get the hell out of there.
On a Coast Guard boat the committee is its own boss and is dealing with an efficient officer and capable crew. There is a wireless telephone at your disposal. Should a mark be out of place, or the like, you can speak with the nearest patrolling Coast Guard boat and have your instructions relayed immediately. You can contact the nearest station and get a weather report. If a spectator boat or some stranger, anchors too near the line, and is hailed, the voice of authority is recognized and obeyed. It better be, for otherwise the owner of that boat is subjected to a fine. From a private yacht you can yell yourself hoarse and no one pays the least attention.
I doubt if the Star class would have endured, had we not changed the system of conducting the World's Championship. What a contrast it was, at least to the three previous years. No friction among the contestants and no constant bickering with the club committees over petty questions of jurisdiction. Everything was harmonious.
The first visitation of the "mysterious white yacht," which Bill Taylor has referred to now and then, in Yachting, occurred, to the best of my knowledge during this series. Mark officials reported a foul. They had not seen it, because of intervening sails, but they heard the impact of several hulls. It was one of those crazy jambs, with all yachts trying to round a mark at once and everyone calling for room. It was generally agreed that a white Star, in the middle of the mess, did not bear away with those who were trying to give the inside boats room. Endless cross questioning failed to reveal which Star it was. Someone knew, but the boys were not talking. Since at least half the seventeen entries had white hulls and all of them were in the mix up, we got nowhere fast. The I.R.C. was determined to strictly enforce the rules, in order to establish a precedent for the future, but was helpless. Its first official decision was a pretty weak sister. It read, that yacht "X" was at fault, but as its identity could not be established, there could be no disqualification - and that was true. To this day I have never received a hint as to which Star it was.
The very fact that Warwick was a rather isolated spot, with no conflicting outside interests, kept the crowd together and gave our members a chance to become better acquainted. There was no lack, however, of shore activities. One evening we were taken to a Rhode Island clam bake. For the benefit of those who have never attempted this pleasant method of suicide, let me explain the process. Red hot stones are placed in a pit and the food is put between layers of seaweed and allowed to steam for hours. You start with clams, followed by fish, lobster, corn, chicken, but that is not the half of it, and end up with indigestion. Another evening we were the guests of the Albee theatre in Providence. Bill Gidley drove me there. I was seated in the back of the car with his wife and others. It was dark and she evidently did not notice who we were. At one point in the conversation, which was about Stars, as usual, she said to her husband, "Bill, how much longer do we have to have this fellow Elder as president?" Bill momentarily lost control of the car and almost ran us into a ditch. On off evenings we entertained ourselves. Bogy and crew did the hula, with their coats tied about their waists, and Bill Henderson, the Chesapeake crew, sang "Whiskey Johnnie", which became the theme song of the series.
On the night of the final banquet, Jim Rockwell, Manila's first entry, was presented with a surprise package and told to take it back to the Philippines, where he could introduce a new fashion among the Igorots. Unwrapped, it turned out to be a starched high collar, such as those worn by Commodore Corry, properly inscribed and signed by the contestants. Pop thought it a huge joke until he asked, "Where on earth did you find a collar like mine in Providence?" "We didn't," Johnnie Atwater informed him, "we took it out of your bureau drawer." It was Pop's last clean collar and there was another day to go, because the series had ended in a tie - but that is getting ahead of the story.
This was probably the most exciting and closest of all World's Championships. Fred Bedford, with Briggs Cunningham as crew, won the first race in Colleen. The next one went to Walton Hubbard, from Newport Harbor. He had only placed eighth the year before. On the wind, they showed us a new trick. Both sat completely outside of the Tempe III in rope slings, through which had been put a short length of rubber hose. Such devices and all forms of outriggers were barred thereafter. The next one went to Harold Smith, sailing Mackerel. That scrambled up the point score. Nor did Black Thursday pass us by. It was blacker than ever, rained and was blowing half a gale. This was the weather that Everardus Bogardus was waiting for. Hoku emerged from the curtain of rain, standing up like a church steeple, to win by two minutes. Mackerel was fourth, to lead in the point score, as Colleen fell back to twelfth. All the favorites were practically eliminated. Bedford, however, won the last race, ending up in a three cornered tie with Hubbard and Smith.
Never was there such a sail-off. The gallery had been small all week, as New Englanders do not leave their jobs on working days. Saturday, however, was another matter. Close to two hundred craft, of every description, turned out to witness the sail-off. Since the home entry was not involved, it was a good criterion of the interest created by the event, when held far enough away from the blase yachting element around New York City. Smithy could not get the Mackerel going and kept gradually falling back. He did not go home empty handed, however, having accumulated enough points in the last three races to take the Atlantic Coast Championship to the Chesapeake. Up to this point, being combined with the big event, the Pandora trophy was looked upon much in the same light as the other special prizes. The course was windward and leeward. Bedford picked up about a minute lead on each beat, only to be overtaken by Hubbard on the run downwind. As they approached the finish, Colleen and Tempe III were neck and neck, seesawing on each sea. It was just a question of which one hit it right at the line. Within ten feet of the finish, Colleen remained motionless at the top of a sea, while Tempe III flashed across the line four seconds ahead. Then Colleen shot ahead but the race was over. Two youngsters had accomplished what all the veteran west coast skippers had failed to do in five previous years and given California its first title. A fifty piece brass band met them at the dock, the trophy was presented out on the lawn and then the association banner was lowered.
Naturally no entertainment was scheduled for that added evening. Senator and Mrs. Gerry (formerly a Miss Vanderbilt), who owned a beautiful summer home within a stone's throw of the club, decided to throw an impromptu farewell midnight supper. Knowing that trunks and suitcases were packed for an early departure on the morrow, they sent word that the party was informal and to come as you were. I fear that their idea of informal and that of a bunch of Star sailors, tired out from a hard week of racing and having worked until after dark to get their boats ready for shipment, may not have been quite the same.
After tying on a good start, in "Bill's corner" of the locker room, the boys invaded the Gerry domain in sweaters, sneakers, etc., and various stages of unshaveness. The host, hostess and Pop, were the only ones in evening clothes, except the butlers. There must have been ten of the latter. As you entered, the majority of them were standing in a row along the hall, noses pointed at the ceiling, registering disapproval, or perhaps they had never smelled sweatshirts impregnated with stale salt water before. Number one took your hat, if any. Number two was custodian of the ladies' wraps and number three asked you for your name. He was shocked when a few of the boys, who did not get the idea, said, "Oh, just call me Butch" or something of the sort. Your name was relayed to the major-domo, who stood at the entrance of the drawing room and announced it in a very official manner. The befuddled Star member slunk in sheepishly to meet his host and hostess, then he was on his own. The big laugh came when Tim showed up escorting the twelve year old daughter of the senator's political rival and, due to a slight error, they were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Timothy D. Parkman. Never have I seen a more elaborate buffet supper. You were supposed to let one of the butlers serve you, but the boys were hungry, elbowed the said butlers aside and pitched in. It was quite a night.
It may seem that an unproportionate amount of space has been allocated to this series, in comparison to those that follow, but in a sense it was an experimental year and an important one. This was the association's initial attempt to take complete charge of the event. While there were still to be a few minor changes, it proved conclusively that our rules and system of organization were fundamentally sound. It marked the beginning of a new epoch of better racing conditions, less friction and more harmonious relations with the yacht clubs.
By 1928 there were forty Star fleets, including two in France, which had been developed by the persistent efforts of Enrique Conill and his brother. To sell to European yachtsmen the idea of, what was looked upon as an American boat, was no easy task.
The scene of the World's Championship shifted to California. Prentice Edrington and Gilbert Gray gave the deep south its one and only world's title. Each race was won by a different skipper, namely: Adrian Iselin, Frank Robinson, Joe Watkins, Joe Jessop and Ray Schauer. That sort of thing has happened several times during the history of the event. Prentice annexed his gold star by consistent sailing, never bringing the Sparkler II in better than third in any race, to win by a single point. Again there was a sail-off for second place in the series, Watkins, of Central Long Island, defeating Jessop, of San Diego Bay. Further proof of how close the competition was becoming, may be seen from the fact that Walton Hubbard, the defender, only placed eleventh. True, he suffered one disqualification, but he could not have placed better than sixth anyway.
In that same race, Hubbard was protested for an alleged subsequent foul, which protest was not heard. This is mentioned because for a long time it was ruled that a yacht, from the moment it committed a foul, was automatically out of the race and had no rights. Some years later the N.A.Y.R.U. ruled that regardless of fouls, a yacht retained its right-of-way. That was a very sensible ruling, not only from the point of view of safety, but because other skippers might assume that a yacht was out of a race, fail to respect its rights and later find out that the said yacht was exonerated.
At Newport Harbor there were the same number of entries as the previous year. That, however, was remarkable, since there were so few semi-local fleets to swell the list. Cliff Smith, of San Francisco, was awarded the "Order of the Golden Paddle," for four lasts and a D.N.F. It was an ordinary canoe paddle, covered with gilt paint, but the custom did not prove too popular and was abandoned.
While the top flight skippers were fighting it out in California, nine fleets along the eastern seaboard were represented in the Atlantic Coast Championship, on the Chesapeake, off Gibson Island. From that year on, it was held as a separate event, sometimes as a three and sometimes as a five race series. On alternate days, thirty entries competed for the Chesapeake Lipton Trophy. That was over twenty years ago and it would be a big entry today almost anywhere, except on the Sound. Colleen again defeated Mackerel in the title event and won the Lipton Trophy. Fred Bedford and Briggs Cunningham were registered as joint owners and the latter sailed Colleen to victory in the Atlantic Y.C. Race Week and Atlantic Lipton Trophy series that same year. How Colleen continued her winning way at Havana, in January, has already been related. This, I believe, establishes a twelve month boat record, but that is unofficial, since it was not done within a calendar year and the same skipper did not sail the boat.
Only five yachts finished the final race for the Chesapeake Lipton Trophy. The air was so light on the second round that it was obvious that the course could not be sailed within the time limit. The race committee established the finish line at the windward mark. While this is allowed under N.A.Y.R.U. rules, I have never seen a course shortened except at the end of the first round in any other locality, and it is contrary to Star rules to shorten a course at all, after the start, that is in a sanctioned event. We heard a gun and saw a lot of sails being lowered. We did not know Mat the boats which had tacked in shore, had been carried past the line and could not get back because of the tide. Those of us who tacked off shore, could have drifted over it, but a club launch came out and asked if we wanted to be towed in and we all said yes, assuming that the race had been called off. The same thing has occurred several times since on the Chesapeake, which is very misleading. In that particular case I could not have helped but finish second or third in the series, although it might have taken another half hour to drift across the line.
The next year we headed for the southland. A special car was added to the train for those who went from around New York. This time the Southern Yacht Club, being the only club near New Orleans, bore the brunt of sponsoring the Whole series, and I must say they staged a gala World's Championship. Edrington, still being vice-president, was obliged to shoulder most of the work. [fence he made Gilbert Gray part owner of Sparkler II and they switched, Gray becoming the skipper. Many cots were placed on the screened-in sun porch of the Southern Yacht Club, for those who could not afford hotel rates. This was called the "convalescent ward+ and looked it. It was a grand old club but in sad need of repair. Whenever any of the boys took a shower, the water dripped down on the tables in the dining room. But what entertainment! And if you wanted a bootlegger, all you had to do was stick your head out of the window and whistle and one would pop up from nowhere.
One of the dinners was on the roof of the Jung hotel, the dome of which opens so that on a clear night you sit beneath the stars. The wine and some of the food was imported from Europe for that meal. Vaudeville acts started at eight and continued through until midnight. On off days we went to such places as Antoines. Then there were the oysters Rockefeller. The boys did not do so well with them. Eight went to the hospital. Our hosts left nothing undone. Behind the club, in what I believe they called the pen, there was a concrete platform, with a whole system of tracks. Your boat was hauled out each night and the cradle, on wheels, was run along the track and switched into its place.
Some of the fellows took Pop on a sight-seeing tour of the red light district. A gal, with a highly decorated face, was leaning out of a window. As the commodore passed, she said, "Hello, Pop." The commodore stopped dead in his tracks. His chest swelled out and he said to the boys, "It's funny, but no matter where I go people recognize me at once as the 'Father of the Stars'."
Frank Robinson brought with him spars, rigging and sails for the proposed tall Marconi rig. This was installed on a local boat and demonstrated. It made a very favorable impression. It took the annual meeting, however, eight hours to iron out all questions and adopt it. The chief bone of contention was the sail area. Some wanted it reduced and others claimed that this would reduce the Star's speed and hurt its popularity. The latter won out. Prentice Edrington and Bill Gidley re-fought the Civil War, over the question of what would happen if a prospective fleet in Haiti (which never did materialize) should send an entry to New Orleans. It was the longest session I ever sat through, but much was accomplished before we adjourned. The new tall rig was made optional for the first year and word was sent immediately to Enrique Conill, whose insistence that the Star be modernized, if we hoped to develop the class in Europe, was the chief factor responsible for its adoption. Frank Robinson Larry Bainbridge, Prescott Wilson and Ernest Ratsey were appointed as a committee to draw up the specifications.
Lake Pontchartrain, in mid-October, proved that it could beat the Sound at its own game. The first race was won by Arthur Knapp, sailing Peggy Wee, in a brisk rail down breeze. The Western Long Island representative, negotiated the windward and leeward course in 1:40:21. This tied an unofficial record established by Bill Inslee in 1924, when the wind shifted and only one leg was a beat and stood until 1946. After that first race, Pontchartrain settled down to business and produced the lightest and most fluky winds that have ever disrupted a World's Championship. Sparkler II took the next race. Graham and Lowndes Johnson, undoubtedly the best combination that ever represented the Chesapeake, won the next three races with their new Star Eel. They seemed to like this light going, interrupted by endless called off races, which made it appear for a while as if we were destined to spend the rest of 1929 in New Orleans. Under the general racing rules, a yacht disqualified in the original race could not enter the re-sail. The I.R.C. would start a race in the morning, call it off when the yachts had little more than rounded the first mark and then attempt another in the afternoon, with no better success.
ecause of the light shifty winds there were several fouls, mostly at the start, and then another in the attempted re-sail. It became very confusing, as it was difficult to keep track of which re-sail applied to which original race and what entries could not start. That led to adopting a class rule that put a called off race in the same category as a cancelled one.
The final banquet was postponed so often that the food at the club went bad and the larder had to be replenished. At that, in entering the last race Gilbert Gray had a two point lead. He was actually talked out of winning. The boys began to tell him that he could never stand the strain and was bound to crack up, and he did. Instead of covering Eel at the start, he shot Sparkler II into what looked like a hole in the middle of the twenty-three starters. The gap closed and Sparkler II remained in a pocket throughout the windward leg, while Eel ghosted away to win the series. Talk about a war on nerves, that was a most successfully conducted one. At long last the series was over. Motorcycle police and fire engines, that had been waiting at the dock each day, escorted the victors through the streets of New Orleans to city hall, where the mayor made the formal presentation of the cup. It was quite a parade. I rode with the Johnson brothers and Pop was in the front seat. He was kept busy tipping his cap to the people that lined the sidewalks and cheered, not having the slightest idea of what it was all about.
One odd thing happened. The Barbados boat, by some error, was shipped to Halifax, so the I.R.C. was forced to allow the stranded crew the right to use a local Star. At the final banquet, Bill McHugh made his famous impromptu speech, in which he referred to our commodore as, "The man whom we all love and revere, but do not respect."
That year of 1929 was an eventful one. There was a big increase in the number of entries for the World's Championship. There were one hundred and one new Stars built, another record, and the average boats per fleet were fifteen and three-tenths. The first official Star event in Europe was held by the Paris fleet, Enrique Conill winning the French Championship. The Great Lakes Championship, won by Max Hayford, became our third district title event. Frank Robinson won the initial series, on the Great South Bay, for the Corry Cup and yours truly took the Jersey Coast Challenge series, on Barnegat Bay, then called the Bamberger series.
As early as January of the next year, Enrique and his brother Fernan Conill began sending in applications for fleet charters. Just as the former had stated, the tall Marconi rig proved to be the turning point in Europe. There were now seven fleets in France and fleets in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. In America, tall and short Marconis were racing against each other that year, nor did the new tall rig have things all its own way at first. Many of the old timers were unable to get the feel of the boat for some time and quite a number never did. In a stiff breeze, short rigged Stars often came out on top, but that did not last long.
The next World's Championship was raced on the Chesapeake in 1930 not only with mixed rigs but mixed weather. Gibson Island was a delightful place and in some respects reminiscent of Warwick, only more isolated. There were no outside interests at all and no place for the boys to roam. Huge trays of mint juleps were passed around on the slightest provocation. They were much more potent than those in New Orleans. Except for the locals, two were apt to make you fall flat on your face. We all ate together at the club and the meals were excellent. Crabs were served in every form, except that we did not have crab ice cream. The bay was so full of crabs that one could not spit without hitting one. The dining room was bedecked with the flags of many nations, for the class was now truly world-wide - our first fleet, Lake Maracaibo, being established on the mainland of South America.
Gibson Island was one place where they really treated the I.R.C. with the dignity it was entitled to. We had our own room and a colored boy to look after our needs. No sooner was breakfast over than he was on your heels asking what you wanted to drink. Juleps or frozen rum on a warm day and rum toddies on a cold one. He followed us aboard the committee boat with huge baskets of food and carefully concealed liquor, since it was a Coast Guard boat. J. Roulon Miller, one of the best friends the Star class ever had and the leading spirit in that locality, was responsible for most of this - he was on the I.R.C. He started off by telling me that they were going to run the series in their own way, but actually was the most co-operative local official I have ever worked with. When Bill McHugh walked into the bar and saw "J" he went over and slapped him on the back and said, "Damned if you and me ain't the homeliest two guys in the world." From then on they became great pals.
While there was one less entry than the year before, the series was the most international one to date. Rockwell was there again, from the Philippines, while Colin Ratsey represented the Solent and there were two French entries: Jean Peytel, of Paris and Jean Kelly, of Cannes, or what have you. The latter was the most international member we ever had. An American by birth, of Irish extraction, he was an English citizen, lived in the South of France and sailed a boat with a Chinese name. To be consistent, he later moved to Bermuda and was responsible for starting a fleet there. He was making a similar effort in Mexico, when he died. Jean, with his flowing blond mustachio, which wrapped itself around his ears in a breeze, was one of the unsung heroes of the class, who never lost interest and always kept working for it.
There was never a World's Championship in which Pop did not get himself all mixed up in something. On Sunday, Harry Reeves took Pop and Ma Corry to church. On the way back, Harry's mind was on one of those tall frosted glasses. He stepped on the gas and overturned the car. He then went about, shaking his finger in everyone's face, and saying, "I almost killed the commodore." Then he would laugh until tears came into his eyes. Pop did not think it very funny, he was darn sore. There were times that week when I almost wished Harry had been successful. Pop and Ma had the room next to mine, in one of the cottages. At six-thirty each morning, Pop woke me up by standing on his head, with his shoes on, and beating his heels against the reverse side of my bathroom door. Otherwise it was a most restful place, with a dip in the bay each morning and an occasional rail bird breakfast with Nat Kenney.
The annual meeting elected Enrique Conill to the office of vice-president. At the suggestion of the French delegates, it made, what I consider, a very serious error. It legalized the use of aluminum fittings, which had previously been barred. I have worked for years, but to no avail, to have this repealed. On salt water, they crumble without any advance warning. Many a mast has gone overboard as the result of using such fittings, in an attempt to save an ounce or two in weight.
It was the first time we met Sam Smith. He was sailing my Iscyra II, which I had sold him a few weeks before, and which he renamed Red Star II. After that Sam won three consecutive Twelfth District Championships. In 1930, however, he and his crew, Dot, were still novices. Herb Dowsett, who was serving on the I.R.C., spotted the boat as mine, since Sam had not yet removed the gold chevrons. As Sam crossed the line, usually a good last, Herb would bellow, in his bull-like voice, "Good boy, Elder."
Not to be outdone by New Orleans, the Gibson Island group built new docks, equipped with enough chain to haul over half a dozen Stars at a time. These two fleets went to such great expense, in providing facilities for hauling boats out each night and launching them in the morning, that it was establishing a precedent, which most home fleets could not afford to live up to. After one more year, when haul outs were made optional, at a reasonable rate on a public dock, the association barred this practice during a series, except on rest day or by special permission for repair or hull inspection.
Arthur Knapp, of the veteran fleet, went out into an early lead, winning the first race and then finishing third to Slade Dale of Barnegat Bay, in the next. Walton Hubbard staged what appeared to be a comeback, by taking the next two races, to lead by two points. The last race was sailed on a cold day, with open fires burning in the club and a stiff twenty-five mile wind. Arthur, thinking he had made a premature start, swung back. Actually he had not done so. He fell back to eleventh place and it looked like a California victory. At that point Arthur shook out a reef. Walton did the same, but was unable to carry his sail and kept falling back. Poor and deSena, from the Peconic and Habana respectively, both sailing old rigged Stars, finished in the order named. The boys had not as yet mastered the art of making the tall Marconi go in a breeze. Knapp and Weed gradually forged ahead, bringing Peggy Wee in fourth and winning the series, as Hubbard slipped back to ninth.
That same year, Joe Watkins and Briggs Cunningham, sailing on their own Central Long Island waters, tied for the Atlantic coast title, the former winning the sail-off. They were racing for a new Atlantic coast perpetual trophy, presented by F. T. Bedford. This was the first year in which the rules allowed two entries from each fleet, in major championships, other than the World's Championship.
Once again the world's title event returned to the western end of the Sound, but under different conditions. The association was now conducting the races and that fact was generally accepted. Headquarters were at the new Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, of Georgian architecture, overlooking the Bay and a swimming pool, which was illuminated at night. The flags of the six competing nations were flown along the sea wall and a huge red star, in electric lights, marked the entrance to the club.
Once again a different entry won each race, in a series so abundant with hectic incidents, that it is quite impossible to attempt to relate them race by race. Bill McHugh, a veteran of the gaff rig days and newly registered part owner of Colleen, with Joe Watkins as crew, was the eventual winner. Contrary to press reports, the series did not establish a new record for disqualifications, although there were plenty, to say nothing of withdrawals, where the skipper knew he had fouled, and protests that were not allowed. The I.R.C. was busy every night and often on the following mornings, ironing out disputes. The real reason for this, was that in a field of twenty-six entries, there were at least a dozen skippers 0 f almost equal ability. They took unnecessary chances, knowing that to win would depend upon a very slim margin.
A sail-off was again necessary to decide second place, Colin Ratsey representing the Solent, with Joy, defeating Eddie Fink, of Long Beach, California, in Zoa. Eddie threw away second place and possibly the title in the first race. It was a three times around course, but he forgot and started home after the second round. He was awakened by a chorus of shouts, but before he could get his boat trimmed down, he had lost six places. Colin Ratsey came in for quite a lot of criticism by one of the papers, which referred to him as the English entry from City Island. That particular reporter was trying to create the impression that the Star Class was faking the international character of the event. He did not know that Colin owned two Joys, one in England and one which he kept at City Island, where for business reasons, he spent several months of each year. That same reporter took several other dirty cracks at the class and does not know to this day that I had considerable difficulty in preventing an irate bunch of members from tossing him off the end of the dock. When England named Colin to represent that nation in the Olympics the following year, he changed his tune. Like so many others, who criticized us at first, he became one of our strongest boosters thereafter.
No account of the 1931 World's Championship would be complete without mention of our old friend Doc Pflug, whose son Carl won the first race and was a contender right up to the end. The Doc, a great favorite with the Star bunch, held nightly court on the club porch. I was among those unfortunate ones who had rooms in the front, directly above said porch, and can still hear the Doc singing "The King of the Cannible Isles." Then he would tell endless stories about the Spanish American war. Every now and then he would say, "Am I right boys?" and they would shout "Yes" at the top of their lungs. It kept up until three a.m. One evening the Doc invited everyone over to his house for cocktails. He greeted us all dolled up in a tuxedo and no one recognized him - we had never seen him before with his shoes on or dressed in anything but overalls.
was passed. Rhys-Price represented the Lake Maracaibo fleet, of Venezuela,
bringing the mainland of South America into the picture. Later he moved
to Trinidad and started a small fleet there, but made the same mistake
that Colin Ratsey did with the Solent fleet. He paid all dues himself.
When he left there, the other owners could not understand why they should
have to pay for something, which they had been getting gratis before,
and the fleet broke up. Later the Solent fleet folded up for the same
reason, but was revived in 1948.
It was only a short hop to the territory of Central Long Island Sound, where the event was held, off the Pequot Yacht Club, the following year. In spite of the club being dry, we did very nicely. Most of the visitors were housed at a hotel in Bridgeport and the entertainments took place at widely separated points. This involved a considerable amount of travel, but cars were plentiful. There were twenty-eight entries. In Europe, where the countries are as close together as the States in the Union, there had been regattas more international in character. This, however, was the second consecutive year in which three continents and the Far East sent yachts, to the same event. Even in those comparatively recent years, nothing of the sort had happened before. There was a strong representation from Europe, with entries from France, Sweden and Germany. Walter von Hütschler, who was destined to become famous, made his debut, but it was not a very impressive one, as he only placed fourteenth. Once again a different skipper won every race and the series was too much of a jumble to attempt a blow by blow description. Remember that detailed results of each World's Championship can be found in the back of this book.
A most tragic accident marred the event. Bud Vanderveer, with his father, Steve as crew, won the third race. He won by a safe margin in a race against the time limit. Shortly after that, a little squall drove the tailenders up among the leaders and seventeen yachts crossed the line within less than a minute and a half. This put Bud right back in the running, only seven points behind the leading Ralph Bradley. Then came rest day. That night there was a clam bake at some distance from the club. Bud and three others drove over and, as the car passed through a little cloud of land fog, it struck a tree. Bud was taken to the hospital, where he died later that evening. Flags were half masted. A futile effort was made to dispel the pall of gloom during the remaining two days. Steve Vanderveer presented the Vanderveer Trophy in memory of his son. It goes to the entry with the highest point score at the end of the third race and is perpetual.
Eddie Fink, sailing Mist, for Long Beach, obtained permission to use a substitute crew, his regular one having been one of those involved in the accident. The other two, Glen Waterhouse and Woodie Metcalf, who were allowed to leave the hospital that morning, insisted upon sailing, in spite of their injuries. Fink won the fourth race, but Ralph Bradley, of Illinois River, still had a four point lead. The last race was sailed in very light air. Bradley covered Fink throughout the first round. Then the wind shifted. Dave Atwater and Tubby Lawton, a quarter ton combination, who had won the first of their three consecutive Atlantic coast titles that year, took the final race. Fink, however, finished second, as a result of the shift, and Bradley ended up third in the point score. Mist was another of those so called million dollar Stars. It was said to have cost around twenty-five hundred dollars. Once again the rumor spread, as it has before and since, that the Star class was being ruined by allowing such expensive boats to be built. One might well ask at this point, how could a sports organization place a ceiling price on boats, sails or equipment, built in all parts of the world? The absurdity of such a suggestion was proven during World War Two, when even government regulations could not prevent black market sales. This is not said as a reflection upon Eddie Fink's ability as a skipper. He was a most able one and would have placed in the money anyway. Ralph Bradley, however, sailing a Joe Parkman Star that cost around seven hundred dollars, had the series in the bag, except for a wind shift. That shows how some unjustifiable rumors are started.
The I.R.C. held its protest hearings in a two room suite at the hotel in Bridgeport. We had some little trouble with Dan Suden-Collberg, of the Stockholm fleet. He and Dave Atwater got into a rhubarb and Dan was convinced that an American committee was prejudiced. The fur flew and he had to be escorted out of the room. We were trying to keep this all secret from the press. The door was locked. No one could have entered the suite. In the middle of it someone opened the bathroom door and there was Anne Taylor, Bill's wife. She too was escorted to the door. She threw her slipper over the transom, however, and got in again. Once more she was put out and the door locked. We thought that at last we had complete privacy, but derned if she did not show up in the bathroom again. How she got in no one knows.
At the final banquet
the national anthem of the skipper's country was played as he stepped
up to receive his prize. We did not know just what to do in the case of
Jean Kelly. So the band played "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?"
and we hoisted a green flag with a golden harp. This brought to a close
the first cycle of the World's Championship. The big cup, having made
a complete circuit of the U.S.A. started back to California. The tall
Marconi was in to stay and had brought about the desired results in Europe.
Another phase of Star development was over.