Years Among the Stars
VIII - The Olympics
Originally scheduled as an exhibition, a sort of unofficial test of popularity, Stars were eventually included as one of the regular classes on the Olympic program. It is doubtful if that could ever have been accomplished without the cooperation of the N.A.Y.R.U., which was recognized as the national authority of the U.S.A.
Getting back to Star competition, Gilbert Gray, of New Orleans, sailed Jupiter to a decisive victory. With Andrew Labino as crew, he won five firsts and was never seriously threatened. Gilbert rose to the occasion and sailed the best series of his career, giving the U.S. its first Olympic Star champion.
Colin Ratsey, representing England, was runner-up. He owned two Stars named Joy. He was not the only one who kept a second Star in the New York area, to save the cost of transportation. At that time Colin lived in England and was very definitely a Britisher, otherwise he could never have represented that country in the Olympics.
Gunnar Asther, sailing Swedish Star, won the bronze Olympic medal. As a matter of fact Harry Wylie, of Canada, tied for third. Due to a misunderstanding, Harry shipped his Star home immediately after the series was over, hence Sweden won the sail-off by default.
The one-man Monotypes, always furnished locally, were raced as a skipper's series in the mornings, each man sailing each boat once. Some Star skippers did double duty, racing these boats in the morning and Stars in the afternoon. As a result Cecil Goodricke, of South Africa, missed one Star race entirely. He was the dark horse, as we had no fleet in South Africa, and surprised the boys by winning one Star race. Fleets, of course, have nothing to do with Olympics. A national entry can build, or buy into, any specified Olympic class. Goodricke can best be remembered by the fact that he kept blowing a little tin whistle, when on the starboard tack, to warn others that he was coming. Such politeness! The average skipper keeps his mouth shut and his fingers crossed, hoping that someone will come close enough to be hailed about and commit a technical foul.
When the Maas brothers landed in New York, on their way back to Los Angeles, they dropped in at the office. They were only kids then, but full of enthusiasm. I remember that I took them out to lunch. The boys ordered rye bread and tomato ketchup, much to the dismay of the waitress, as both were "for free." I wish that other luncheon guests had a similar appetite, as that would help beat the high cost of living. Adrian Maas, however, has established a remarkable record. He has sailed a Star for Holland in the Olympics, ever since the Stars were included, and has won two Olympic medals.
I am not sure how all the 1932 Olympic yachting entries were selected, but most of them were the result of national trials. U.S. Star members have always handled their own method of selecting an Olympic entry. In 1932 and 1936 it consisted of fleet preliminaries, four regional semi-finals and finals. I am not apt to forget as I have two U.S.O.C. certificates framed and hanging on the wall as a reminder that I was also a contestant that first year and managed to tie for first at Narragansett Bay, but was beaten in the sail-off by Ed Thorn. The Great Lakes did not send an entry, so that there were only three in the finals. Gilbert Gray won, of course, and Eddie Fink was second, which made him the U.S. Star alternate.
The 1936 Olympic yachting events were sailed off Kiel, Germany. The courses were on the Aussenforde (Outer Bay) and radiated in all directions from the starting line. Every afternoon, when the race was over, crowds gathered on the Hindenburg Ufer, where the flags of the three nations that placed were hoisted. On the final day, when prizes were presented, Hitler was there in person. I was not there, but all who were, agree that everything possible was done for the comfort and convenience of the competing yachtsmen. To this I can add that the German yachting co-operated in every way with the I.S.C.Y.R.A. All our class rules were enforced, our measurement-certificates were not questioned and even our total point score system applied to the Star series.
The Olympic Star title was won by Dr. Peter Bischoff, who sailed the German Star Wannsee, with Hans-Joachim Weise as crew. They won by a greater point margin than Gray did in 1932. Both were reported killed in the last world war. Laurin, of Sweden, placed second, but only one point ahead of Adrian Maas. The Holland skipper, however, won the first race in a howling gale, but was disqualified. He was really the only one that gave Bischoff a run for his money.
The best the U.S. entry was able to do was place fifth. Girogono, of England, is to be complimented upon finishing fourth, being a newcomer to the Star class. The French skipper Herbulot won the second race, but he also was disqualified. As a matter of fact the reader will get a much better overall picture of the series by reading the summaries.
Many have asked why Walter von Hütschler, who is credited with training Bischoff and Weise, did not himself represent Germany in the 1936 Olympics. Walter was born in Brazil of Brazilian parents. He was not German and was not eligible to represent Germany in any form of Olympic competition. His name is of German origin, but so is the name of many Brazilians. Walter did, however, live in Germany for a number of years. Residence, not nationality, governs eligibility under Star rules. He had a perfect right, therefore to join the Star fleet in the locality where he then resided and to represent it in any Star event under the auspices of the I.S.C.Y.R.A.
The 1936 U.S. trials were held off Sayville, N.Y. Once again there were only three entries, the Great Lakes sending none. Glen Waterhouse, of San Francisco, won, but only after a sail-off with Eddie Ketchem, the eastern semi-finalist. The U.S. came very near to being represented that time by the old Draco, a relic of the days of Ike Smith. A couple of tall lanky Texans, who wore five gallon hats, represented the southland. Skipper Dan Ryan did beat Waterhouse once and was responsible for the sail-off, but finished the series in last place.
Only the fleet try outs and regional semi-finals in the New York area were reasonably well attended in 1936. Throughout the rest of the U.S., because of the additional time and expense involved, such preliminary events had very few entries. Yachting is one of the few U.S. Olympic sports in which contestants have to finance themselves. While that is bound to reduce the number and to some extent the quality of prospective Olympic entries, it's the only logical solution. The cost of the 1948 U.S. six meter entry, which was built especially for the Olympics, has been estimated at around ninety thousand dollars. If any such amount was taken from the Olympic fund, there would not be enough to take care of the other fields of sport. The I.S.C.Y.R.A. cannot finance the U.S. Star Olympic entry, as it has no national subdivision of its funds. If it did that, it would also have to underwrite entries of twenty odd other countries.
The exploits of Glen Waterhouse and his crew Woodie Metcalf are worthy of mention. They were the "singingest" pair of Star members we ever had. They sang Abalone Moon, Hail To California, Eight Bells, etc. They even sang during a race. When they were not singing they were composing lyrics. Their first break came when the regional semi-finals at Santa Barbara were cancelled because their one rival there withdrew. That enabled them to ship Three Star Two east with the University of California rowing shells. Arriving at Poughkeepsie, they bought an old Buick for thirty dollars, with which to trail their Star to Sayville. The U.S.O.C. chartered the S.S. Manhattan that year, so the Star could be shipped on deck gratis, at the owner's risk. After loading it, they returned to the Commodore Hotel and parked. While discussing what to do with the Buick, a N.Y. cop came along and they thought they were pinched. All he wanted to know was what they were doing in Olympic uniforms. When they told him about the Buick, he gave them twenty dollars, got in it and drove away. Hence, except for loading costs and gas, it cost them only ten dollars to transport their Star to Germany.
I do not know how long they had been experimenting with them, but flexible spars were already being used on German Stars in 1936 and also on some Stars of neighboring countries. We all know today that flexible spars, properly handled, will always beat rigid ones. This is not said as an alibi, as German skippers were then highly efficient: but it may make Glen happy to know that he did not have a chance with the rig he was using.
Spar flexing is an operation. Star rules distinctly state that spar diameters and methods of rigging are optional. The Germans did not even violate the rules in principle, anymore so than if they had developed a new technique in seamanship. Every Star Olympic contestant in 1936 saw the rig in operation on German built Stars. Let me quote from an article by Woodie Metcalf, describing his Olympic experiences. "The specially cut German sails, with fullness along the foot, combined with a light flexible boom and method of trimming flat amidship, was a powerful and speedy combination." It will be noted that he even used the term flexible.
Waterhouse and Metcalf simply did not realize that they were seeing a revolutionary and almost automatic operation governing draft. That is no more surprising than that the hundreds, who read the above mentioned article, also failed to grasp that fact. According to von Hütschler, the German skippers themselves did not yet fully appreciate the many advantages to be gained from what they had developed.
The 1940 Olympics, slated for Finland, were cancelled because of the war. The twelfth and thirteenth Olympiads (an Olympiad being a measure of time) were, therefore, skipped. The games were renewed and held in England in 1948, the yachting events being sailed on Torquay Bay.
The Star was not one of the four classes originally designated for the Olympics. The unvarnished truth is that British top yachting brass, which practically controlled the permanent committee of the I.Y.R.U., did not like Stars. The chief bone of contention was the two man one-design Swallow. Like the jib and mainsail Firefly dinghy, it was a new creation by the English designer Uffa Fox. Being new, naturally there were only a few Swallows in existence, almost all of them being in England. The only measure of popularity in yachting is the international distribution and activity of a given class. Many countries thought it odd that the Star should have been replaced by an unknown quantity. Their overwhelming requests for the Star resulted in its being included as a fifth Olympic class, thereby establishing a new precedent.
Perhaps I better start by telling about the U.S. Olympic trials of 1948, because of a drastic change made in the system. Each fleet was entitled to send one entry direct to the finals. The skipper had to agree in writing to go if he won and, just to keep him honest, a fifty dollar entry fee was required. The money went to help defray in part the cost of shipping the winner's Star.
The finals were sailed on the ocean side of Coney Island, with the anchorage and headquarters at the Sheepshead Bay Y.C. Because of the many fishing boats in that area, the cooperation of the Coast Guard was most helpful. Hilary Smart defeated Woodie Pirie by a single point in a close and exciting series. It was necessary to go down to a tie for sixth place between Cebern Lee and Ralph Craig, in order to find two alternates willing to make the trip. They were also named as alternates for several other United States classes.
Two girls were originally selected to represent the U.S. in the Swallow class, but the entry could not be accepted. That had nothing to do with yachting, but a general Olympic rule, which prohibits men and women from competing in the same event. On the night of the final Star banquet, Mr. Loomis, manager of the U.S. yachting team, came down to Sheepshead Bay and between us we persuaded Woodie to skipper the Swallow for the U.S. Owen Torrey, a good Star skipper in his own right, happened to be in London at the time and was willing to act as crew. I believe that the charter price of the Swallow was a suit of new sails, but anyway Woodie and Owen gave the U.S. a third place among the Swallows. There were other Star skippers sailing in that class, including Bello, of Portugal, who owned his own boat. If I remember correctly, he placed second.
Durward Knowles, who was then international Star class champion, only learned at the last moment that the Bahamas were not entitled to a separate Olympic entry, but could compete only for Great Britain. He immediately shipped his Star from Nassau to Miami. He and his crew trailed it from there to New York, driving day and night. At that they would have missed the Queen Elizabeth, except for a bomb scare, which delayed her departure for several hours. Durward had no trouble in winning the finals in England, as he was sailing against a less experienced group of Star skippers. In the Olympics, however, he ran into tough luck. He was dismasted and disqualified in the last two races. At that he placed fourth.
As the games originated in Greece, Greek athletes always lead the Olympic parade of nations. George Calambokidis headed that group as its standard bearer. Ralph Craig was elected to carry the Stars and Stripes. It was the second time he represented the U.S. In 1912 he had won both the one hundred and two hundred meter dashes. Hence two Star skippers had the honor of marching at Wimbly, in a temperature of one hundred and three degrees, carrying the flag of their respective countries.
Out of the scheduled seven races, an entry's best six counted in the point score. In other words a skipper could throw out any one race he desired. There are two schools of thought on the subject. If disabled through no fault of his own, perhaps the skipper should not have to suffer. Everyone will agree, however, that he should not be allowed to throw out a disqualification and nullify the penalty, as we must assume that officials know their business and that the disqualification was deserved. The point system was figured on a formula, which frankly I dot not fully understand. It provides a big premium for winning, which conforms to Olympic principles. As you go down the list the difference in points between positions keeps diminishing, until very few points separate those at the bottom. My personal opinion is that the throw out system encourages reckless sailing, because the skipper knows that the race does not have to count. I also feel that the old fashioned total point system is a more accurate measure of ability, as yachting is about the only sport in which wind shifts, slants, puffs, etc., affect the order of finish and are unpredictable.
Whoever laid out the courses off Torquay must have thought that Stars were toy boats. The Star course combined a windward and leeward and a triangle, sailed three times around, for a total of about seven and one-half miles. One can judge from this how short the windward leg must have been. The seventeen Star entries could not get out of each other's hair and were constantly in danger of a foul. That accounts for the many disqualifications, to say nothing of the disallowed protests, in 1948. Most of the contestants had to wait around after each race to testify as principals or witnesses at the hearing of some protest. They would have been there yet, if the hearings had not been conducted with the dispatch of traffic violations.
The first four races were sailed in comparatively light air and, after a three day rest period, the last three races provided rather rugged going. Hilary Smart, with his father Paul as crew, made his best showing during the first part of the series, taking two firsts and a second. That gave the U.S. the 1948 Star Olympics by nearly one thousand points. Carlos de Cardenas, with his son as crew, finished in a blaze of glory. Charlie, who has always liked plenty of wind, took a first and second to make Cuba runner-up. Adrian Maas was once again third. On the total point system, used in the two previous Olympics, the Holland skipper would have won. Italy's Straulino actually finished first four times, but was disqualified on two of those occasions and dismasted in the last race. Nevertheless, he placed fifth. His daily record and that of Maas, if the reader will look at the summaries, is a good example of the difference between the two systems.
Star contestants were plagued with unexpected difficulties and expenses from the start. Over here the right hand did not know what the left was doing. The U.S.O.C. was most helpful in arranging for the Star and Star contingent to go on the Manhattan with the rest of the Olympic team. I was given full authority to handle the Star entry, but someone else must have been given like authority. At the last moment the Star entry was switched to the Queen. Fortunately the boys could afford the additional expense.
Finalists and semi-finalists did not receive their U.S.O.C. certificates although I sent a certified list of those entitled to them to the secretary of the U.S.O. yachting committee. I learned two years later that he did not know that his own committee consisted of seven members. It is difficult to understand why, as my name appeared on U.S.O.C. notices. He only recognized the five N.A.Y.R.U. delegates and did not know that I had been appointed a Star delegate over a year before they were eligible. How could things be expected to run smoothly? The man responsible for allocating the work, and there was plenty of it, openly admitted that he disapproved of the Olympics and even told members of the committee that their jobs were really only nominal.
What happened in England is only hearsay and I cannot vouch for its authenticity. No provision had been made for getting Stars from where they were unloaded at London to Torquay. Commercial transportation had to be arranged for and cost plenty. It is said to have cost fifteen dollars to either launch or haul a Star at Torquay. One alternate told me that the only way he could see the races was to buy a ticket on the public observation boat. After the Olympics, over half the Stars had to be shipped to Portugal for the World's Championship. Finally a tramp was diverted to Torquay. I understand that it could have come alongside the dock and loaded the Stars, except possibly at dead low water, but the port authorities would not allow it. So the boats had to be taken by a lighter to where the tramp was anchored, a short distance away. The consensus of opinion was that the tradespeople heaped every expense they could think of upon the rich yachtsmen.
Do not think that I am criticizing the local yachting organizations. Remember that there was a lot of discussion as to whether England was in a position to hold the games that year. I believe that the local yachtsmen did all they were able to do under existing conditions. Even in our own World's Championships some localities are able to provide better and cheaper facilities than others.
The 1952 Olympics, after a wait of twelve years, were held at Helsinki, Finland. The yachting was on more or less protected waters. The start was about four miles from the harbor, where excellent facilities were provided. The yachtsmen were housed in clubs on small islands near the mainland. They were divided according to nationality, not classes, hence the Star members did not see too much of each other. The point and throw out system was the same as in 1948. Everyone agreed that the races were most efficiently conducted.
The Star course would have been over the same triangle as the one for the one man monotypes, had it not been for Jean Peytel's strenuous objection. As instructions had already been printed, the only thing that could be done was to send the Stars over the next larger triangle, a total of about thirteen and one-quarter miles. It was longer than the regular Star championship course, but a great improvement over the wild scramble of 1948. As a result of the longer course there were no disqualifications. There were no dismastings and only five did not finish, although there were twenty-one entries - a new Olympic record for a class bringing its own boats.
The U.S. finals were sailed on the Great South Bay, with the Bay Shore Y.C. sponsoring the event and the Bayberry Point Y.C. providing the anchorage. Owing to the early shipping date, comparatively few clubs were as yet in commission and we only had just enough powerboats to handle the marks. Shoal water eliminated the help of the Coast Guard and its telephones. Establishing reasonably accurate courses and starting on time was not easy. I know, as I was chairman of the special R.C., but weather conditions were good.
The series quickly developed into a duel between the two Florida entries. Jack Price and Jack Reid, of the Biscayne Bay fleet, won by four points. Jim Schoonmaker was runnerup and became alternate skipper. To avoid misunderstanding, he also lives in Miami, but belongs to the Nassau Star fleet. Nye, Ulmer and Smart followed in the order named. Paul Smart, however, finished ahead of anyone else seeking a substitute berth and became alternate crew. Thus the U.S. was fortified with a second string Star combination at Helsinki that was almost as good as its first.
Commanders Straulino and Rode, of the Italian navy won an impressive Olympic victory. They would have won under any point system the writer has ever heard of, never bringing Merope in worse than second in any of their seven starts. Agostino Straulino deserved to win. He was finally able to shake off the ill luck that pursued him for years and his tendency to take rash chances. As a result, he won the three major Star championships held in Europe in 1952.
Price and Reid came
nearer winning than most people realize. Had Jack been able to place on
the final day, regardless of Straulino winning, he could have thrown out
Comanche's seventh and won the series. That sort of thing can happen under
the premium point and throw out system. At that the Italian and U.S. entries
finished with over two thousand points more than anyone else.
An eyewitness reported
a twenty mile wind in the first and third race, with fair seas and whitecaps.
The other races were sailed in from medium to light weather. It is also
reported that the final race was started in no more than a five mile zephyr.
The light going may have somewhat cramped Price's style, as he was never
an outstanding drifter. My own feeling, however, is that Straulino was
finally hitting on all fours in 1952 and that no one could have beaten
him. In the second race, Straulino sailed through all seventeen Dragons
and all except five of the 5.5's, which classes started ten and twenty
minutes, respectively, ahead of the Stars.
Winning yacht built
by Joseph Parkman, Brooklyn, U.S.A. *Tie for third won by default.
NOTE - All daily positions not obtainable. Hereafter official results were copied from bulletin board by a Star member.
1936 OLYMPICS, Kiel, Germany
Winning yacht No. 1287, built by Caesar Fuhlendorf, Hamburg, Germany, 1936. Total point system.
Winning yacht No.
2570, built by Old Greenwich Boat Co., Old Greenwich, U.S.A., 1947
Winning yacht, No.
2958 built by Old Greenwich Boat Co. Old Greenwich, U.S.A., 1949