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With more sailors on the water and more boats entering regattas than ever before, the yachting year 1954 brought startling new designs, new champions and a season of new thrills for old winners

For the booming sport of yachting, this was a year of big news made by a growing swarm of small boats. Record fleets in all sections of the country reflected the awakening of more and more Americans to the fact that a yacht, in the modern sense of the word, is any boat used for pleasure; and that any American can afford to be a yachtsman and get into the fun.

In distance racing, the biggest plum was snatched by Dan Strohmeier's Malay (since lost in hurricane Carol), winner of the 1954 Bermuda race. This 635-mile classic is the one which American (and foreign) deep-water sailors would rather win than any other. In the record number of 77 starters, one of the smallest and least favored to win was the 39 foot 5 inch Malay. Built in 1939 as a cruising boat, she had never won a big race and Skipper Strohmeier, though a keen racing man, had never before raced to Bermuda. Moreover, she cost about one tenth as much as the more expensive yachts built expressly to win this blue-water derby.

Malay was helped by conditions favoring the smaller boats; she also had a good crew and they sailed the right course. Nearing the island, they began picking up larger boats, and it dawned on them that, with the help of their handicap, they wouldn't do too badly.


The thought of winning, however, was so far from their minds that they finished the race and turned into their bunks without bothering to ask the committee how they had fared. Next morning, while going into Hamilton Harbor under power, they hailed a passing charter boat: "Who won the race?" Back came the answer: "Malay." That's how Dan Strohmeier learned he'd taken the greatest ocean race of all.

Another surprise was the superb showing of the Argentine entries. Seven of them shipped their boats north. Good boats, too, but none had sailed to Bermuda and none had ever raced against such formidable competition. Three wound up in the lower part of the fleet, but the record of the other four was outstanding. Trucha II was second in Class D and second only to Malay in the over-all standings. Fjord III was first in Class C and seventh in the fleet, Joanne was third in Class C, and Fortuna was fifth in Class A. American prestige was maintained not only by Malay's win but also John Nicholas Brown's Class A victory in Bolero, and by Carl Hovgard's Circe, which was first in Class B and third in the fleet. But the showing of the Argentine Trucha II was particularly significant because she is of the new, light displacement type which is beginning to make itself felt in the biggest distance races.


The most talked about and most successful boat in distance racing this year is one of these new boats—the ugly duckling Hoot Mon (next page). Owned jointly by boatbuilder Worth Brown, businessman Lockwood Pirie, and sailmaker Charles Ulmer, the 39 foot 8 inch yawl (small by ocean racing standards) made a shambles of the winter distance races in southern waters. After placing fifth in the 113-mile Great Isaac race—won by 1952 and 1953 southern-circuit champion Carleton Mitchell in Caribbee—Hoot Mon won the Lipton Cup race at Miami, the Miami-Nassau race and the St. Petersburg-Havana race. Proof that this was no flash in the pan was provided when she sailed north in the spring, winning Class C in both the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island race and later the Port Huron-Mackinac race.

Hoot Mon's victories were not received with universal joy by owners of ocean racers, despite the popularity of her three owners. The reason: Hoot Mon is new, different and in some respects radical, and other skippers are afraid that she represents a new trend which will make their boats obsolete for competition. She bears a resemblance to the Star boats, with a tremendous overhang fore and aft. Her waterline length is only 21 feet 7 inches (compared to her over-all length of 39 feet 8 inches), leaving her with far less drag below the water than the conventional deep-water racer. First built in 1952, she never went really well until this year when her owners removed some of the fineness from the under-body and lengthened her two masts to provide more sail area. Now the ugly duckling is a feared competitor wherever she enters.


One rumor that should be refuted is that Hoot Mon was barred from the Bermuda race because the other entries were afraid of her, or considered her unseaworthy. Actually she was kept out only because of eligibility requirements. Traditional specifications for this race limit the amount of overhang in relation to waterline length, and Hoot Mon's overhangs exceeded the limit. Had she lengthened her waterline or shortened her over-all length, she would have been allowed to race. Her owners didn't care to.

Even in a year of success for the Hoot Mons and the Trucha IIs, the older and more conventional boats still took their share of victories in the important races throughout the nation. Howard Ahmanson's 10-meter Sirius, now about 25 years old, beat 141 other entries in the 136-mile Newport (Calif.)-Ensenada (Mexico) race, and stands as the year's deep-water champion in the lively Pacific Coast area. Jim O'Neill's Stormy Weather, fleet leader in the Storm Trysail race, has been winning races ever since 1934. De Coursey Fales' schooner Ni√±a (winner of the 1928 transatlantic race to Spain) beat a record fleet of 43 boats in winning the Stamford-Vineyard race for the fifth time; and Wendell Anderson's Escapade, launched in 1938, won the Port Huron-Mackinac race for the fourth time—a record.

While distance racing was more popular in 1954 than ever before, many yachtsmen, partly because of economics, partly through preference, were skippering small boats in four-to 15-mile afternoon races. Every weekend and often during the week on both coasts, the Great Lakes, and on almost every inland lake large enough to float a boat, small sailboats were racing in unprecedented numbers.

The keenest sailors among them, divided into scores of different classes, headed late in the season for the national and world championships that are now held for all the more popular classes. And the biggest triumph in the classes was scored in the World Star Championship Series at Cascais, Portugal, by a perennial challenger who had never before finished among the top three in world competition. He is Carlos de Cardenas of Havana, Cuba who has been sailing Stars for 25 years. This year the long chase resulted in a heart-warming victory. Charlie de Cardenas, with his son Carlos Jr. (see cut) crewing for him, sailed his Kurush V against 34 boats representing 12 nations, and walked off with four firsts and a second in the five-race series. This was the greatest record ever compiled in the 32-year history of the event.

The Star Class was the first to organize a world championship, and for years the Star world champion was the king of small-boat racing. Now countless other classes have scheduled national and world championships of their own, and more and more good sailors are branching into them. Though these other events are growing in prestige to rival the Stars, the feeling persists that the Star Class world title is still the hardest to win. Stars have been called the yachtsman's violin, and it takes a virtuoso to sail one to victory in world-wide competition.


The largest class of all, the Snipe, which boasts over 10,000 boats throughout the world, holds its world championships only in odd-numbered years. The big one for Snipe sailors this year, therefore, was the National regatta at Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio. A sailing whiz kid, 19-year-old Tom Frost from Newport Beach, Calif., won it for the second year in a row. His record of two firsts, a second, a third, and a fourth against the country's top 24 Snipe sailors makes him a crown prince among small-boat skippers.

Probably the fastest boats afloat per foot of length are the International 14s. Only 14 feet long, their class rules allow for modification in design, as long as the boat remains within certain limits. As a result of refinement, they have developed sensational speed but are tricky to sail well—more so, even, than the Star. Outstanding performer in these racing machines this year was De Forest W. Trimingham of Bermuda. Shorty, as he is known to his sailing confreres, beat some of the best American "14" sailors in the Princess Elizabeth Trophy series at Bermuda last spring. Then he shipped his boat Barilea to England for the race which a 14 sailor would rather win than any other—the Prince of Wales Trophy at Weymouth on July 15.

The course was an exhausting 15 miles—five times around a three-mile triangle. It was blowing so hard that only 22 of the 43 select starters could finish. But Shorty (see cut) was on top at the end, and, for the first time since 1936 (when Colin Ratsey won for the U.S.), the Prince of Wales Trophy left England.


While the Class sailors were scrambling through weeks of local and regional eliminations, two big, graceful sloops were being preened for their July 19 match-race series on Lake Ontario. They were competing for the Canada's Cup, often referred to as "The America's Cup of the Lakes." Defending for Rochester Yacht Club was Herbert Wahl's eight-meter Iskareen, sailed by Howard Klitgord. Challenging for Canada was the eight-meter Venture II, owned by Norman Walsh and skippered by David Howard. Iskareen won the first race, but then Venture copped the next three to take the Canada's Cup back home after 50 long years.

In spite of the important and highly organized class championships and special regattas, yachting until 1952 was one of the few sports which failed to name an all-class champion. Finally the North American Yacht Racing Union organized a North American Sailing championship open to sailors of all the classes. The finals were to be sailed in different types of boats each year, with the host club supplying the boats which were to be rotated after each race so that every skipper sailed one. The winner would get the Clifford D. Mallory Cup, already one of the most prized of all sailing trophies.

After veteran Corny Shields won the first title in 1952, an unknown 18-year-old—Eugene Walet III of New Orleans—turned the trick in 1953. This year Walet survived 26 elimination races to reach the finals. Once there he mowed down an entirely different group of finalists than he beat the year before, to remain the North American Sailing champion.

Women and juniors have had their own all-class champions for years. Allegra Knapp Mertz, who took her first all-class in 1951, came back this year to win the Adams Cup and again take her place as the best woman sailor in the country. The Sears Cup races to determine the best junior (under 18) sailor in North America was won this year by Harry Jemmett of the Kingston (Ontario) Yacht Club—the first time a Canadian had ever taken the top junior trophy.

For many, the best season in years ended on a tragic note when hurricanes Carol and Edna swept up the East Coast onto jammed yacht club basins from Hatteras to Maine, sinking or damaging boats of all sizes, famous and obscure (SI, Sept. 27). But with the winter ahead for overhaul, sailors this week were already hard at work on dry land (see SI, Oct. 11) preparing for an even bigger and better season in 1955.



DAN STROHMEIER won race to Bermuda, later lost boat Malay in hurricane.



SOUTHERN CHAMPION Hoot Mon bears family resemblance to Star. Not outstanding in early races, she was modified below waterline, added canvas above to win three of four southern-circuit competitions last winter.


CUP CHAMPION was Shorty Trimingham who won Prince of Wales Trophy.


WORLD CHAMPION Carlos (Charlie) de Cardenas (above left with Carlos Jr.) won most coveted championship in World Star regatta at Cascais, Portugal. A Star sailor for 25 years, this was his first world title.




GREAT ISAAC won by C. Mitchell's Caribbee
MIAMI-NASSAU won by Hoot Mon
LIPTON CUP (at Miami) won by Hoot Mon


NEWPORT-ENSENADA won by Sirius, owned by Howard Ahmanson


CHICAGO-MACKINAC won by Edgar Tolman's cutter Taltohna
PORT HURON-MACKINAC won by Wendell Anderson's Escapade


BERMUDA won by Dan Strohmeier's Malay
STORM TRYSAIL Won by Stormy Weather


Gene Walet, III, 19, of New Orleans won Mallory Cup, youngest winner and first repeater in brief history of series.

Allegra Mertz, 41, of Rye, N.Y. took second women's title in last four years with victory in the Adams Cup.

Harry Jemmett of Kingston, Ont. won Sears Cup, first Canadian ever to take home North American Junior trophy.