Skip to main content
Original Issue


Big business had another time of triumph last week, the occasion being the award presentations following the longest, hardest, most exciting ocean races of the year. It was almost like the turn of the century, when the old robber barons matched yacht against yacht, and threw tremendous postrace parties for the purpose of giving each other homely pieces of silverware. The difference was that last week, the baron had lost some of his baronial glitter. He now had become a businessman sailor, whose boat and postrace entertainment, while still quite handsome, were on a far more modest, tax-reduced scale than those of the late railroad period.

There was a difference, too, in the way some of last week's winners went about their yachting. Most noticeably absent were the platoons of paid hands that used to maintain in isolated splendor the towering sloops of the 1900s.

For example, when Richard Nye first filed his entry for the recent Newport, R.I. to Sweden race, he didn't even have a boat. He had one a building in a yard in Hamburg, Germany, a 53½-foot yawl to be called Carina; but as race time drew near, there was a reasonable doubt whether the stocky Wall Street broker, whose square chin and sturdy strut make him look more like an old minor league catcher, would ever get to the starting line.

A month before the race, Carina was still an unfinished hull in Hamburg. Two weeks later, on May 27, she finally arrived in New York on a freighter. With only 14 days to go, Carina was at Kretzer's yard on City Island, her interior still unfinished, much of the equipment not yet installed, and her rigging not yet made.

Somehow everything got done. With Nye, a short cigar clamped between his teeth, scurrying around to check various items as they were installed, Carina slowly became a boat. Six days before the race her sails were bent on for the first time and then she headed for Newport.

The crew was almost as green as the ship. They averaged only 24 years, and the navigator, 24-year-old Bill Gray, had never before navigated in a race. But as Carina plunged across the starting line, along with the six other entries, she had the look of a solid racer that could take plenty of salt water under her keel.

An hour after the start, however, Carina lost sight of the rest of the fleet; and the next day things started to happen. With a loud crack one of the two big spinnakers blew into tatters. A few hours later the other big parachute split; and Carina had to lose time running under her small spinnaker while the crew laboriously mended the tear.


As Carina moved farther into the North Atlantic the weather got worse. The wind rose until it hit 70 mph. Waves built up to 20 feet, and one comber, crashing aboard, stove in the ventilator of the main dining room. In the middle of all this the toilet broke down. And a little later, a halyard parted. With Carina plunging like a sea lion in the North Atlantic swells, Navigator Gray climbed the mast three different times trying to free the line.

Eighteen days out of Newport with Sweden almost in sight, the wind dropped from gale force to practically nothing, and Carina limped along in the Skagerrak for two days, her crew bored to death, certain they had lost the race. Twenty days out they picked up some light air, and before dawn on July 2, Carina slipped across the finish line at Marstrand, Sweden. A reception boat full of officials of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club motored out to meet the American yawl.

Through the early morning darkness the officials hailed, "What ship?"

"Carina," came back the answer.

Then, and only then, did Dick Nye, by now sporting a Hemingway beard, learn that his was the first boat to finish. No other boat had yet been sighted, and with his handicap of 27 hours 37 minutes 9 seconds, he was certain to take the race on corrected time.

Last week, in Stockholm, the beard gone, Skipper Nye stood up at the anniversary dinner of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club to receive from Princess Margrethe of Denmark a wagonload of trophies. For being first finisher, he got the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy. For winning the race, he got the King Gustaf VI Adolf Cup, the Gothenburg Sailing Club prize, and the Chairman of Swedish Sailing Club prize.

Nine thousand miles away in Honolulu, another American businessman, Ira Prentiss Fulmor, an air-conditioning executive on the West Coast, was picking up his share of silverware for winning another rough transocean race—the 2,225-mile dash from San Pedro, Calif. to Honolulu. Like Nye, Fulmor is a tough, solid sailing man. All similarity ends there. Where Nye charged off into the North Atlantic with a green crew and a boat so new you could still smell the varnish, Fulmor sailed an 18-year-old boat manned by old hands (two, like himself, were grandfathers) and planned his race like a scientist breaking down a chemical compound. Six months before the race, Fulmor announced to his wife Dorothy and his four children that their ketch Staghound was no longer available for family cruises. From then until the start, July 4, Staghound was groomed for the race. A week before the start, Staghound's navigator, a Coast Guardsman named Bob Leary, started accumulating weather data and planning three alternate sailing plans, each keyed to different weather possibilities.


When she went to the line July 4 against 52 crack deep-water racers, Staghound was as ready as any boat will ever be. She had to be. Arrayed against here were the likes of James Michael's 72-foot Baruna and Richard Rheem's 98-foot ketch Morning Star, holder of the Pacific record of 10 days 10 hours 13 minutes 9½ seconds from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Fulmor, in spite of all his careful planning, began the race with a bad guess. Gambling on heavier winds above Catalina Island, he worked north while most of the fleet headed out to sea. The wind up north was no better, and Staghound lost a precious hour before she finally turned west. Once into the trades, there was more than enough wind for everyone. Gusts over 30 mph rolled up the long Pacific swells and sent Staghound's crew tumbling to the rails.

"For three days," said Fulmor, "all the cook could sell was bouillon and crackers." Fulmor had to lash himself into a bunk when he wanted to sleep. "It was so bad my insides were sloshing around, and I finally gave up trying to sleep." But the roughest test came over the last five days, when rainsquall after rainsquall hit Staghound and shook her as a terrier shakes a rat.

Rough as it was, however, Staghound took it all. While her competitors were blowing out spinnakers, seeing gear carried away, and in the case of Peter Grant's Nalu, fishing out a crew member who was swept overboard, Staghound sailed a tight, careful race. A 39-footer with relatively broad beam, she had one of the highest time handicaps—90 hours—in the fleet. She had no hope or illusions of arriving off Diamond Head in front of the bigger boats. In fact, very few sailboats in the world could have reached Honolulu as fast as Morning Star did in this race. Sweeping up to Diamond Head at five minutes after midnight on July 14, Morning Star burst like a ghost ship into the searchlight beam reaching out along the finish line. Her time: 9 days 15 hours 5 minutes and 10 seconds—the fastest ever recorded for the race.

Staghound was still well out to sea, but far enough up in the fleet so that, with her handicap, she had only to hold together to win. She did, taking the transpacific race for the second time in a row, and even bettering her 1953 winning time by four hours.

This, however, was not the end for America's businessmen-yachtsmen. In contrast to the drenching, drawn-out battles fought by Nye and Fulmor was the leisurely triumph enjoyed by a third executive, Walter Gubelmann, a corporation director from Long Island, N.Y. and equitable owner of the yawl Windigo (SI, June 13).


Gubelmann does his sailing in the manner grand. Instead of holding Windigo under direct ownership, he has her registered as property of the Realty and Industrial Corporation of Convent, N.J., of which he is president. Instead of sailing Windigo to Sweden, Gubelmann had her shipped over on a freighter, and there received by a professional captain named Magnus Johnsen. Gubelmann and his wife flew over later to join the party.

Once aboard his boat, however, Gubelmann is all sailor. In the Gotland race, a 350-mile affair in the Baltic Sea, Gubelmann took on 107 of the best boats from Europe and America. He got his boat off to an excellent start, and in the light air of the Baltic, handled her masterfully. "We strained every nerve watching for the tiniest ripple," he reported later, "and nursed the spinnaker like a child."

His delicate touch paid off, and on the evening of July 19, gentle Sportsman Gubelmann stood up beside hard-rock Skipper Nye to get a King Gustaf VI Adolf Trophy of his own for winning the Gotland race.

There was one more notable sailing triumph by a businessman last week. Norman (Nubby) Sarns, 42-year-old machine-tool executive of Mt. Clemens, Mich., jockeyed his 40-foot sloop Revelry through fog and flat calms to win the 333-mile Chicago-Mackinac, most important fresh-water race in the world. However, Nubby Sarns was making no claims to being a great sailor; "I let the crew handle her. I went into the galley and provided the best meals a sailor on a small sloop ever ate. I only take credit for keeping the crew in fuel for the ordeal."