When the Olympic sailing events get under way off Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay, the 5.5-meter class will be the top boat. In 1952 Dr. Britton Chance of Philadelphia took that gold medal, upsetting the experienced Europeans. Our 1956 skipper, Ensign Andy Schoettle of Mantoloking, N.J., sailing with Owner Vic Sheronas aboard Rush IV, beat Dr. Chance in this year's Olympic 5.5-meter trials. Ensign Schoettle has sailed his boat for over a year, knows her well and is a very coolheaded young man in a race, a prime requirement for a winning skipper.
The 5.5-meter is a European class, however, and there is plenty of European talent for Ensign Schoettle to worry about. The Rush IV was bought from the Swedes in 1955, and it's a good bet that they have been working to come up with a better hull since then. At the moment, the Swedes are counting on Lars Th√∂rn in Rush V to take the honors. Next door to them the Norwegians, who won the European 5.5 Gold Cup championship this year, have an equally dangerous competitor in Peder Lunde. The Russians are an unknown quantity in the 5.5 picture. They have the largest fleet of this class in the world, all built very recently, and may be in a position to give the established sailing countries a run for the money.
The second largest boat in the 1956 Olympics are the Dragons. Norway's Tor Torvaldson, two-time winner of this class in the Olympics, is an acknowledged favorite, but the U.S. has an extremely sharp sailor in Gene Walet of New Orleans, who has an unprecedented record in the annual North American Men's Championship, having reached the finals three times and won twice. He hadn't been sailing Dragons more than a few months when he went to the U.S. trials and whipped all hands in the class. Like the 5.5-meter class, however, the Dragon is primarily a European boat, and Walet will have his hands full against the competition-hardened Dragon sailors from across the Atlantic.
The Star boats are a truly international fleet, with 3,800 boats around the world. Americans have always numbered among the top skippers but Cuba's entry of Carlos de Cardenas must be reckoned far the strongest. Cardenas has twice won the world Star championships, and is considered peerless in a Star boat. Close on his heels is the Italian, Agostino Straulino. The American entry is Herbert Williams of Chicago, an outstanding sailor in national Star class meets.
In the two-man 12-square-meter Sharpie, Holland had the top entry but the Dutch have withdrawn from the Games. The United States is sending Eric Olsen of Essex, Conn., a wily sailor who has the know-how to pull an upset.
In the one-man Finn Monotype, Paul Elvstrom of Denmark is head and shoulders above practically all comers. The Dane trains like a champion gymnast for the acrobatics demanded by the tricky hull. Marblehead, Mass. is supplying the U.S. entry, John Marvin, who came out the winner of the longest and most strenuous series of Olympic sailing trials held by the U.S.
Julian Roosevelt, manager of this year's team and a two-time Olympic sailor himself, summed up the U.S. team by saying that it is "the best we have ever sent. With a little luck, we could do very well."
CARLOS DE CARDENAS OF CUBA