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Original Issue

Smile of champions

All this summer, while the eyes of the sports-minded were focused on the drama of the America's Cup, the nation's small-boat skippers, class-boat enthusiasts like the smiling champions shown on these pages, carried on the busiest sailing season to date. Class boats are, by definition, boats of a kind, and wherever two or three boats of a class are gathered together, a sail-off will soon follow. Multiply this by several thousand and you have a national pattern of sail-offs that start early in the season to pick the best of the class in every yacht club, the best of the class in every district and, finally, the best sailor in each class in the country.

Their portraits show that for class-boat sailors the final victory brings a fine elation: they have all spent more money than they like to think about to get designers to make that ultimate, ideal boat which has no peer, and more time than they can afford on strenuous racing circuits where giving up weekends is only a beginning. And they do it on the chance of becoming that single, smiling sailor, the champion of the class—or, even more happily—an over-all North American champion.

As a salute to the class-boat skippers, whose appetite for competition gives the U.S. a deep, continuing reserve of some of the finest sailors in competition anywhere, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents its gallery of sailing champions—and a handsome gallery it is—together with a roundup of U.S. winners in the major classes (see opposite), a coast-to-coast honor roll of American skippers.

Nancy Meade, 35, housewife sailor of the Rye, N.Y. American Yacht Club, lost in five previous finals ("It was getting to be a little embarrassing") before she won this year's North American Women's Championship off Chicago Yacht Club and with it the cherished Adams Cup plus cheers from husband John Meade and three children, aged 7, 5 and one.

John Wolcott, 25, computer engineer from Bridgeport, Conn. (Quassapaug Yacht Club), while he was a Cornell undergraduate laid out full-size Snipe in his fraternity room, finished hull off in rented loft, graduated and then sailed the hull to victory against a fleet representing 2,000 U.S. Snipes. Now he's building himself an ocean sailboat.

Bob Mosbacher, 31, independent oil producer of Houston (Texas Corinthian Yacht Club), and brother to Bus Mosbacher, famed skipper of America's Cup contender Vim, added more silverware to family shelf by challenging and toppling best U.S. men in Mallory Cup competitions at American Yacht Club.

Kevin Jaffé, 16, of Darien, Conn. (Noroton Yacht Club), was top junior sailor on the Atlantic Coast, went on to Vancouver, B.C. and won three of eight races, enough to bring Sears Cup Junior North American Championship back East. His crew included one 16-year-old girl "good at setting spinnakers."

Ernest Fay, 44, shipyard owner from Houston, kept leathery Texas grip on Scandinavian Gold Cup world championship won last year by fellow Corinthian YC member Bob Mosbacher.

Harry McGuane, 40, wood veneer distributor of Seattle (Seattle Yacht Club), left ocean racing two years ago to crew on his first six-meter. With two friends he bought a 20-year-old hull (it sank when first launched), picked up a hot crew and learned so much so fast that at Victoria, B.C., in spite of three terrible starts (last each time), he ran off a first and two seconds against newer hulls to win the North American six-meter championship.

Bill Ficker, 30, house designer from Newport Harbor, Calif. and a career Star boat sailor, known for his ability to put satin-smooth paint finish on a boat, vainly hauled his shiny hulls to championships at Seattle, Chicago and Havana over long succession of years, finally made experience pay off this year when he sailed off with the prized gold star of the world Star champion at San Diego regatta, practically in Ficker's own backyard.