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Eye on the Wind


An ocean race is a time of no rest. The fresh headwinds of morning die to fitful zephyrs in the midwatch. And though the boat may be alone on a vast circle of ocean, the man at the wheel must keep his eyes on the sails, and his watch-mates must be ready to change and trim sails to meet every shift. On these and the following pages Photographer Richard Meek, who was on board the 72-foot yawl Escapade for the seven-day Miami-to-Jamaica race, records tension, strain—and beauty—as Escapade moves forward, morning and evening, to her eventual, deserved victory.

In the middle of the night helmsman Don Ayres (left) peers upward at the masthead to see if the sails are full and drawing. On the morning watch Peter Bowker (right) keeps up the never-ending scrutiny as the ship heels to a strong breeze.

Halfway from Miami to Jamaica, crewman Jack Suiter (left) hangs on above the rush of water as he inches forward to clear a line for the men on the winch. With the line clear, Peter Bowker and Ray George heave on the winch, trimming the headsails to keep the big yawl driving.

Getting ready to jibe, the foredeck crew secures a spinnaker pole to its steel track, creating a forceful pattern of straining arms and taut lines with the upward thrust of the mast.

In the predawn darkness, a rise in the wind brings the watch scrambling on deck to haul down the billowing drifter (left). Next day the breeze has vanished, and the helmsman and one drowsy companion slump in the cockpit, waiting for a breath of air to get the boat moving again.