Publish date:


Because this issue contains the first salvo of our 1980 America's Cup coverage—Coles Phinizy's report on the American boats, beginning on page 28—we thought you might like to hear a little about the hand at the helm of our own Cup campaign. Senior Editor Julia Lamb was not, admittedly, born and raised within the sound of crashing breakers and mournful foghorns, though 11 years as our boating reporter, including four America's Cups, have given her a solid grounding in the sport. Lamb is a native of Michigan, N. Dak., a typical small farming town marked by grain elevators and a water tower rising above the rolling prairie. Michigan was founded and named by Lamb's great-grandparents, who trekked to the wilds of Dakota Territory about 100 years ago from, logically enough, the state of Michigan.

"My Michigan ancestors were freshwater sailors," says Lamb. "They sailed on freighters that plied the Great Lakes in the 19th century, hauling iron ore, grain, coal and timber between such ports as Duluth, Port Huron, Mich., Milwaukee and Sault Sainte Marie." Although Lamb's grandfather had served for a couple of years as a common seaman on a freighter captained by his uncle, the V.H. Ketcham—in 1870 the largest boat on the Great Lakes—his nautical career was cut short when the family picked up stakes and headed for the grasslands of Dakota. Later in life, Grandfather Lamb became a banker, but he retained his interest in sailing and sometimes in the summer would take time off from the ledger books and deposit slips to sail a little catboat on Lake Loretta, a body of water a mile or two long, one of the glacial "potholes" that dot eastern North Dakota. Like most glacial lakes, Loretta lacked a steady source of fresh water and, thus, varied in size from year to year. "When a lot of snow fell the previous winter, the lake was big," says Lamb. "No snow, the lake was small and the sailing lousy. Some years the lake completely disappeared." But when conditions were right, on a warm summer's day Lamb's grandfather could be found tacking back and forth across Lake Loretta in the constant prairie wind.

Lamb's other major editing assignment is skiing, and in this regard her past has not been all clear sailing. She points out, "There's very little downhill in North Dakota. Or uphill, either." Lamb learned a lot on her first try at skiing some years ago, shortly after she moved East. Friends insisted that the best way for her to acquire an understanding of the sport was to ride to the top of a mountain and simply ski down. That seemed perfectly logical to Lamb, so she rode the lift to the top of Vermont's Mount Bromley, from where, she had been informed, one could see five states. Lamb missed the view. She tripped on her skis stepping out of the chair lift and fell on her face. "I struggled to my feet," she says, "and was knocked cold from behind by the next chair. Do I still ski now, you ask?"

Compared with that experience, handling this year's America's Cup coverage from behind a desk should be all downhill.