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Sport: The Lucky Gamblers

2 minute read

The Newport-to-Bermuda race this year looked like a tossup between the two big B’s. One was Henry Taylor’s slick 72-ft. blue yawl Baruna, 1938 and ’48 winner. The other was the boat built to beat her: black-hulled Bolero, the 73-ft., $150,000 pride of John Nicholas Brown, once “richest baby in the world,” sometime Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air. When the record fleet of 54 racing yachts skimmed past the starting mark at Brenton Reef Lightship last week, Baruna and Bolero were all the talk. William Moore’s 57-ft. yawl, Argyll, last of the bigger craft to reach Bermuda in 1948, was just one of the 54.

For the first 18 hours, Bolero and Baruna boomed along together, both reaching to the westward of the course line until they hit the Gulf Stream, where navigators count on the northeasterly drift to carry them back to basic course. Early on the second morning of the race the two big B’s parted company. Baruna slid eastward over the horizon, Bolero slogged along at 10 knots through heavy rain and spray.

Aboard Argyll there was uncertainty about the boat’s exact position. The overcast, all through the first day & night, made sun and star sights impossible. Next morning Navigator Edward Greeff knew he was far off his dead reckoning course. When the sun finally broke through, Greeff found that Argyll was 17 miles too far to the east. But it turned out to be a lucky break. Skipper Moore close-hauled Argyll for the long reach to Bermuda, with a stiff breeze carrying them along. Then heavy seas made Moore slack off a bit and “we just let her run.”

Next day, 285 miles off Bermuda, they passed out of the Gulf Stream, headed on a gambler’s course calculated to carry them close to the island, hoping to catch the steady southwest wind prevailing around Bermuda. The gamble paid off. In the early morning hours, Argyll slipped across the finish line. Bolero, smartly sailed, had taken a shade over 75½ hours for the 635-mile race, set a new Newport-Bermuda course record. But Argyll, which rated a 9-hr, and 40-min. handicap, won by better than an hour on corrected time.

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