The towering masts of four 12-meter yachts spreading great stretches of sail against the New England coastline this week signal the start of Final Trials for the honor of defending the America's Cup. Slicing through the Atlantic chop off Newport in search of yachting immortality, the four hulls are pure elegance in line and pure power in conception, as sure in beauty together as a court of four queens—and each worth a queen's ransom. To understand why four groups of men found it plausible to spend up to a quarter of a million dollars apiece to get these great contenders into action, one need only look at the fine excitement of the America's Cup trial racing shown on the next few pages. The men of the contenders become a part of the most scintillating gamble in the world of amateur sport. Nothing beats the surge of a big boat in a freshening blow, her spinnaker pregnant with wind, her crew alert and tense to hold it full in the breeze (see opposite), or the suspense of a close race—the slow inching ahead, first one boat and then the other, straining for advantage (see next page)—and then the sudden and yet controlled attempt to break away and get free. Forty grueling trials or more will have been the test that picks the final boat to carry our colors against the British—and the men of the contenders will have gone through them heart in mouth, sharing the depressions of defeat and the high elation of the victories. And they will have helped perpetuate a tradition whose glory list of winners goes back in unbroken succession to the yacht America in 1851. Among the winners and the losers have been millionaires skilled in sailing and millionaires who never sailed at all, free spenders and sharp traders (see page 60). The most dogged men in the pursuit have been the British, and perhaps the toughest and most dogged crew of them all sits now aboard Britain's Sceptre off Newport waiting for September 20 when the American defender will sail out to begin the fight that will decide once again who gets yachting's grail.
Slicing behind a wave, the contender "Columbia" takes of after bright-hulled "Easterner" during trials
"COLUMBIA" crew scrambles to stations to prepare for quick jibe as "Vim's" striped spinnaker looms close aboard on downwind run to finish line
"WEATHERLY" (top) shows her aquiline snout and "Easterner" her bluff stern as the crews maneuver through the last days of the trials