Successful ploy by a master gamesman

Bus Mosbacher, skipper of the victorious America's Cup defender 'Weatherly,' tells how—and why—he ordered a surprising change of sails in the crucial fourth race
October 07, 1962

In the recently concluded America's Cup series there were three key decisions which cost the Australian boat her chances of being the first challenger ever to win the cup. In the first race Gretel lost out when precious minutes were wasted sailing on an unnecessary tack. Then, after winning the second race in the heavy winds which favored the Australians, they declined to race the next day, passing up not only a psychological edge over the shaken defenders but also a second afternoon of strong breezes to take a sound drubbing in a drifting match the following day. But it was a maneuver in the fourth race {diagramed at right) that did the most to keep the cup in the United States. "If they had won that race they could have won the America's Cup," said the defending skipper, Bus Mosbacher of Weatherly. "We would have been two races each and psychologically even. Gretel is too fast and her crew were learning too much about her every day." The triangularcourse that day favored Gretel, whose superiority across and down the wind had been proven in her first victory. "We had them at the weather mark by 1:26," said Mosbacher, "but they cut that in half on the reach. Around the second mark it was apparent they were still gaining, and also climbing up to windward. They were obviously better than we were under spinnaker and we had to do something to stay ahead. So we set our genoa to be able to force them too high if they tried passing us to weather, and with the apparent wind so far ahead we didn't believe they would be able to get through to leeward of us.

"When we switched sails, Gretel did what I would have done, she followed suit, changing from spinnaker to jib, and began to lose the ground she had gained. But the wind abated and swung around behind, so 11 minutes later her crew finally reset the spinnaker and fell off to try to pass to leeward and also to avoid being forced too high to fetch the line. They were gaining again and it looked as if they might get through our lee, so we set a spinnaker again and sailed a course for the downwind end of the line to cut them off. They had to get back up, and they did, crossing our wake once, sagging down and coming back up again. Just as we came to the line, they were sitting there on our transom. Twenty-six seconds, that's too close for comfort."

Had Gretel carried her spinnaker the entire time she might very well have won. But from the challenger's point of view, the reason for changing sails was psychological, not tactical. "They made us douse the spinnaker," admitted Magnus Halvorsen, a member of Gretel's, afterguard. "They knew we couldn't make time under our genoa, so they made us use it. We thought they had gotten a wind shift forward. By the time we realized we had been tricked it was too late. We couldn't catch up, even with the chute. It was only 26 seconds—and we lost at least that much time in the 11 minutes we spent sailing the race their way."

Whatever the reasoning, the Mosbacher way was, as usual, the winning way. The incomparable American skipper proved once more that there is a lot more to match racing than having a fast boat.

DIAGRAM

WIND 15 KNOTS DUE SOUTH

3:31:25
LEADING BY 48 SECONDS, WEATHERLY MAKES SLOW SPINNAKER JIBE AROUND MARK

3:32:13
GRETEL EXECUTES PERFECT JIBE ROUNDING MARK

Weatherly (Blue)
Gretel (White)

WIND SWINGS WEST OF SOUTH

3:45
WEATHERLY STRIKES SPINNAKER

3:46
GRETEL SETS JIB FLYING, STRIKES SPINNAKER

3:57
GRETEL RESETS SPINNAKER, FALLS OFF TO LEEWARD. WEATHERLY PREPARES SPINNAKER POLE, WORKS UP TO WINDWARD

WIND ABATES, AND BACKS EAST OF SOUTH

4:12
WEATHERLY SETS NEW SPINNAKER GRETEL TRIMS SAILS AND COMES UP WEATHERLY LUFFS

SECOND MARK
WIND DUE SOUTH
TRUE WIND
APPARENT WIND
TRUE WIND
APPARENT WIND

FINISH

4:27:28
WEATHERLY FINISHES

4:27:54
GRETEL FINISHES

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)