Among the million or more boat owners mentioned in the introduction to our special powerboating package this week (page 21) there are a fair number from the editorial staff of this magazine. But there is one among us who does not own a boat—not at the moment, anyway—and doesn't want to. We keep him so busy jumping in and out of other people's boats that he seldom has time to think of operating one of his own. During the last couple of years, all in aid of getting stories, Staff Writer Hugh Whall has helped Skipper-Sailmaker Ted Hood win a Class A championship for his newly built yawl Robin in the annual St. Petersburg-Fort Lauderdale ocean race; has crewed aboard the 74-foot ketch, Stormvogel, which was first over the line in last year's Newport to Bermuda race; has helped Designer Charles Morgan shake the bugs out of his new Maredea in another S.O.R.C. distance race and, this spring, served as co-pilot for Howard Weiler when the latter drove a 22-foot outboard at 45 mph to take first place in the outboard division of the Great Kidney Shakedown (page 30), better known as the Miami-Nassau powerboat race. When not actually riding the waves for us, Hugh may be found on shores as widely separated as California's Lake Tahoe and Germany's K√ºchensee, filing reports of boat races as diverse as the national hydroplane championships or the grudge match between the eight-oared crews of Vesper and Ratzeburg.
Born in South Africa and educated mostly in Boston, Mass. Hugh was winning dinghy races against adults at the age of 10. As a young man old enough to know better, he was introduced to ocean sailing by an unpredictable freebooter and former spy named Dod Orsborne who somehow enticed Whall and other romantics on a cruise aboard a 75-foot ketch the purpose of which was to retrace the course of Darwin's famed Beagle. Hugh spent most of his time trying to keep the sea from reclaiming the ketch. Orsborne was later tossed in jail in Trinidad, charged with running guns from Venezuela, and Whall went to work learning the respectable side of yachtsmanship as weekend crewman and weekday handyman for American Eagle's Designer-Builder Bill Luders.
Whall's first distance race was aboard Luder's famed 40-footer Storm. Since then he has competed in many others: the Bermuda (four times), the Annapolis-Newport (four times), the Fastnet and the S.O.R.C. He has cruised the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake—and has been seasick in every one of them. After four days out on the Fastnet, minding the helm in a 60-knot blow for a skipper who believed the best medicine for a lackluster sailor was a tumblerful of whiskey drunk at a gulp, Hugh discovered that "ocean racing is the trial that prepares sailors for heaven."
It is small wonder Whall looks happy when—on rare occasions—the editors of SI say to him: "How would you like to forget boating for a week or so and cover a sports-car race?"