"If I had to have a certain photo or lose my job," says Picture Editor George Bloodgood, "I'd probably send Jim Drake. He's one of the most versatile photographers we've got and he's the only quiet photographer we've got." Drake has demonstrated his adaptability by covering a wide variety of sports for us with still cameras and making two SI documentary movies, one on the Penn Relays and the other on the Roller Derby. And he is indeed a quiet, well-mannered Philadelphian, though on his latest assignment—photographing the newest in boats (page 40)—he justifiably came close to having a screaming fit.
Drake and Reporter Rose Mary Mechem spent almost four months in the wet wake of new pleasure craft, and in the process wrecked one motorized Nikon camera, seriously damaged two others and were frustrated by some of the foulest weather since Noah found it necessary to build his ark.
Our editors wanted the pictures before summer, so Jim began shooting in mid-December near Minneapolis, with the thermometer reading 20° below zero. Rose Mary found it impossible to keep up with the logistics from New York and joined Drake at most locations, spending every evening on the phone making or changing appointments as the weather dictated. Naturally, they were in Los Angeles in January during that city's heavy deluge and in Hawaii the day hail fell on Honolulu. By conservative estimate, Rose Mary made 1,000 phone calls to set up sessions with 80 owners and their boats.
One rough, windy day in Honolulu they were getting desperate about their deadline and persuaded the very reluctant skipper of a Pacific Catamaran to go sailing. The poor man untied one line and the boat went zooming off, the remaining line jerking the cleat right off the dock. "I didn't even have film in the camera yet, and the boat had capsized," said Drake. "From that point on we decided to take the sailors' advice."
June 1, 1969
Wherever they went—Vancouver, San Francisco, Miami, Cypress Gardens—they were fascinated by the sailors' stories, but sailing men are so avid for their sport and concentrate so hard that they're always interrupting themselves to yell something like "Sassafras the fortisan!" and never get around to finishing the tales. "Somewhere out on the lakes and seas are all those half-finished stories floating around," says Rose Mary.
As the deadline approached, Drake had another problem—his wife, Jean, was about to give birth to their first child. The fruit of both labors—the 18 pages of photographs (plus cover) and Christopher Drake, who arrived not long after Jim made the last film shipment—were evidently gratifying to all concerned.