Newport, R. I., Sept. 25--T. O. M. Sopwith and his sloop Endeavour lost today's America's Cup race with Harold Vanderbilt because he strayed far from the course on the second leg.
The critics blasted him unmercifully for his stupidity.
As an unbiased observer I would like to take up endgels for Mr. Sopwith, for his deviation from the straight and narrow was not because of faulty navigation, but because of a very human error. Mr. Sopwith mistook the clothesline of the official yacht Wilhemenia, for the Wilhemenia's course signal.
The Signals Hang
As you know, shortly before an America's cup race starts, the "Wilhemenia" after a careful study of the winds and tides, runs up flags which, when interpreted, indicate the course for the day. For example, a yellow flag means southeast; a green one, north by south, and a pink one, south by southeast. The skippers of the competing yachts train their binoculars on these and so set their course.
Today the Wilhemenia, which has been at sea nearly two weeks, had to hang out the wash to day. Unfortunately, Mr. Sopwith arrived on the scene of the battle early, and mistook the clothesline for the course flags. From a highly un authoritative source, I learned that Mr. Sopwith plotted his day's run from (1) a pair of basketball bloomers that one of the sailors insisted on wearing for his setting up exercises, (2) a bandana handkerchief used for wiping the moter, (3) a Navajo blanket, and (4) a pair of purple-striped shorts.
It was the purple-striped shorts that did the mischief. Looking in his code book, Mr. Sopwith found (so I am told) that a purple-striped ensign with white piping meant the second leg was to be East by East eat more yeast East is East never the twain shall meet East by East.
Mr. Sopwith, it is said, doubted this direction, for a study of his speedowave chartabambam (correct) and a quick glance at the dog star, the North star and the Paramount star, convinced him that such a course could land him only in the head waters of the Amazon.
To The Amazon
Knowing, however, that the official committee never made a mistake (except perhaps in refusing his protest of Saturday) he took stock of his equipment to see if he was fitted out for an Amazonian expedition. He was. There were thirty-one heads on board in case head-hunters were encountered; there was a bolt of bright blue gingham for exchange purposes, and, best of all, a mandolin player who could soothe the savage breast if the savage breast got savage.
So, when the starting run was fired he lit out. Luckily, the pair of basket ball bloomers was identical with the proper flag flown later by the committee beat. So he was dead right on the first ten miles. But on the second he went decidedly haywire, heading out to sea at right angles to the true course. None of the experts could figure what he was going. Some suggested he was going fishing; others said he was seeking a quiet place for a picnic lunch, with olives and devilled eggs and everything. Still others said he was simply a poor navigator and skipper.
I didn't say anything. The way I figured was that it was his boat and he was over twenty-one. Besides, if he lost everybody would get out of Newport tonight while they were still partially sane.