"Waiter! Here waiter! . . . More coffee, more coffee."
This was supplemented by a visible signal - a long black arm being frantically waved to and fro.
Coffee pot in hand and with an absolutely blank expression the waiter shuffled by. He showed no indication of slowing down or altering his course. Being an efficient waiter he was a past master of the art of looking everywhere except in the direction of anyone who was trying to attract his attention. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a fleeting glance of that black arm, but it intruded upon the privacy of his thoughts. There was a sure thing in the third at Saratoga the next day. Should he bet his two bucks on the nose or to place? There was that damn arm again. There was something peculiar about it and the torso to which it was attached. He hesitated, took a second look and was lost. His curiosity got the better of him. At the risk of being unethical and a disgrace to his profession he decided that perhaps he had better serve that strange creature who had been bellowing for more coffee for the past half hour.
The strange creature turned out to be a coal black savage who, at first glance, appeared to be stark naked except for an abbreviated grass skirt tied about his middle. Closer inspection revealed the fact that he wore full length black tights and that his hands and face were covered with black makeup. The tights were not too snug a fit which gave one the impression that there might be a red flannel union suit beneath. Gold rimmed pince-nez, a big fat cigar and of all things, a high white starched collar completed the picture. Had the waiter known it, that collar was destined to become a trade mark identifying the wearer the world over. No one could ever have impersonated him because no one knew where to buy such a collar - the damn things had been out of style for about fifty years.
Having persuaded the waiter, much against the latter's will, to leave the coffee pot on the table, the cannibal king relaxed. He refilled the demi-tasse, tossed it off, and felt much better about life in general. Beside him sat the cannibal queen. Her wooly wig was a bit askew, but otherwise, except for the cigar and collar, her attire was the same. The occasion was a masquerade held in the pavilion of the Atlantic Yacht Club, Sea Gate (Coney Island) N.Y. Mr. and Mrs. Cannibal had just been awarded first prize for the most grotesque costume. They richly deserved it. It would be difficult to imagine two more unsightly human beings. The king tossed off another demi-tasse. He was fairly bubbling over with good humor.
"Mother", he slapped his spouse on the thigh, "My gad mother, but you are the homeliest woman that I ever saw. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
"And you George", said the queen, eyeing the tip, which the king was pushing reluctantly towards the waiter, "are the meanest man that ever lived."
That was the first time I ever came in close contact with Mr. and Mrs. George Corry and it made a lasting impression. No one, as yet, called them "Pop" and "Ma", but I found out later that the press had already referred to him more than once as "The Father of the Star Class."
Atlantic Week, before World War I, was one of America's really great yachting classics. It did not draw as many entries as Larchmont or Marblehead, but that was compensated for in other ways. At that, quite a number of racing yachts from the Sound participated. The club provided two big sea-going tugs, which towed down from and back to the Sound, all who wished to attend, and many availed themselves of that courtesy. That was the way they did things in those days, when J. Stuart Blackton was commodore and Sir Thomas Lipton made that anchorage his headquarters for "teaing-up" the various "Shamrocks." It is difficult to believe now, but Gravesend Bay was then quite a popular rendezvous for large yachts. Its spectator fleet of steam yachts, large power boats and auxiliaries, was every bit the equal of Larchmont's. There were also other sizable clubs on the bay: The Marine & Field, Bensonhurst, Crescent Athletic, with a yachting division, and a number of smaller clubs. They had their own Y.R.A., classes of their own and a number of classes in common with the clubs on the Sound. Combined, this resulted in turning lower New York bay, for one week of each year, into a scene of gay yachting activity.
Now do not confuse the foregoing with the deplorable attempts that were made some years later to revive this annual fixture, when the Atlantic Yacht club, in different hands, was not even a recognizable shadow of its former self. The era which I am talking about, and which few Star skippers of today remember, was in the early teens. The Star class was then new to the world of yachting. War clouds were beginning to gather over Europe, but in America life was carefree and gay, and no one as yet even suspected what horrors were in store. In those days, at Atlantic week, a guest's slightest suggestion was looked upon as a command. And do not think that the Star class, through its spokesman George Corry, did not have plenty of suggestions to offer. All I can say is that anyone who attended those race weeks, and did not have a good time, had no one but himself to blame.
The start and finish was off a high tower at the end of the club dock. When finishing, all classes were required to pass between Coney Island Point and a float called the "sea gate mark." This forced them, on the home stretch, to sail for about one hundred yards or so parallel to the shore. It made for a better finish, from the point of view of the spectator, and it also prevented the racing yachts from getting in among those at anchor. Nearly thirty years later I almost suffered what would have been my first and only disqualification in the Star class as a result of an old race circular which mentioned the "sea gate mark." A scrub fleet committee was conducting an elimination race and had handed out some of these old circulars. Where they found them I have no idea. They did not have the remotest idea of what the "sea gate mark" was, never having seen it. Feeling that there should be such a mark, they had taken it upon themselves to arbitrarily designate a white mooring buoy, way out in the middle of the bay, as this mark. It made no sense at all. When I tried to explain that there was no longer a "sea gate mark," they did not know what I was talking about. Finally I was able to make them understand that this white buoy of theirs was not described in the circular and they let me "withdraw" instead of being disqualified. It was the same old story - makeshift supplementary verbal instructions, given to some and not to others. I could have won out on an appeal, but what was the use.
As to the races in those grand old days of Atlantic Week - well, it was different. You were not sent over the conventional triangle, but given a series of buoys to round, which might make a figure eight or most any fancy design. The tide was cockeyed and ran like hell, but there was always a good breeze. To locate a given buoy out around Ambrose Channel was like trying to pick out a given fly on a well-filled piece of fly paper. Once out in the channel you were apt to run into almost anything from a submerged railroad tie, with a spike in it, to an ocean liner. The more common obstructions, however, consisted of just good old healthy New York garbage, which you had to pick your way through or push off with a whisker pole - but it was interesting.
The race committee consisted of Sam Findlay, Doc Atkinson and good old John Brophy. I suppose that there were others officially on the R.C., but those were the old reliables, whose names remain engraved on one's memory. There was a trio in whose hands a stranger felt safe, and that is quite a statement to make, for in those days a visitor usually had to beat the race committee as well as his competitors. This is not meant as a reflection upon yacht racing. It was the trend of the times and true of every branch of sport. There was always a strong local prejudice against the visitor on general principles. A ball team that won was lucky to get out of another village with no greater casualty than being hit by a few pop bottles.
But let us get back to the masquerade - Atlantic Week of 1914 was drawing to a close. We were seated at a large table over in one corner of the pavilion. By "we" I mean the Star crowd. Even in those nebulous days when there was not the visage of an organization, Star folks gathered together. They felt even then that they were a different breed of cat from the rest and I am sure that the rest felt that way about them - they thought that we were crazy and still do. I was very new to it all. Names and faces did not as yet mean much to me, although Mr. Corry had introduced me to one or two Star owners that week as Mr. Alman of New London. My name was not Alman, nor did I come from New London. I was, however, flying a New Haven Y.C. burgee - so for Pop, as I was to learn later, that was pretty close. I cannot remember who else was at that table except Sig Adler. I knew him because his powerboat "Myjess" was anchored next to my yawl "Dawn II" and also flew a New Haven burgee. He was of the famous team of Adler & O'Brian. The latter was the skipper. He was an ice boat champ but only fair in a Star.
Corry, in addition to being a consistent winner in the Star class, had made a habit of winning the masquerade prize. He was trying to tell us about the year before.
"Listen, let me tell you about mother. Listen! You, Adler, shut up," he gesticulated frantically. "Listen, will YOU PLEASE LISTEN..." "And when they gave mother the prize, they said, 'Take off your mask,' and she said, 'What do you mean? I'm not wearing a mask.'" It was an old bromide, but perhaps it really happened, because he told that story every year.
After that Mr. Corry settled down to talk Stars. That was what I had been waiting for. Being new to the Star class, I thought it best to adhere to the old principle of children being seen and not heard. I could not have been heard very well anyway, as I had a bad case of laryngitis. A drafty corner of an open air pavilion, with a northeast rain seeping in, every time the half-lowered awning flapped, was not the best place in the world to recuperate. Fortunately I did not have to make conversation, nor did anyone else. Mr. Corry was quite up to coping with that department single-handed. So I sipped old fashioneds and listened, with open mouth, to his words of wisdom - I did not know him as well as I did later. You will note that I was still thinking of him, most respectfully, as "Mr." Corry.
Seriously, there were many valuable hints, which we could have picked up, by paying more attention to what Mr. Corry had to say. He was one of the last exponents of the old rule of thumb school of skippering and those old fellows had a bag full of tricks, which any young skipper of today could use to advantage at times. There were things that they knew instinctively, which the aerodynamically minded brain trust has not even found a scientific answer for yet. When it's smooth sailing and one has plenty of time to figure out and apply one's text book knowledge, that's fine. When things begin to happen unexpectedly, however, then is the time when experience counts. It's then that a race can be won or lost by a decision that has to be made in the twinkling of an eye, and it's then that the old timer shines. He knows the answer. He does not know the reason for it, but he knows what to do and what the result will be.
To my mind George Corry was probably the greatest helmsman that ever raced in any class. Mind you, I did not say skipper, since that includes many other attributes. There is no skipper today, in any class, whose record is anywhere near as outstanding as was that of Mr. Corry during the early years of the Star class. Nor was his consistent winning confined to Stars. He did the same thing in the Bug class and in a couple of other small classes even before that. Now and then he skippered a larger yacht for some friend, a "P', "Q", "R", N.Y. thirty-foot, etc. and the result was the same. He told me once, and that was years ago, that he had won over one thousand prizes. He must, therefore, have had something on the ball. He knew very little about tuning a boat (we found that out later) and, for a good skipper, he did not keep his boat in what most of us would consider first class racing condition. He was, therefore, under a handicap to begin with. He took a boat as he found it, any boat, and he went out and won with it. He also told me once that he never read the rules, because they were just a matter of common sense and that he, therefore, knew them. When he was nearly eighty years old and had long since given up serious racing, he was loaned a Star, while a visitor, and damned if he did not win against the cream of our young skippers.
Strangely enough Mr. Corry reached the peak of his career while the Star class was still in its infancy. He was at his best in that year, 1914, when I first owned a Star. From then on he began to slip, because other Star skippers were not satisfied to go on sailing in the dark. They wanted to know the reason for things. They began hauling their boat out every week and took pride in having a perfect bottom. You heard the word "tune" much more frequently. It was not easy to tune a Star then. You could not shift your mast a fraction of an inch whenever you felt like it. It meant a half day's work to shift the mast position, but Star skippers kept working at it until they got their boats about as they wanted them. This was something that Mr. Corry never did take the trouble to do.
In that year, 1914, Corry won Atlantic week with his "Little Dipper", Star No. 17. He did not then own No. 1, as some people think. It was ten years later that he acquired No. 1 and re-named it. Commander A. B. Fry, I believe, was second. He was usually second when Mr. Corry won. It had been the same in the Bug class. The commander always looked as if he had outgrown a Star and I often wondered how they ever got him in and out of a Bug without a shoe horn. He had a system all his own. While others tried to out-sail or out guess Mr. Corry, the commander believed that useless, and just followed in the wake of the "Little Dipper." As a result he generally finished second. "Star Faraway" must hold the world's record for seconds.
Friday was to have been an off day. Some of the boys, however, intended to stay over until Saturday, anyway, for the Bensonhurst Regatta. Mr. Corry suggested a relay race between the sound and the sea. As I told you, Atlantic race committees were always open to suggestions. Just to show you how they co-operated on less than twenty-four hours' notice, they had on hand and ready to present, two sets of properly inscribed medals, by the time the said relay race was finished. Can you picture any race committee going to that much trouble today?
There may have been other relay races in yachting before or since, but if so I never heard of one. It was a publicity stunt, of course. Six new Stars had recently been delivered to Gravesend Bay and the press was all primed to give them a build-up. The new boats, however, refused to perform. Even Bill Inslee, reputed to be the most skillful tiller wiggler within smelling distance of the Coney Island hot dog stands, ended race week in about the middle. Seabury Lawrance, and no nicer guy ever lived, would have given us any sort of writeup we wanted, but the hands of the press were tied in those days. In an open regatta the big boats had to come first. They were owned by men whose names were something to conjure with in financial circles. The Star was still just one of many little classes. To play it up, you had to have a good excuse. Mr. Corry had all that figured out. The relay race would be something different. It would keep the boats near home all the time and give the cameras plenty of closeups. There would be no other conflicting news that Friday, hence the press could go to town. No matter which team won, there would be a photo of Mr. Corry shaking hands with the new owners and welcoming them into the Star class. Just what his official position was no one knew, but it was sort of taken for granted. The only thing that Mr. Corry preferred seeing in the morning paper to a picture of a Star was a picture of himself.
Now it so happened that I knew something about those six new Stars. I was at New Haven a few weeks before when they were launched. Irving Versoy let me sail two of them on their maiden spin in Morris Cove. I had just traded an Ike Smith Star for a Versoy Star, built the year before, but I would not have accepted one of those new Gravesend boats on a silver platter. They were the first Stars built with self-bailing cockpits and I hope the last. I knew mighty little about Stars then, but one touch of the helm was enough to tell me that those boats were stiff, heavy and slow. They were old apple crates. With all that extra weight and the water that slushed around in the bilge, they could not be anything else. Someone, of course, had an idea that a Star could not take the rugged waters of Gravesend Bay. Someone has had the same idea every year about some body of water, even little ponds that you could spit across. The boats looked like kayaks. The bright boy who thought up the idea has never been identified. Like most people who go in for reforms or safety measures, he overlooked a few things. One was storage space. The whisker-pole had to be kept on deck, being too long to fit in the cockpit. Once an anchor, cable and two life belts, class requirements, were put in the cockpit there was no room left for the skipper or the crew. You could not get any water out of the bilge until it was deep enough to pump out, and in a flat bilged boat like a Star, in which the limber holes never work anyway, that meant that there was always a considerable weight of water to leeward. Needless to say, all those self bailing cockpits came out before the season was over. I could have told them all this, but being a greenhorn, kept my mouth shut. It was still possible that they might prove their worth before Atlantic week was over. I had never sailed in those waters before.
The next morning, that is Friday morning, while I was at breakfast, I heard the club launch come panting alongside. I should have mentioned Charlie the launchman before. Charlie, with his handlebar mustachio, was as much of a fixture as the club house, the flag pole (a mast out of one of the famous America's Cup yachts) and the mint bed at its base. He ran that old naphtha launch from early morning to dawn the next morning, except when it caught fire - which was quite often. Some years later, when I was commodore of the Port Washington Yacht Club, we were able to acquire Charlie. He was probably the most famous launchman in yachting history. He remained at Port Washington until he died. On that day the club half masted its flag, so did the other clubs in the bay, and everyone in town went to his funeral. He had a host of friends, as he was never known to say a cross word to anyone. If he had, no one could have understood him. I had a paid hand of my own on the "Dawn II", one Olaf Hansen, who ran Charlie a close second, even to the mustachio. If I had to ask Charlie a question, I left it to Ole. When those two old squareheads started grunting at each other, it sounded like a pair of bull walruses, fighting over a fish, on an Arctic ice floe. Even the sea gulls began to screech and leave the bay.
Mr. Corry did not believe in signs, or perhaps he did. Being very yachty, we were flying the white meal pennant. Mr. Corry paid no attention to that but came aboard. He was in his morning regalia, a black and white checkered suit, high collar, black ascot tie and cigar, and a yachting cap. The latter was the only distinguishing mark between his business attire and that which he wore at the club. I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee. That was a mistake, as I had not had my second cup as yet and he finished up what was left in the pot before I got it. The object of his visit was to inform me that I was selected as one of the team of four to represent the Sound. Why he picked on me I don't know. Perhaps he thought it would impress New Haven, as the rest were from the western end of the Sound, but actually no one knew me at New Haven except Jack the bartender. He was the one who got me into the club. To make matters worse, I was to be anchor and sail the last leg against Inslee. I had beaten him during the week, but a match race was another matter. He waited for another pot of coffee to be brewed, tossed off a couple of cups and left in a flurry of enthusiasm and energy. You must not think of George Corry in those days as an old gentleman. Far from it. I never saw such a bundle of activity, but at that he was about fifty, although he certainly did not look it.
I do not recall the exact batting order. Corry sailed the first relay against "Half Moon", Chub. Corry won by a length or so, high collar, cigar and sitting bolt upright as usual. Cameras clicked and the most important part of the event was over. Ray Findlay in No. 27 and Doc Atkinson in "Murad", sailed the next two legs for Gravesend, but I am not sure in what order. I cannot remember our second man - it might have been Adler. Our third man was Commander Fry, but we were a beaten team by then. Upon crossing the finish line, a skipper had to pass or toss a flag to the next relay. The course was short. A run to the sea gate mark and a beat back to the club dock. Up to that point, the starting yacht killed its headway on the line, boom eased to starboard and the finishing one slipped under its stern from the weather side. Commander Fry had other ideas. I still do not know what they were. He bellowed at me to keep coming, so I did. He tacked right in front of my bow, his crew tossing the flag to mine. Then I got a perfect start. There was nothing on my wind - why? because my boom swept his deck and took everything with it, including Star Faraway's mast. It clipped it off as clean as a whistle. I looked back to see some three hundred pounds of indignant Naval officialdom giving his gob crew hell up Sixth street. It was all in a hopeless cause. Inslee, in "Shadow", No. 28, had several lengths lead. If there had been any appreciable distance to go, I believe I could have caught him, for No. 28, with its self-bailing cockpit, was an old crate. Bill Inslee, however, was some skipper and, although I gained plenty on the run down wind, it was no trick for him to keep me covered on that short beat home. I tried the few tricks I knew, like yelling to my crew that we were going about and not going. Inslee knew a damnsight more than I did, however. At that I almost got through him at the last moment. I sailed him in close to the dock, where the wind was a little tricky and I almost lost him. He won by one second. It was an inglorious finish. I felt very badly about the commander's mast, but could not see that it was my fault. I talked it over with Mr. Corry and he agreed with me.
And now we come to the GREATEST MOMENT in the life of every Star skipper - the WINNING OF HIS FIRST RACE. As previously explained, most everyone stayed over for the Bensonhurst Regatta. It was not part of race week but they gave good prizes. As a result they had a good entry list. That is something that yacht clubs do not understand today. They think that shooting a few guns and giving you a race is all that is required of them. They are very much mistaken. The character of the prizes determined a club's rating in a skipper's mind then and does now. I had been fighting laryngitis all week and it was winning. The question was whether I should take a taxi, go back to town and see a doctor, or take a shot at the Bensonhurst race. I should have gone ashore and got a circular, but figured I could pick one up from the Committee boat, if I decided to start. The start was about a mile away. We saw the other boats hoist sail and start over one by one. "Zete", my Star, No. 36, was astern of the "Dawn II." Ole had the sails bent on and was standing by. The temptation became too much to resist. I grabbed a quart of whiskey and started over. God, but it was hot and I had a fever.
I misfigured. The wind was light and by the time we got there, the race had started. It was too late to round up and ask for a circular. I shouted for the course and the committee shouted back. Neither I nor my crew, George Cochran, were sure as to what was said. It made no difference anyway. I would not be able to finish. He was a medical student and thought I was crazy to even attempt a start. All we had to do was follow the bunch and go where they went, as long as we could keep them in sight. "Just to make it interesting," I suggested, "let's take a drink each time we pass a boat."
It was pretty light going the first time around. We only passed two of the old apple crates and I had to cheat a bit. On the second round, the weather began to look bad. A squall was making up to the north and killing what wind there was. We passed a couple of more boats and did a bit more cheating. There were no oilers aboard and Cochran told me that I would be crazy to get wet. The leaders were bucking a strong ebb tide and having one hell of a time getting around the outer buoy. Once they rounded it, they headed right for the Narrows and the squall. Whoever got it first would be the winner. At this point I felt so bad that I finally gave in and headed back toward the Atlantic Y.C. where the "Dawn II" was anchored. I was in hopes of making it before the squall hit and we were drenched. It was so black by that time that we could no longer see the rest of the Star fleet.
We were not fifty yards from the "Dawn II", my crew being already up on deck with a line in his hand, when things began to happen. The wind suddenly came in over Coney Island Point, a fine, stiff southwester. The finish line was only about a mile away. All I had to do was ease sheet and run for it. I yelled at Ole, as we went by, to start the motor and pick me up if it began to rain. The squall was breaking up. The sun was getting low but there was still plenty of time before the time limit. The "Zete" went boiling across the line and I got my first winner's gun. I'll say this much, I made a good job of it. Looking towards the Narrows, I could see a few little white dots on the skyline. Those were the other Stars. I have no idea when they finished. The sun had set and we had finished dinner when Doc Atkinson sailed by and said that he was second. It was difficult to tell how many boats we passed on that last leg, but we played it safe and finished the quart.
No story of Atlantic week of old would be complete, or so I judged from what Mr. Corry told me, without mention being made of its anti-climax, the Whitestone Regatta. The Whitestone Yacht club was located somewhat to the east of Hell Gate. It had been the custom of the yachts returning to the Sound, after Atlantic week was over, to stop off and enter its annual regatta. That, of course, was on a Sunday. Mr. Corry talked it up, but was not able to get many to promise to stop off. The tugs agreed to drop off all who wished it, but they would not remain and take them on to Larchmont and Manhasset Bay later. You cannot blame them. The tide was wrong and they would have lost hours.
Mr. Corry persuaded me to tow his "Little Dipper", and that was no trick at all for the "Dawn II." She had an old 4 cylinder Standard that could have towed a railroad float. A dozen or more Stars would have been a cinch. In fact in the years to come, the "Dawn II" did that frequently. It became the official tow boat from Manhasset Bay to points east, on Long Island Sound, and return - that is for Stars, although we often took along a couple of N.Y. 30's and the like.
We gave Whitestone a gun and waited. In perhaps twenty minutes there was ananswering boom from the club. The tugs went by and did not even hesitate. We "must" Mr. Corry told me, go ashore, since they were expecting us. If they were, they had a strange way of showing it. I am very much afraid that Mr. Corry was thinking back to a custom that had died out many years before. Some Whitestone official greeted us, but you could see that he was ill at ease. It was like dropping in on the maid's night out. The official acted like a husband who had invited some friends to drop in, without having told his wife about it, on a Sunday afternoon, when she did not want to be bothered with visitors. All that slipped off Corry's back like water from a duck's. He took it for granted that there would be a race and those poor fellows got together somehow and held one.
It was the craziest race I ever did sail in. If you think the tides are bad in Lower New York Bay, then try racing off Whitestone. Aside from us, there was one other Star. I think it was No. 20. I do not know where it came from, nor was I ever able to find out later. It started with us, rounded the first mark and vanished. To this day, the official record on No. 20 reads "Unknown." If there ever was a ghost ship in the Star class, that was it.
Whitestone had three old Bugs of its own. Poor little unkept things, I felt sorry for them. Even Mr. Corry, their champion for years, turned his back upon them and my Star "Zete" actually blushed. The "Zete" had never seen its poor relations before, nor had I. Anyway, off we went, or at least off went "Little Dipper." Corry knew the tides there and I did not. In a few minutes I could not even read his number. He had no crew and borrowed Olaf Hansen. I naturally thought he had won, but Ole had no intention of letting him get away with it - he said Corry hit a mark. Corry said that he did and so told the race committee. The committee, however, did not seem inclined to believe him. Even if he had hit a mark, they felt he should be credited with the race. It was my second win in two days and I did not feel that way about it. We exchanged letters on the subject most of the winter and finally I received a little pewter cup, about two inches high.
There were two more years of the old time Atlantic weeks. Inslee, minus a self-bailing cockpit, had come into his own and won the next and Ed Willis won the following year. Still more Stars came down from the sound. There were boxing bouts, minstrel shows and masquerades. In the latter, Mr. Corry once more carried off the honors. This time he was an organ grinder and his crew, Billy Newman, who was only about four feet high, was the monkey. The way "Pop" treated that poor little guy was terrible. One morning he rounded up alongside my yawl, miscalculated and put a dent in her. It was his own fault, but "Pop" got so mad that he picked up a piece of rope with a knot at the end, and beat Billy over the head with it. - That was the ancient and approved method of treating crews.
There is one other incident, that I feel is worthy of note. Adrian Iselin will remember this. He is the only active Star skipper left at this writing, who raced in those days. In trying to get back across Ambrose Channel, we ran into a long tow, and I mean long. The barges had lengthened out to go to sea and I believe that tow reached back to the Narrows. It would have taken us the better part of an hour to pass. The hawsers were under water but no one knew how far or how long they would remain so. Iselin picked out, what appeared to be the middle of the line, and sailed over it. I followed. I looked back a moment later. One of the barges must have veered, for I saw that hawser lift clear off the water and shake itself. The next day the race committee made a rule against jumping tow lines, and rightfully so. There is some old saying about "Fools step in where angels fear to tread." There was no doubt in my mind as to the category in which Iselin and I belonged. If the rest of that gang, that were stuck out in the channel, on the other side of the tow, were angels, then the sounds that were wafted across the Bay was the strangest heavenly chorus I ever hope to hear.
I was destined to win the next Atlantic week, but not until after World War I. For four years there was no activity on the lower bay. The Stars held together remarkably on the Sound, in fact they increased, and they were largely responsible for reviving yacht racing after the war. But not so at Gravesend. There, like many other places, yacht racing was almost completely wiped out. Atlantic week of 1920, however, was supposed to be a gala affair. The America's Cup race of 1914, postponed because of the war, was to be sailed that year between "Resolute" and "Shamrock IV." The latter, half way across the Atlantic when the war broke out in Europe, had been towed into Bermuda and had remained there for safe keeping ever since. Now she was anchored off the Atlantic Yacht club, which Sir Tom once again designated as his headquarters. Atlantic week was shifted to July, so it could be sailed on alternate days with the America's Cup races. The eyes of all the yachting world were on New York's lower bay again.
Quite a number of yachts came down from the Sound, but no Stars among them, except mine. That was the year George Corry was sick and, without him, there was no organization or enthusiasm. Mr. Corry was up on a ladder, mending something on the roof, slipped and fell on his head. Now you may not believe this and I will not vouch for its authenticity, but, George told me that his doctor told him that had it not been for his high collar, he would have broken his neck. Because he was unable to race a Star that year, it broke his streak of consecutive years of racing. That is the only reason why I still hold the record of thirty-three consecutive years.
I expected to find some local Stars on Gravesend Bay, but there was only one - Murad, No. 24, owned by Doc Atkinson. The Doc was really quite upset. Before the series started, he took me aside and told me that he did not want to take any undue advantage of a visitor. If I preferred, I could race in the handicap division. He had worked out some sort of undersized sail area for "Murad", which he claimed would make her outclass any Star. Of course, he would be busy with the committee and his son would sail the boat, which might offset that advantage a little - it was up to me. I elected to take a chance. Well, the Doc was right, except in reverse. I never won a Star series so easily in my life. I would be finishing the second round and the race, while "Murad" was no more than a couple of hundred yards ahead of me, starting the second round. Sir Tom gave a special prize for the Stars to sail for after Atlantic week was over. The Doc came to me again. This time he wanted to know if I minded starting with the handicap division, a miscellaneous group of little craft, because his kid wanted a chance to win something. We were to count in both classes. We did and I won both. It's queer what ideas people can get about rigging Stars in some special way for their local conditions. Will they ever learn?
That was really the end of Atlantic week, as we knew it. A number of years later a Star fleet was started on Gravesend Bay and a weak attempt was made to revive this old classic. The club, however, was in different hands. Things were not the same and, probably, the less said about that the better.