SOME people seem to think I should grow excited about that yacht down under that may bring the old mug back to the Yorkers. I restrain myself. I think the price of a pink spinnaker would buy a lot of pretty frosted cakes for certain people who have no bread, and I well know that a yacht race has all the spectator excitement to be had watching somebody shell a bushel of green peas. We sit here by the bounding main and watch the summer mahogany come, and then after it has fouled enough lobster warp it goes, and it doesn't leave anything much to sustain us into the dull drear of the declining year - we are able to pass a pleasant Maine winter without yachts. Besides, I took part in the International Yacht Races back when they were good fun, and I'm not tuned to the do-or-die, all-for-blood, no-holds-barred, gladiator attitude of today's cup racers.
In my early time I shared the sorrow of losing with Sir Thomas Lipton. That was in 1920, lo and behold, and our failure led to Lady Tree's fairly subsequent observation that there's many a slipton 'twixt the cup and the Lipton. Sir Thomas was a good sport and took his Shamrock IV home with a shrug, not saying if we would runneth over another time.
It was the Resolute that defended the America's Cup against the challenge of Shamrock IV, but the Resolute won the honor by defeating the Vanitie down Newport way. I was owner of the Vanitie.
I hasten to elucidate: My cousin Laura and I were about of an age, and we became yachting rivals as a consequence of the Resolute and Vanitie trials. It was quite a thing for us to swing. Sir Thomas Lipton had set up the largest commercial establishment in the United Kingdom and had the advantage of buying anything he wanted in his own stores at cost. He could build a new Shamrock every so often and charge off all expenses, but we had to plunk down the hard cash. Win or lose, Sir Thomas got the worldwide free advertising all the same, whereas once the race was over our investment was total loss. So we did proceed frugally.
We (Laura and I) meant to hold our races in Grandmother's rain barrel, but she caught us at it. The water for both house and barn had to be lifted by crank and rope from a deep well, so a rain barrel saved on muscles, and a house rule told the youngsters to respect rainwater and neither defile nor r'il it.
Our yachts were made of birch bark we peeled from green sticks on the woodpile, and to all eyes except those of true believers they looked like toy birch canoes. We sewed them with Aunt Liddy thread from Grammie's sewing cabinet, and we launched them in the rain barrel to see if they would float. Laura had the Resolute, and I had the Vanitie. But Grandmother had eyes in the back of her head, and she shouted, ``Get out-a that rain bar'l!'' So our International Yacht Race trials were moved to Finnegan's brook, which ran through the pasture, and we held four trial races.
Finnegan's brook had a considerable pool just before it went under the Leighs' bridge, and Laura and I assembled. In those days a yacht race was folksy, and we weren't mad at each other and we didn't consider each other archenemies. The first trial race was won by my Vanitie. For the second race, Laura changed tactics, but Vanitie won again. Two up, I expected a sweep but was defeated by Resolute in the third race. It was getting along in the afternoon now, so we postponed further competition until another day, taking our yachts back to Grammie's house, where we told her what great fun we were having. She said we could have all the yacht races we wanted to so long as we kept out of her rain bar'l.
The morrow was a lovely day. After breakfast we did the small chores meant to remind grandchildren that chores have to be done, and then Laura and I raced for the brook, yachts in hand. We allowed the Resolute and the Vanitie a few practice exercises before we lined them up for a fair start, and Laura (being the older) went through the intery-mintery-dibbety-fig-delia-nelia-nom-manig-etc., saying ``GO!'' properly, and off went the Resolute and the Vanitie for race four.
But a freak breeze struck. It never touched the Resolute, but it whipped my Vanitie down the pool, under the bridge, across the McEachern millpond, over the dam, and down the brook into the Atlantic Ocean, never to be reported. Which explains why the Resolute, and not the Vanitie, took on Shamrock IV that summer.
But Australia doesn't have money enough to buy the fun Laura and I had.