Sport: Won in the Tank

"They ought to haul Sceptre up for good," said a top U.S. yachtsman, "and plant geraniums in her cockpit." In the wake of Columbia's embarrassingly thorough, four-straight conquest of Britain's Sceptre by an average margin of 8 min. 43 sec.† off Newport, R.I. last week, sailing buffs asked: Why had the America's Cup races produced such an astounding mismatch?

The answer seemed to lie in the complicated formula of twelve-meter-boat design, basically the art of making improvements on existing models. U.S. Designer Olin Stephens improved on the best there was: Vim, a 19-year-old Stephens creation that swept the class back in...

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