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'Tribute to Yachting Triumphs' a Winning Display

July 24, 1996|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

"Tributes to Yachting Triumphs," an exhibit featuring more than 50 trophies in categories including ugliest, oldest and rarest, runs at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum through Nov. 4. The display marks the 100th anniversary of Southern California sailing.

In the ugliest category--decorated with dentures and bridgework--is the "Bite Them Before They Bite You Perpetual Angler Award for Those Who Show More Daring Than Good Sense in the Pursuit of Fish." Impressive in other ways is a trophy incorporating an 18th century Italian sterling silver galleon, awarded to the winner of the Marina del Rey-Puerto Vallarta race.

Perhaps the most prestigious cup on display is the Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Cup, an ornate winged victory about 3 feet tall, dating to 1904 and recently won for the fifth consecutive year by Newport Beach resident David Ullman.

A photo of the 1932 gold medal-winning U.S. sail team unfortunately doesn't include crew member and Newport Beach resident Richard Moore, who couldn't get out of a final exam at UCLA to keep the photo appointment. "If I could do it over again," Moore says now, "I wouldn't have stayed for the test." He's one of two surviving team members.

John Biby, who also lives in Newport Beach, can be seen in the photo, top row at left, closest to the mast of the Angelita, the vessel that won in the 8-meter class; there's a scale model of the boat on display, but Biby is unimpressed.

"I don't think this is really a good model," Biby says. "This boat seems to be much longer and narrower than Angelita. I have a hull model at the house if you'd like to see what the difference is."

Moore agrees: "There's something off on the proportion," he says, "like a girl I knew one time."

But then, the display may be intended more for those who know less about sailing than Biby and Moore. Every facet of the sport is painstakingly explained, every term defined, right down to port and starboard--the left-hand side of a vessel looking forward, and the right-hand side, respectively. Gery Conser's photographs illustrate the show.

Museum director Shelly Smith doesn't deny the elitist aspect of the sport; in fact, she says that's what inspired the exhibit.

"How many yachting trophies have you seen in your lifetime? None," Smith says, answering her own question with absolute accuracy. "You're in the majority. We wanted to bring these trophies out of the clubs, out of the inner sanctum, so people could get some sense of the grandeur."

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