Another finish spectator was excited too. He leaped to the cabin top of the launch he was riding, waved his cap and shouted, “Well sailed, Niña! I congratulate you. I am the King of Spain.”
And so Niña has had a long career of causing furores and gaining respect. From a “rule beater” and a “small boat,” she has evolved into the champion of the traditionalists and the savior of the big boats. The excitement surrounding her entry into Hamilton Harbor was equally as high-pitched as her arrival off Santander 34 years ago, even without royalty to greet her. Officials of the Royal Bermuda YC hastened out to welcome her as she powered through Two Rock Passage into the anchorage. At the same time she was only a strong possibility as a winner and smaller boats had a chance to catch her, but there was a growing feeling that she had done it, and the crowd watching the results being posted on the RBYC bulletin boards cheered every time a new batch of finishers failed to dislodge the old girl.
Finally, shortly after midnight, early Thursday morning, when Lancetilla II, the top time allowance boat, had failed to finish, within her time, the popular result became official.
As far as the racing went, there was nothing dramatic or unusual about Niña’s performance. She had “schooner breezes” for perhaps 75 per cent of the time, with a golliwobbler up. She was never within a plank of putting her rail under, carrying full sail, and she made runs of 200 and 214 miles in the first two days. Perhaps the key to her victory came Sunday night when she had several Class A boats in sight ahead. Instead of holding high of the rhumb line to make more westing while crossing the Gulf Stream, Fales decided to slack sheets a bit and drive her off, paralleling the line.
By this decision she got a bit to the east of many of her rivals and suffered less from the great calm that caused so many boats to go dead after two days of glorious sailing. Niña had it for about 12 hours, starting Monday evening, but she was dinghy-raced through it, with every zephyr played for what it was worth and constant sail changes to catch what catspaws there were. Drifters, gollies, spinnakers, genoas and other light sails in varying combinations were worked carefully and she never lost way, gradually moving into better air by Tuesday morning, while the bulk of the fleet had to wait until much later Tuesday for it. She saw no other boats after dropping Petrel astern on Monday afternoon until she sighted Stormvogel on approaching North Rock.
Niña’s gear is as modern as the newest racing machine. Despite the complexity of lines needed to handle a schooner rig, she has remarkably uncluttered decks, and her winches and fittings are right up to date. There is a clean efficiency about every inch of her, and her hollow mainmast, built with the boat, looks as new as it did in 1928.