Beverage Moxie: The only harmless nerve food known that can recover brain and nervous exhaustion; loss of manhood, imbecility and helplessness. It has recovered paralysis, softening of the brain, locomotor ataxia, and insanity when caused by nervous exhaustion. It gives a durable solid strength, and makes you eat voraciously; takes away the tired, sleepy, lifeless feeling like magic, removes fatigue from mental and physical overwork at once. . . . -- Soft Drink Label, 1876

Philip Saltonstall Weld named his ocean racing trimaran Ms. Moxie, but if a new formula for the cure of "loss of manhood, imbecility and helplessness" were marketed in the searfaring town today it would surely be named after him.

Weld, at 65 the oldest competitor in the Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR), swooped over the finish line here at 8:12 a.m. yesterday 17 days, 23 hours and 12 minutes after leaving Plymouth, England, breaking the course record by almost three days. He is the first American ever to win the grand prize of sailing. But more important than that trophy was his triumph of personal style.

Even before Weld's graceful three-hulled speedster docked here, the retired newspaper publisher from Gloucester Mass., was thanking people and attempting to explain away his victory over 82 other contestants, many of them half his age.

The arrival of the tall, raw-boned big-eared, super-enthusiastic Brahmin explicated a familiar scene in Europe and England, where sailors are national heroes and this race has been page one news. Weld waved an American flag while yacht horns sounded and motor boats careened around him, and at the wharf a swarming mass of 500 people trapped him for 15 minutes on his own deck.

Still wearing his personal safety harness and reporting that he was "not a bit tired" after racing more than 3,000 miles alone, he commenced almost to apologize for what was being called his "magnificent achievement," claiming many other competitors were more worthy.

But the crowd would not have it, and waves of cheers washed over his self-effacement: This race, co-founded 20 years ago by Sir Francis Chichester, is a test of man's ability to keep going no matter what, in highly specialized vessels that cost upward of $200,000 and, unlike most ocean-going sailing boats, can turn upside down.

While attempting to answer dozens of questions at once, Weld was surprised to turn and find behind him the America's Cup yacht Courageous, its uniformed crew lined up in salute, with skipper Ted Turner doffing his hat in admiration.

Weld's reaction was immediately to offer his yacht to Turner to sail, sayng, "I sailed conservatively, but Ted, you could really get her moving." Then, spotting a friend on the dock, Weld apoligized for owning him a letter, which Weld said he had meant to write but never got around to before the the race.

Weld continued this virtuoso display of the personal touch by singling out for special greeting 20 different acquaintances as if he were arriving at a party in their honor, not his.

The horde of journalists and cameramen on the floating dock then began to submerge as their weight caused the dock to sink, and Weld had to step quickly onto his first shore in 17 days. As race officials gasped, Weld quipped, "Oh my, I think this is the most dangerous part.

Whisked to a formal press conference nearby, Weld read a statement from his logbook dated 9:25 a.m. on June 21. What the log said was that Alain Colas or Mike McMullen entered the race they would surely have beaten the skipper of Moxie.This was one piece of raw emotion on the part of the ebullient Weld: Colas was lost at sea racing alone in 1978, and McMullen disappeared during the OSTAR of 1976.

Weld insisted that his voyage had been an easy one, that credit should go to his boat and not him, and that he was not a "great seaman" but an "asisduous" one.

In his trademark half-lens reading glasses, Weld looked more like an athletic grandfather (he and his wife Anne have seven grandchildren and five children) come for a visit than an iron-willed tamer of the North Atlantic. But behind the spectacles the eyes were somewhat puffed.

Only gradually, as the questions continued, was Weld to reveal other aspects of his record voyage. How he had averaged less than four hours of sleep a night. How "the blood had drained from my face" upon hearing that his winning margin had deteriorated during the light winds of recent days. And how, in the only "imprudent" action of his crossing, he had adopted "yoga calm" and driven Moxie at speeds of 20 knots through thick fog the day before in a successful attempt to protect his lead.

Weld's triumph of style was all the more delightful for its eccentricity. In winning this race he combined the toughness of his war hero past with the organizational skills that made him wealthy, and leavened the mixture with the zany goodwill that made him a popular hero and a grand puzzlement to the makers of the beverage Moxie.

Commercial sponsorship has become a fact of life in serious singel-handed ocean racing in recent years. The top-seeded entrants in this race were men of stern reputation and vast experience in this difficult sporting adventure, but they were seldom independently wealthy. Weld, whose broad, aristocratic accent set him apart, was determined, however, to be one of the boys. Like them, he wanted his boat to have a commercial name, even if he was paying for everything himself.

"But when I called the Moxie office in Atlanta," he complained to friends often last year, "I can never get the president even to speak to me. He apparently thnks I am some kind of wild man."

One of Weld's first actions upon reaching land yesterday was to grasp a bottle of the antique beverage, turn it upside down and make a face for the cameras. He explained later that he was disappointed in Moxie's disinclination to become a part of American yachting adventures -- But I'm afraid Moxie has plenty of company in that regard," he said. "One of our top sailors, Tom Grossman, had to go to France to find financial support. I hope that by the next OSTAR American corporations will join in the fun, too."

Weld's own brand of moxie, however, was established beyond doubt in 1976, and it was his history of endeavor that charmed his audience yesterday.

In 1976 he was sailing his state-of-the-art trimaran Gulf Streamer en route to England for that year's single-handed race. He never made it to the starting line, because he was capsized by a giant wave and had to survive for four days in the upturned hull before being rescued by a ship.

Undeterred, Weld returned to naval architect Richard Newick and ordered a new similar 60-foot boat, which the name Rogue Wave in honor of the sea that had tried to drown him.

Rogue Wave was to be his boat for this year's race, but in 1979 the race organizers reduced the overall length limitation to 56 feet. The ruling was intended to limit the fanatic competitiveness that in earlier races had led to one man attempting to sail a 236-foot, four-masted schooner all by himself. The ruling was intended to eliminate such absurd ventures, but it also meant that Weld's boat was disqualified by four feet.

Still undeterred, he ordered the 51-foot Moxie built. And it was in Moxie that he won, a day earlier than the winning time he himself had predicted in a magazine article published while he was at sea.

The psychology of the long-distance sailor -- like the climber of Mount Everest -- defies orderly analysis. In Europe, the tradition of heroizing yachtsmen has been fueled by rivalries like that between England and France.

To socialize with these independent sorts can be traumatic -- their competitiveness is not always confined to the race course -- or filled with long silences. The multi-hull contingent, even within the class of competitors, had been long considered a nest of gooneys, Rube Goldbergs and revolutionaries. It was Weld, more than any other person, who lent style, credibility and verve to their effort to gain a place in the sun for two-hulled and three-hulled boats.

He has been the force that has unified the indefatigable stiff-upper-lippers, the playboys, the professionals, the yachtees and the young. His game of scrunch is considered nearly perfect.

Scrunch is a team social event which apparently originated at the St. Martin's Tradewinds Race, a bonnie and sunstruck Caribbean sailing week.

Last summer, after finishing first in the Newport-to-Bermuda multi-hull race, Weld organized a game in the ballroom of the Royal Hamilton Armateur Dinghy Club there. Scrunch requires all present to seat themselves barefoot on a floor, dowagers, commodores and boat bums included. One then wiggles by buttock locomotion right or left as directed. Weld calls the direction. He announces violations of unknown rules, he cajoles the timid, he criticizes the over-enthusiastic. "Scrunch right! Scrunch forward! Scrunch rear!"

The goal is to form paragraphs, sentences and words. It is utterly meaningless and goes on for hours until personages hiherto seen only in blazers and club ties and women with earrings the size of the Isle of Wight are all up-turned and giggling in a pile. At the conclusion, a human pyramid is formed until the ceiling is reached, while Weld -- his demeanor absolutely correct -- leads choruses of hoorays.

Neither the Carribean nor the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club has yet fully recovered, but Weld himself springs back quickly.

In the early 1970s, while a fleet of ocean-racing trimarans waited holed-up in Bermuda as a gale whipped Hamilton Harbor into a froth, Weld appeared on the dock and climbed onto his boat. Instead of adjusting the protective ropes, he cast them off and sailed home into the storms. He reached New York four days later, declaring himself "refreshed."

"Oh, to Phil everything and everybody is always interesting," said Anne Weld, who was receiving a stream of visitors and well-wishers at dockside. Some of the Weld children and grandchildren had made a banner inscribed, "Moxie Quenches Your First."

"Have you ever tasted Moxie?" Mrs. Weld said. "It tastes terrible." She had an appropriately indulgent attitude toward her husband, though it probably does not extend to entering his scrunch games.

Weld made his money in newspapers. He's held various executive positions over the years, and in 1960 did a tour of duty as president and editor of the International Herald Tribune. He collected several newspapers around Boston and several years ago sold the family's prized Gloucester Times. Since then he has been theoretically retired.

"I think that when he tipped over the Gulf Streamer, he realized that he ought to sell the Times," Anne Weld said softly. "Otherwise, you know, if anything happened, it would be rather a mess," she said, letting the thought trail off.

But retirement for Weld has meant merely more time for his entrepreneurial brainstorming and his interest in other people's seagoing welfare. Judy Lawson of Annapolis, an OSTAR entrant who still is probably more than 1,000 miles from the finish line, had never met Weld before the race, but felt his influence anyway. She had been planning to ship her boat to England for the start, rather than sail it there, but Weld heard about her plan. Lawson reported receiving this Weldian advice: "Sailing over greatly enhances your pleasure in the race. One becomes practiced, you know." Said Lawson: "I sailed."

Weld is now devoting much of his time to the development of wind and solar power and he has sponsored the construction of a prototype cargo trimaran for possible use by Third World traders.

At his press conference, Weld said that his win in a very modern trimaran yacht exploiting many new theories of naval architecture was proof that the era of sail was coming back. "There are many breakthroughs being shown in the scientific use of wind power and my hope is that it can be commercially used. You know I did not burn a drop of fossil fuel on my way over here. I saw some of the great oil guzzler ships out there, and you know they have to throttle down nowadays to conserve their fuel. I actually passed a couple of them in my sailboat. There has to be a message there for people."

Weld's OSTAR win at age 65 will go down in the record books but fewer and fewer winners of these events are likely to maintain the Weld example. Of all his eccentricities, self-effacement is nowadays the most rare. The need for sponsorship and advertising potential has all but eliminated that.

Few observers knew, for example, that Weld as a young lieutenant won the silver and bronze stars in Burma as a member of Merrill's Marauders. "He was the last man to leave on area," Anne Weld confirmed. "He had malaria and a temperature of 106 and he walked out under fire carrying two other men." But the competitive sailing world did take note of Weld in the 1979 Route du Rhum single-handed race, a 4,000-mile race from Brittany to Guadeloupe. He came in third, and there was a cash prize of $10,000. Weld donated the money to a sailing club on the island.

"I would never want to give up my status as an amateur," he said in explanation.