It was a picture start, a picture beat, a picture run, a perfect race.
The only thing wrong was the ending.
Al Van Metre, an Alexandria real estate magnate, wants the Annapolis-to-Newport winner's plaque for his boat's bulkhead.
He has Newport-to-Bermuda. He has the prestigious Southern Ocean Racing Circuit. He has the Chesapeake Fall Series plagues tacked up in Running Tide, his sleek 60-foot aluminum yacht.
He wants Newport.
But something's getting in his way.
Something called Tenacious.
The sports world knows Tenacious' skipper as Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves, owner of the Atlanta Hawks, holder of racing's coveted America's Cup with his 12-meter yacht Courageous.
But the racers on Running Tide know him as Terrible Ted.
"He eats winch handles," they say.
Yacht racing is so complicated these days that it takes the organizers a day to figure out who won after a race is completed.
Tenacious and Tide keep a simpler table.
When they gathered to put out of Annapolis Saturday to seek this year's plaque, the sleek white Tenacious and the jet black Running Tide lay side-by-side in Arnie Gay's yacht yard.
The crews chatted amiably over the life rails.
Turner appeared in a railroad cap, lanky and raw-boned and tough as a rattlesnake.
"Hey, Al, don't you think we ought to put a little something on this?" he shouted to Van Metre.
"How about dinner for the crew? I'll even give the rating."
The rating, the race committee's way of handicapping disparities between ocean racers, had Turner's boat favored over Tide.
By 2 minutes 45 seconds.
In a 473-mile race.
That's what you call nose-nose.
Van Metre took him up.
Tonight, the crew of Tenacious ate well in Newport and Van Metre paid the bill.
Turner didn't even hang around to shake hands. A pity, because it was a race worth remembering.
Dave Weaver choreographed the start for Running Tide from the bow pulpit. Van Metre's son, Beau, played the helm.
They drove to the line amid cheers from a glitter of spectator boats, the local favorite Tide out front and Tenacious hard on her tail.
Beau drove for the committee boat as the clock wound down. Five seconds, four, three, two, one - BLAM, the gun went off on schedule. Tide heeled and swung over only scant feet from the starter's startled eyes.
"They were popping buttons on their blue blazers," said Weaver, "another six feet, and we'd be having lunch with the committee."
Tide and Tenacious played each other's transom from the Severn to the Atlantic. When Turner tacked, Van Metre tacked. When Van Metre tacked, Turner tacked.
They fought head-to-head past Solomon's Island, Point-No-Point, Smith Point, through the night and on to the predawn glitter of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel near Norfolk.
For 120 miles, they were never out of each other's sight.
"It's uncanny," said Van Metre, "that two boats can stay that close for so long. It could be this way all the way to Newport."
Better it had been.
The run down the bay was a beat all the way, both boats heeled to the maximum with the wind in their teeth.
Turner played out his hand in the 20-mile span from the tunnel to Chesapeake Light in the Atlantic. He lay too far down wind. Tide stayed upwind, and when she swept past the tower just past Sunday dawn, Turner was a half mile behind. "Ha!" said Tide deck hand Tim Kerns. "Turner's eating the bill off that railroad hat right now."
Terrible Ted had ideas of his own.
A half day passed and he'd made no gains as the boats ran under huge spinnakers and fair blue skies.
Turner took a flyer.
Tenacious left her arch rival's trail and headed east, far offshore. By nightfall, she was a sleek bulb on the horizon under the sleek downwind chute.
Tide's crew stood on the deck for 9 p.m. watch change and waved.
At dawn, Turner was gone, not to be seen again.
Tide fought a glorious battle, first with balky south winds, then with a roaring northwester that blew up Monday night and lasted through to the finish.
She had her stars - the irrepressible Beau Van Metre, a swashbuckler at the helm; John Marshall, No 2 man at North Sails, sail tactician and helmsman during Beau's off hours; Bill Langan, design chief at Sparkman-Stephens, the outfit that designed Tide in 1969 and then designed Tenacious to beat Tide; Len Price, who once sailed around the world in 144days, and who tackled every dangerous task as if no one else had a right to.
They fought the good fight, tearing through the stormy night, the rail buried as phosphorescent seas swept over the deck.
But at 10:30 this morning, when Tide crossed the line and the gun sounded off Castle Hill, Newport's gold coast, they knew not where they stood.
One other boat was on the horizon and it wasn't Tenacious.
"We're either heroes of goats," said Marshall.
It's a five -minute motor from Castle Hill to the harbor.
Before Tide rounded the final bend, Kerns was straddling the boom, binoculars in hand, waiting to stand the docks.
At first he liked what he saw.
"there's Ondine" - a huge ocean racer with a rating that guaranted early arrival.
"There's Inverness." Another like Ondine.
His face fell. "Fellasnd simple. "Tenacious is in."
Geez, she's been in for hours. She's got her lines out over the rails to dry already. She's locked up and put to bed."
Peter Dudley had lost two patches of skin on his face to a flailing jib sheet on the roaring run in. He put his scarred forehead against the boom, balled a fist and pounded the aluminium.
VanMetre, a man of many decisions but infrequent words, thought for a minute about Turner's good fortune.
"Well," he said, "he's tough."
Unofficial results on corrected times (Class A boats): Tenacious first, Ondine second, Inverness third, Running Tide fourth; Pleione fifth.
Actual times for early arrivals Tuesday: Ondine, 1:33 a.m.; Inverness, 6:54 a.m.; Tenacious, 8:22 a.m.; Desperado, 10:03 a.m.; Running Tide 10:37 a.m.; Cayenne, 10:51 a.m.; Arcadia, 11:29 a.m.; Circus Maximus, 11:47 a.m.; Pleione, 1:19 p.m. CAPTION: Picture, Running Tide gets off a quick start in Annapolis-to-Newport race, but at the end, it was the crew of Ted Turner's Tenacious that sat down to dinner courtesy of the beaten Tide's owner, Al Van Metre of Alexandria. By Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post