If a miracle happens in the America's Cup races this year, if the new boat with the untried skipper and the youthful crew knocks off the nation's old hand's the man who will be cherring loudest and longest is Dave Pedrick.
Pedrick is one of the many brains behind the scenes as the America's Cup campaign gears up for a long summer of trials. He is in the thick of it and he already has plenty of reason to cheer.
Pedrick set the standard for 12-meters, the thoroughbreds of this highest form of yacht racing, when he sat down at a drawing table at the tender age of 24 and designed a boat called Courageous.
"Yeah," he said the other day as he watched the big, white yacht tacking in Rhode Island Sound under Ted Turners hand, "I designed her when I was 24 and by the time I was 26 she'd won the Cup."
It was quite an achievement for the soft-spoken designer from Gwynedd Valley, Pa., a hundred miles from the seashore. It became greater still when, three years later, Courageous came back to defend and win the Cup a second time.
This year Courageous and six other boats are chasing after the grandest prize in sailing, and all but one of them -- the Swedish boat Sverige -- have hulls closely patterned after that of Pedrick's beautiful boat.
But the boat Pedrick is rooting for isn't Courageous any more. It's a boat called Clipper, which is the first one that bears his unqualified signature.
When Pedrick drew the plans for Courageous he was working at Sparkman & Stephens, the New York design firm, and S&S always has always taken credit for her. The same firm also claims Enterprise, which very nearly made it to the trials this year. Pedrick designed her for S&S as well.
But Clipper bears the plaque of Pedrick Yacht Designs, the small company Pedrick started in Newport three years ago after he finally tired of what he called "lethargy" in the S&S front office.
Clipper, designed in a hurry last fall and launched April 12, is all his. And she has the yachting world buzzing already.
On Sunday afternoon she walloped Turner and Courageous in two straight races as the boats met for the first time in preliminary trials to pick U.S. Cup defender.
After the races Turner again said what he's been saying all spring as the two boats practiced against each other:
"I told you before and maybe now you'll believe me. Clipper is the fastest boat we've ever sailed against."
Pedrick believes it. And if Clipper should continue winning, he'll consider it a personal vindication.
He is incensed at what's been done to Courageous. Over the winter her owners filt she could be speeded up by having her prow snubbed and her transom sheared off to save weight.
Pedrick thinks it's an abomination, a personal affront. "They say knocked off 130 pounds," he said. "That's physically impossible, given the design of the boat. They'd be lucky to save 20 pounds with what they did.
"They spent their time clipping off her bow and stern, turning her into an ugly boat, when they could have saved much more weight by sandblasting off the old paint off her and refaring the hull."
Ugly boats don't do a thing for Pedrick. "I decided that a long time ago.
If I have to build a ugly boat in order to win races. I'll just stop building racers altogether. I'll build cruising boats and make them beautiful."
He saved a reasonable bow and stern configuration on Clipper and kept her beautiful. But more than that he made her fast. Faster, she proved Sunday, on all points of sail than Courageous.
One reason, he thinks, is that Courageous is sailing around with half a ton of paint and fairing cement (used to smooth dents in the aluminum hull) on her, while Clipper carries only 300 pounds.
These trails were very nearly an all Pedrick event. Dennis Conner, the third skipper chasing the crown, had two boats to choose from for his bid -- the Pedrick-designed Enterprise and a year - old S&S - designed 12 - meter named Freedom. After a year of sailing both boats Conner made up his mind a week ago to campaign Freedom.
"The two boats are basically the same speed," he said, "but we like the deck layout on Freedom better."
On Sunday, after Clipper had soared to victory twice, Pedrick wondered if Conner is still so happy he went Sparkman & Stephens."
But he didn't mull that for long. Clipper's tender was drawing close to the victorious yacht, and on board 24-year old Russel Long was leading a happy strategy session with his crew.
When he saw Pedrick on the bridge of the tender he raised a fist in celebration.
"Hey Pedrick come on aboard. And bring some beer."
The yacht designer grabbed the little tape recorder he had been dictating notes into all day and hurried below. He grabbed two six packs and when the boats drew close, jumped aboard the sleek blue boat.
He smiled, raised a fist at Long and stole a line from Turner's very own victory cheer.