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High life

The difficult art of finding the right yacht

What boats tell us about the state of the world

8 November 2014

9:00 AM

8 November 2014

9:00 AM

To Newport, Rhode Island, the smallest state in the Union but one of the most beautiful. Driving north-east from the Bagel, there’s Long Island Sound on one’s right, and beautifully foliaged farms and towns on the left. The colours are spectacular: golden browns, brick reds and lemon greens. New England is the most beautiful region of America, except for parts of Virginia, where they build warships rather than sailing boats. The reason for the trip was to find the new Bushido — as difficult a task as living one’s life under the Bushido code, and then some.

Just before crossing into Rhode Island I stopped at Mystic, Connecticut, where 26 years ago a charming motion picture called Mystic Pizza was shot, starring an unknown Julia Roberts. Mystic is a fishing village inhabited mostly by Portuguese Americans, and the reason I liked the movie was that it had the right message: all three girls working in the pizza joint get their man (one of them, who is already married, stays with his wife after seducing the part-time nanny and giving her a healthy cheque so she can go to Yale). The rich men are nice, and the third gal ends up with a fisherman, which is as good as it gets. If a gal can’t land a rich guy, why not a fisherman, as noble a profession as there is.

The reason I mention this is that my stop was just after New Haven, where Yale University, once a great institution, is now hounding the former head of cardiology at the medical school for sending a love letter to an Italian researcher (a woman, as it happens). He was accused of sexual harassment. (As I’ve written countless such things, perhaps I should turn myself in.) The newspaper that prints only what fits its politically correct agenda devoted a front page to this matter last Sunday. The doc was suspended for 18 months, but the women want him out for good. Imagine if Rochdale or Rotherham had happened at Yale. Would they have been covered by the paper, presented as race and ethnicity versus feminism?


Once at Newport, a friend and I visited two shipyards, both squeaky clean and well run. One boat was a marvel, with enormous overhangs and a flush deck of impeccable teak. The trouble was beneath. The interior was spartan and I’m a spoiled old man. The other was brilliant below deck, perfect, in fact, her deck not as classic as the first one, with no overhang, but it had been sold the week before. After a long chat with the broker we decided his job would be to find the exterior of the first with the interior of the second. Easier said than done, but after a charming lunch with two gentlemen of the New England school, and the wine, my mood was like that of children on Christmas Eve.

I noticed, lying next to the first inspected sailboat, a beautiful cruiser-sailer, hardly a pure sailing boat but with a capital ‘c’ for classy. I inquired and she was not for sale. She had been built by the president of IBM, one Tom Watson, obviously a gent of the old school. Her present owner is also a gent, I am told. Which brings me to the point I wish to make. These boats stand as proof to a later generation that there was a time when the rich really were different, and not just the ghastly, bloated slobs with blonde arm candy who own today’s hideous super-refrigerators. It has always been said that one judges a man by his boat and his woman. Today’s super-rich have horrible gin palaces as boats and super-stretched tarts for their women. There is nothing I can think of that I’d like to do less — except for catching Ebola — than to go on a yachting outing with such people. It is, however, a sign of the times we’re living in.

And one need look no further than what has happened to the America’s Cup. I saw a couple of those oldies being dry-docked in Newport, and being lovingly restored. Even after the great J-class beauties had been mothballed for the war, the 12-metre-class ones were just as graceful and wonderful to behold — until Larry Ellison, one of the richest and most disgusting men on the planet, decided he was a sportsman and won first in a court of law, then by creating a racing machine that looks like a creepy-crawly straight out of a Hollywood horror film. If the thing that is the present Cup holder is a boat, I am definitely Monica Lewinsky.

And speaking of that lady, which she is not, she came up and offered her hand to the mother of my children at the Norman Mailer gala last week, and TMOMC shook it. ‘What was all that about?’ I asked her. Well, I didn’t wish to be rude, said you know who. At least she didn’t kiss you, said yours truly, or offer you a cigar. But I am being bitchy. Ms Lewinsky is making the rounds and she’s now an honest-to-goodness celebrity because she has claimed victimhood. I suppose she is a victim of sorts; having to blow Bill Clinton takes the act out of the human realm and into science fiction. That’s why I don’t go to the movies any more. Too much science fiction and the monsters all look like Clinton.


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