Turner Looks Past Newport To Whitbread

SAILING

June 12, 1991|By NANCY NOYES

Tied out alongside the Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis this week is an 80-foot eye-catcher.

It's Teddy Turner's Challenge America, a maxi ketch that campaigned in the 1989-1990 Whitbread Round-the-World Race under the name, The Card.

Turner and the rest of his 24-man crew are getting ready to startthe Annapolis-to-Newport Race Saturday. They are hoping for a shot at another impressive record-breaking passage like the recent Daytona-to-Bermuda race, in which they shattered the elapsed-time record by 11 hours.

"It was a good race, considering we were racing PHRF, which doesn't exactly favor maxi ketches," Turner said. He explained that even with the broken record, Challenge America corrected to third in class and fourth in fleet.

But Turner, son of America's Cup winner Ted Turner, is not alone in having his eye on a new Annapolis-to-Newport record.

Joining him in the 60-boat fleet this year are New Yorker Bevin Koeppel with his Pedrick 82 Congere, and the current record-holding boat, area sailor Jim Muldoon's recently acquired Santa Cruz 70, rechristened Donnybrook from her original name of Starlight Express. All three will race in IMS.

"It all depends on the big manupstairs," Turner said. "We sailed against Congere in the Fort Lauderdale-to-Key West and the Miami-to-Montego Bay, and lost to her both times, I'm sorry to say. And of course, Starlight Express already holds the (Annapolis-to-Newport) record from four years ago. But as longas the beating (upwind) is fairly light air, we'll do all right."

Turner and his dedicated crew do not intend to race the current boatin the next Whitbread. Instead, they are using Challenge America as a vehicle for a major fund-raising campaign to finance building and campaigning a new boat in the 1993-1994 Whitbread race. They are operating as inexpensive a racing campaign with the old boat as they can.

"The boat's really tired," Turner explained. "Most boats never even see 60,000 miles. This boat's 3 years old and it already has at least 60,000 miles on it, so we can't afford to really push the boat."

Since the team has had to watch expenditures closely, it has only been buying replacement items when they become absolutely necessary. So far, it has needed two new sails, and both were built here in Annapolis by Will Keyworth of Shore Sails Chesapeake, who also will join the crew and race on the boat to Newport this weekend.

"I like racing a maxi," said Turner. "These guys on the crew, they're all volunteers, which is very nice, especially in this day and age of such professional campaigns. That's why my father got out of the sport -- all that professionalism.

"He said he either had to sail full time to stay up with it or else go to work, and he went to work. But he's withit in spirit. I think he thought I was completely mad at first, but he believes in me now."

Turner's famous father isn't the only one willing to believe in Challenge America -- although the team still has not found its all-important sponsor for the Whitbread campaign, which Turner estimates will cost $16 million, including the cost of building a new boat.

"I think he has a really good team," Keyworth said. "They're very organized. They take their jobs very seriously, witha lot of attention to detail, but they're very low-key and very down-to-earth. There's no BS. They're very businesslike and very honest in all of their dealings. Having dealt with them over the last year, Ican say they have a very realistic approach, and they put on a good show, too."

Annapolitan Tom Wohlgemuth of Chesapeake Rigging also will join the Challenge America crew for the race to Newport.

"Well, there's the bay race and then there's the ocean race," Wohlgemuth said of the event, which carries the fleet down the Chesapeake to itsmouth before heading northeast to Newport, R.I.

"It's two different races, and it's the old going-the-right-way thing all over again. I guess I'm on board like Willie to help get them down the bay -- youknow, the local knowledge thing. Hopefully, they'll let me steer a little. I'm pretty excited about it. It's a whole different ball game because it's such a big boat. I'm psyched."

Wohlgemuth's business also is helping out with some rigging repairs before the start of therace.

Although his sights are on another new elapsed-time record for the Annapolis-to-Newport, Turner's biggest concern with ChallengeAmerica is not setting records. He's trying to find sponsorship and money to sail the grueling 33,000-mile ry Whitbread in a competitive boat.

In the most recent Whitbread, the only U.S. team to start was Annapolitan Nance Frank's all-female U.S. Women's Challenge, which withdrew immediately after crossing the line because the necessary money never materialized.

Turner is optimistic but knows he has a lot of work ahead before construction can begin on the new boat, which is being designed by a team headed by Bill Cook.

"I've got every dime I have in this already," Turner said. "I even had to stop buying beer for the crew, because it's a case a round for all those guys."

The Challenge America team is selling T-shirts to help with its day-to-day expenses.

"They're $15," Turner said, "but we'll gladly sell them for more. We'll gratefully accept any contributions anyone wants to give us."

For more information on Challenge America or on helping the team succeed, call 803/577-2215.

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