Educators don't miss boat on Whitbread

On the Outdoors

April 07, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The Whitbread Round the World Race is yet a year and a half from the starting line in Southampton, England, and 25 months from the sailing fleet's arrival in Baltimore, but race organizers and educators already are moving preparations into high gear.

A tentative schedule has been set for activities during the fleet's layover in Baltimore and Annapolis, and Chessie Racing, a formative Chesapeake Bay team, has been added to the list of 37 syndicates who have paid registration fees for the 1997-98 race.

In all, six U.S. teams have registered for the race, which covers more than 32,000 nautical miles in nine legs following the clipper ship trade routes of more than a century ago.

It is a race that runs the gamut of sea and climatic conditions -- from the high heat and humidity of the calms north and south of the equator to the cold seas, icebergs and riotous winds of the lower stretches of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.

It is a test of physical stamina and mental perseverance, and for the sailors the prize is more pride than cash.

For the sponsors, which include the corporate giants of the world, the gain is exposure to great numbers of people around the world who never have seen a Super Bowl or a World Series -- but who know and follow the Whitbread.

According to a survey paid for by race organizers, the last Whitbread, in 1993-94, was televised in 177 countries, trailing only the World Athletics Championships (201) and the 1992 Summer Olympics (193). Neither the Super Bowl nor the World Series made the list.

The nine-month competition drew 2,641,000,000 viewers -- excluding news coverage.

Sally Jean Celmer, managing partner of TeraMedia, a Washington, D.C.-based electronic publishing and marketing company, sees the Whitbread adventure as an educational opportunity, greatly enhanced by the wizardry of global communications and computers.

TeraMedia, Celmer said, is in the early stages of developing interactive CD-ROM programs that will introduce children ages 8 to 14 to the Whitbread in a historical format and then allow them to follow the race daily through the World Wide Web.

And in the process, Celmer said, students can learn geography, oceanography, mathematics and history.

"We are going to do two CD-Roms integrated with on-line services," said Celmer, whose company specializes in "edutainment" programs that entertain and teach at the same time. "The first will deal with the historical clipper ships routes, and through it students can get to know these places as they were 100 years ago."

Celmer describes the second as a modern game in which students can "race virtual boats against the real boats, with the possibility of having a Rotisserie Whitbread, in which [all-star] teams can be picked and raced."

In conjunction with Whitbread organizers and sponsors, Celmer said, TeraMedia has met with representatives of all nine ports in the race for help in developing the programs, which will include clues to finding knowledge. Early plans call for programs to be produced in English and French and perhaps German.

"It will be almost like a scavenger hunt in which you have to search for a clue to a clue," Celmer said.

The key to the daily program is satellite up-link from each Whitbread racer to race headquarters in England, which provides updates of position as well as audio and visual reports from on board the boats as they race.

"All our products are targeted for 8-, 12-, 14-year olds, before their hormones start taking their attentions elsewhere," Celmer said. "And the educational opportunity this race presents is quite phenomenal."

Whitbread '98

The preliminary schedule for activities during the Whitbread racing fleet's layover in Baltimore and Annapolis in 1998:

April 16: Baltimore Race Village opens, kicking off the Whitbread Festival.

April 19: Racing fleet leaves Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

April 22-23: Fleet finishes off Fort McHenry at entrance to Inner Harbor.

April 29: Awards ceremony at the Convention Center.

May 1: Race fleet leaves for Annapolis.

May 3: Race fleet starts leg to La Rochelle, France, from the Bay Bridge.

Pub Date: 4/07/96

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