Local sailors finishing plans for Whitbread Chessie Racing eyes full-blown campaign

April 14, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

A member of Chessie Racing, the Chesapeake Bay-area group working to put together a sailing program to compete in the 1997-1998 Whitbread Round the World Race, said last week that the team is close to completing plans for a full-blown campaign.

"We are working hard at getting this into full swing," said Mark B. Fischer, CEO of The Blakeslee Group and a prominent regional sailor. "There are still some things that have to break right to get it there, but we should know soon."

Syndicate head George J. Collins on Friday announced that he would resign next April as CEO of T. Rowe Price Associates, a Baltimore investment firm, to concentrate his efforts on the Whitbread campaign.

Collins, described as an "extremely competitive" sailor by members of the Whitbread Chesapeake committee coordinating activities for the Whitbread's stop in Baltimore in April 1998, has been involved in bringing the race here since last year, when race officials first toured the area.

Collins, whose racing boats named "Moxie" have been successful at a number of levels, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Adequate financial backing is one concern, said Fischer, also among the directors of Whitbread Chesapeake, which is coordinating the activities and facilities for the April 1998 stopover of the race in Baltimore and Annapolis.

"You can't do this race right without money," Fischer said. "[This week] we should know which direction we are going to go in."

Fischer said the options include:

* A "full-blown" campaign in which the syndicate could build two new Whitbread 60s, trial them against one another to determine which performs best and to train crew, and race the best through nine months and 34,000 miles.

* A one-boat campaign in a new racer, which would be the second best training and performance program.

* Or buy an earlier generation Whitbread 60, a veteran of a previous race, and update it in the hope of being competitive with the generation of racing boats that is being improved now.

"[This] week we will know which of those options is viable," Fischer said. "The question is whether one is interested in this race for the sake of it or trying to win it.

"Frankly, unless you are heavy into adventure, it is just a lot of work -- if we can make it happen right, we want to win."

The race starts in Southampton, England, in September 1997 and stops in nine ports around the world, including Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Bruce Farr and Associates, a design firm in Annapolis, had designed the great majority of the existing Whitbread 60s, and Sobstad-Chesapeake, an Annapolis sail loft, specializes in racing sails for the class.

If Chessie Racing goes for a new boat, delivery could be expected by next spring, in time for a series of tuneup races in American waters, possibly including the Baltimore-Annapolis area.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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