Chessie deck on for Whitbread

On the Outdoors

March 13, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Chessie Racing, the Maryland team entered in the Whitbread Round the World Race that starts in September, has its Whitbread 60 well along in the construction process and plans to begin crew training and boat testing in late April.

"I was up to see the boat last week," said Mark Fischer, CEO of the BlakesLee Group who has been heavily involved with Chessie Racing. "The deck is on and all together and much of the work has been done on the inside."

The racer was designed by Annapolis-based Bruce Farr and Associates and built by Eric Goetz Custom Boats in Bristol, R.I.

The hull was released from the curing oven at Goetz about a month ago, and boat builders have been working double shifts to complete the internal structure, bond the hull and deck and install electrical and mechanical systems.

"The launch probably will be in mid-April," Fischer said. "We will then do some sea trialing in Rhode Island, making sure the systems work and the mast is tuned and so on, and then bring the boat down to Baltimore on April 22."

Chessie Racing will christen its boat at 3 p.m. on May 2 at Pier 5 in the Inner Harbor, and the yacht's first competition against similar boats will be a race to New York starting from Maryland May 6. The race to New York is part of an East Coast Tour of Whitbread 60s, which will feed into a race to England for final preparations for the Whitbread.

Fischer said the team program is developing nicely, with sponsorship improving and crew selection continuing. Fischer said eventually some 20 crew will be selected, about half from the Baltimore-Annapolis area.

Next week, the Yukon GMC Olympic Yachting Tour presentations in Annapolis and Baltimore will include a preview of the Whitbread Race and updates on Chessie Racing and Whitbread Chesapeake, the local group organizing activities for the arrival of the race in Maryland in April 1998.

"We will include a slide show of Chessie," said Gary Jobson, a member of Chessie Racing and a sailing analyst for ESPN. "Roughly, the Whitbread will take up a quarter of the two-hour program."

Jobson's co-host for the sessions will be Courtenay Becker-Dey, a U.S. medalist in the 1996 Olympics and a member of the Swedish all-women's team in the Whitbread.

The tour will be in Annapolis on Tuesday and in Baltimore on Wednesday. Tickets, which cost $10, are available for either session, and information is available by calling 410-727-7223.

Meanwhile, in Auckland, New Zealand, the Merit Cup team has launched two new Whitbread 60s after 18 weeks of construction.

"It is satisfying to have the boats in the water and having the campaign in such good shape with the start of the race still seven months away," said skipper Grant Dalton. "Our Whitbread experience has been in maxis. The Whitbread 60s are very different to sail."

The Merit Cup teams now will start a three-month testing and training program, pitting the two boats against each other.

"That's when the real work starts," Dalton said. "The testing program will be very demanding on both boats and crews. "

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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