Executive reduces role in Whitbread 'For sake of win,' Collins to sail only shorter legs


September 05, 1997|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Baltimore executive George Collins, who has spent more than $2.5 million to build a boat for the Whitbread Round the World Race, has decided not to sail with his crew when the race starts off Southampton, England, later this month, team members say.

Collins, 57, an amateur in a grueling race dominated by professionals, surprised the sailing community this week by removing himself from all but the race's shorter legs.

"He wanted to see the boat get off right on the first leg, and he wanted to make sure he wasn't a detriment to the crew," said crew-mate Jim Allsopp, who, along with team member Mark Fischer, will replace Collins as co-skipper when the race begins Sept. 21.

A "surprise announcement" posted on the Internet this week said Collins removed himself "for the sake of the win." Teammates said Collins did not want to take the place of a more experienced racer who could make this underdog entry more competitive.

The former head of Baltimore mutual fund company T. Rowe Price, Collins has already donated millions to the Living Classrooms Foundation, the nonprofit sponsoring the boat.

Collins had planned on co-skippering Chessie Racing until making his first ocean crossing last month. During that trans-Atlantic passage, he experienced the doldrums for the first time -- the dead calm at the Equator -- and encountered the tail end of a hurricane.

When Collins sailed in the 605-mile Fastnet ocean race off England last month, Chessie came in fifth against future Whitbread competitors, a strong showing. During that race, he became newly aware of his team's capacity to win -- and learned firsthand how harsh the conditions could be. "He isn't a 20-year-old," team spokeswoman Kathy Alexander said. "He's in great shape for a 57-year-old, but those conditions can be incredibly physically demanding."

Collins, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, will sail across the start line and then jump off the boat about 30 minutes later, said Alexander.

The first leg is the longest leg of the race. That leg begins in Southhampton and ends in Cape Town, South Africa -- a distance of about 7,350 nautical miles. Collins plans on sailing sprints in the race, but not legs as long as the first one, which should take 30-35 day legs, team members said.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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