Coping at sea has ups and downs Flying along at 15-20 knots can make up for periods without food or showers

The Witbread Watch

October 01, 1997|By PETER BAKER | PETER BAKER,SUN STAFF

Ever wonder what it is like to race a sailboat offshore? Electronic mail from the 10 boats racing in the Whitbread Round vTC the World Race offers a glimpse of the exhilaration, frustration, pleasure and pain of ocean racing.

"If someone was to produce a brochure of the Whitbread race, today would be the selling point," Chessie Racing watch captain Grant Spanhake reported during the first leg from Southampton, England, to Cape Town, South Africa. "Blasting along at 15-20 knots with the big asymmetrical spinnaker is a great way to spend the day."

Add in the British entry Silk Cut at times only two miles away in the expanse of the North Atlantic as the boats fought over 4th and 5th places in the 10-boat fleet and the competition is as tight as any coastal race.

"We have been neck and neck for two days now. We might as well have a piece of bungee cord attached to both boats," Spanhake said.

But for every period of exhilarating sailing, there are hours of hard work and, at times, frustration.

On Sunday, for example, EF Education, Sweden's all-woman team, logged its first 300-mile-plus day and then "had a little accident when the head of the spinnaker blew off."

Three crew members spent 15 hours bent over a sewing machine to repair the sail.

On several boats in the fleet there is some concern that the leg to Cape Town will take more days than expected, and food is being rationed. Some crews are stockpiling cereals, others are hoarding instant soups.

"There is 12 hours between our evening meal and breakfast, which now seems like a very long time," said Grant Dalton, skipper of Merit Cup.

Life at sea revolves around sailing, eating and sleep.

"Sleeping has been difficult with the motion of the boat at high speed and the rudder humming at high pitch," Spanhake said. "The closest analogy would be to picture yourself in the back car of a roller-coaster speeding along a curvy track. Try living there for three weeks soaking wet. But what fun."

Aboard Kvaerner Innovation, skipper Knut Frostad reduced weight by replacing ordinary sleeping bags with ultra-light cotton sheet bags. Unfortunately, the crew reports, some of the bags were children's sizes, which "cover only the legs," and there are only five bags for 12 sailors.

On Chessie, co-skipper Jim Allsopp of Annapolis smuggled aboard a bar of saltwater soap, which has become communal property.

"Today is bath day for some of the crew," Spanhake reported Sunday. "A bath consists of one bucket of saltwater over the head, soap up quickly and rinse with one more bucket. After a week of not washing, this is pure luxury."

Update

The Whitbread Watch is a weekly log of the Round the World Race. Look for it every Wednesday in The Sun.

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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