Crew loses gound, but foils a shark Chessie update

October 15, 1997|By Peter Baker

During the past seven days, Maryland entry Chessie Racing has crossed the Equator, passed the two remote islands that serve as rounding marks in the South Atlantic Ocean and has started the home stretch to Cape Town, South Africa.

After sailing for an extended period in fourth place, Chessie has fallen to fifth behind EF Language (Sweden), Merit Cup (Monaco), Innovation Kvaerner (Norway) and Silk Cut (Britain). At each of the turning marks (de Fernando de Noronha and Trinidade), the Maryland entry was beset by light, shifty winds and fell well behind the leaders, while the five boats in the back of the fleet made up ground.

Greg Gendell, a sailmaker from Annapolis who works the bow on Chessie, said high pressure at Trinidade made for slow, frustrating sailing as they struggled past the island, and "our competitors have been racking up the miles."

Even as Chessie crawled at 2 knots, the South Atlantic managed to spring a surprise. "A few of us went swimming" to clean the bottom of the boat, Gendell said. "We saw a shark. He was trying to sneak up on us. But his dorsal fin coming out of the water blew his cover."

Chessie is now about 2,200 miles from the finish of the first leg, and Gendell said knowing it is roughly a straight shot across the Atlantic to Cape Town is a psychological boost.

"We have lost a little to our competitors, but we feel that there will be opportunities to gain on the way across the Atlantic," Gendell said. "We are putting the last 24 hours behind us and are going to keep pushing hard."

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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