Md. crew heading for a fifth-place finish by Friday Chessie update

October 22, 1997

Chessie Racing, the Maryland entry in the Whitbread Round the World Race, is expected to finish the first leg by Friday morning, likely in fifth place in the 10-boat fleet -- a strong showing for a first-time entrant in the world's toughest team sailing race.

Reports from Chessie indicate that food and fuel are in good supply, and, unlike several other boats in the fleet, the crew has not had to ration food or water.

Team officials report Chessie had stocked meals for 35 days. Projections have the Maryland boat in Cape Town after 33 days.

But on Sunday Chessie came close to a dismasting after a backstay shackle broke. Once the fitting broke, the sailing rig, with a large masthead spinnaker flying in 25 knots of wind, was held up only by a safety strap, which was letting go strand by strand.

"We turned the boat . . . unloaded the rig and proceeded to fix the problem, literally finishing as there was only one, thin strand left on the safety," said watch leader Grant Spanhake, who was at the wheel at the time.

For the past week, Chessie has been trying to catch Silk Cut (England) and to keep ahead of Toshiba (U.S.), often surfing, with the Whitbread 60 shooting an enormous rooster-tail of water at high speeds.

Spanhake called it living "on the edge" as the crew sailed Chessie through riotous seas, surfing on the crests and speeding into the troughs.

"Life doesn't get any better than this," he said. "The adrenalin makes you feel electric."

But on Monday, as Chessie closed on Cape Town, Spanhake's report began to show the strain of the 7,350-mile leg from Southampton, England, and thoughts of the calamitous second leg from Cape Town to Fremantle, Australia.

"We have been reaching/running in heavy conditions for over three days now. The constant pressure and violent movement of the boat is showing on the crew," he said.

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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