Chessie wives reach first port Whitbread: The crew members' mates will be at the dock when the race reaches Cape Town tomorrow.

October 23, 1997|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The waiting wives of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race are preparing for the expected arrival here tomorrow of the Maryland entry, Chessie Racing -- and their husbands.

"He is going to wreak," said Stephanie Fischer, 37-year-old wife of Mark Fischer, 39, one of the boat's co-skippers who will have been at sea without a shower for 32 days.

"He will get one big hug and a kiss, and if he's really dreadful he will get the rest after he is clean. I have already gone out to the drug store and got him all kinds of soap, a loofah and razor."

Fischer, here with her two daughters, Kendall, 8, and Jordan, 6, said: "We just catch lessons whenever we can. That's the beauty of home schooling. It's very flexible. I see my children learning so much and seeing so much.

"It's not just geography and history. They are learning to get along, to see the bigger picture, to be flexible. They are learning there is a much bigger world than their little elementary school, their circle of friends and how many toys they have collected."

Fischer has been actively involved in the Chessie program since June, when she left her Ruxton home to go to Rhode Island with her husband for crew training. She organizes crew and family housing in the yacht's ports of call.

"Being on the move is a little difficult," she said. "You are always packing. You have long travel days. But we are getting much better at settling right away. Do I want to do this again? I don't know. We are just at the beginning. It is October. We will be at this to the end of next May."

With a coterie of other wives and children of Chessie crew members, she is anxiously waiting for the moment the 64-foot white-hulled ocean racer docks here in probable fifth position at the end of the 7,350-mile first leg of the 32,000-mile circumnavigation.

For some of the wives -- married to professional yacht racers -- the comings and goings, the lonely days, are a normal part of life.

Cary Swain, 32, wife of Chessie's South African sail trimmer and driver, Jonathan Swain, 30, said: "We married each other in Hawaii during a regatta. The day after the wedding, he had to leave for a long-distance race.

"I knew what this was about right from the get-go. I have friends at home who say 'You are so lucky. You get to see so much of the world. Gosh, I wish I could do what you're doing.'

"And I say 'Yes, but you have a home, a normal life and children. I wish I could have something like that,' which we are working on. But I wonder if I had that life, would I be bored."

Throughout five years of international travel, including the United States, Europe and Japan, she has not had to pay for living accommodation. Sponsors of the races her husband has sailed in have picked up the expenses.

Her stay here -- and in the eight other international stop-overs on the nine-leg race -- will be funded by George Collins, the former head of Baltimore mutual fund company T. Rowe Price, who is Chessie's chief financial sponsor to the tune of about $5 million.

For Sally Scott, 34, it's the longest separation from her husband, Dave Scott, 38, a Chessie watch captain and expert sailmaker. Before the start of the race they sold their Annapolis house and increased his life insurance. She and her son, Harry, 6, now "live out of a suitcase."

"From time to time it bothers me," she said. "We gave up everything to do this. But it was a mutual agreement. It is something David always wanted to do as long as I have known him."

She recalled the start of the race in Southampton, England, on Sept. 21: "It was really emotional because David just sailed right by. We couldn't talk. I couldn't give him a hug. He just sailed off into the sunset.

"At the start of the first leg, Harry and I had no real place to go. It's a little nerve-wracking to have a child in tow. If I were by myself, it would be different."

She now organizes the travel for the Chessie crew and family, and will follow the race -- and her husband -- to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, the United States, France and back to Southampton.

Also traveling the distance will be Laura Spanhake, 35, wife of Greg Spanhake, 38, watch captain on Chessie and veteran of two earlier Whitbreads.

"I don't have a problem with it," she said. "We never get sick of each other. We really appreciate our times together."

A resident of Bay Ridge, Annapolis, and former office manager for Ethan Allen furniture, Spanhake is now assistant to the Chessie crew's on-shore chef.

"We have to feed 40 people -- the crew, the shore crew, wives and children. It's really a two-person job. After 30 days on freeze-dried food, we have to make sure they get a lot of calories, to fatten them up with good, nutritious, fresh food."

When she is not peeling potatoes or shopping for provisions, she follows the boat's progress on Chessie's Web page.

"That type of communication is just fantastic," she said. "We know they are safe."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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