Merit Cup, Innovation Kvaerner arrive less than two hours apart Chessie in fifth place, expected early tomorrow

Whitbread notebook

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

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- After racing each other over the Atlantic Ocean for 7,350 nautical miles, the second and third finishers in the opening leg of the Whitbread Round the World yacht race arrived here yesterday just less than two hours apart.

Monaco's Merit Cup took second place, arriving 30 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes and 11 seconds after setting out from Southampton, England, on Sept. 21. Just 109 minutes later, Norway's Innovation Kvaerner crossed the finish line at the harbor mouth.

They dueled at close quarters most of the way, frequently within sight of each other, in the wake of the leg winner, Sweden's EF Language, which arrived Tuesday.

"It was a crucial navigation leg, and it punished mistakes," said Grant Dalton, skipper of Merit Cup, crediting EF Language with finding the southerly winds first and "power sailing."

"We blew all our spinnakers, and, on the very last day, we had a spinnaker tied to the top of the mast," he said. "The boats are man-killers -- physically killing. You can't maintain the pace you need to maintain."

Choping with heavy seas

Still well out to sea, the Maryland entry, Chessie Racing, and the six other boats were coping with squalls and heavy seas as they battled their way toward Cape Town. Chessie is in fifth place. It is expected to arrive here early tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Chessie had trouble getting its spinnaker down when it was hit by a 40-knot squall, and overnight Swedish Match had to cut a sail free after it became stuck while being hoist.

"It was definitely a dangerous situation," skipper Gunnar Krantz said in a message to race headquarters.

Weighty matters

Paul Cayard, American skipper of EF Language, lost nearly 20 pounds during the first leg.

"I have never weighed this low since high school," said Cayard, newly shaven after growing a beard during the 29 days, 16 hours, 54 minutes and 26 seconds it took him to complete the leg.

Also, race organizers apologized yesterday for initially adding a day to his time, clocking him in at 30 days.

Cayard still seemed awed by the experience of some of the sailing conditions he encountered.

"The sensations are unbelievable," he told George Collins, chief sponsor of Chessie Racing.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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