Dickson quits Conner's Toshiba Skipper, prerace favorite, surprises Whitbread fleet with resignation from boat

October 29, 1997|By GILBERT A. LEWTHWAITE | GILBERT A. LEWTHWAITE,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Veteran skipper Chris Dickson, prerace favorite to win the Whitbread Round the World Race, resigned suddenly yesterday after finishing Leg 1 a disappointing sixth aboard Toshiba, the entry of Team Dennis Conner.

An announcement from the team's San Diego headquarters said Dickson's resignation was provoked by "a difference of opinion on how the program should be run." It gave no further details. Dickson could not be contacted at his hotel here and was reported to be on safari.

"Chris' decision to leave is a personal one, and I respect him for it," said Dennis Conner, winner of four America's Cup campaigns.

Dickson, 36, from New Zealand, will be replaced by Briton Paul Standbridge, 38, a watch captain on Toshiba sailing his fifth Whitbread race. Standbridge described as "inaccurate" yacht basin gossip that crew members were unwilling to sail on with Dickson, an intense competitor, after his style of command during the frustrating 7,350-mile leg from Southampton, England.

Toshiba finished Thursday, 10 hours after Chessie Racing, Maryland's underdog entry, sailed into harbor here in fifth place.

Toshiba had been at sea 32 days, 16 hours, during which its 11-man crew worked watches of eight hours, with four hours off, losing an average 13 pounds, not unusual in a long race.

Like most other late finishers, Dickson blamed his misfortune on early mistakes, which put him behind the weather patterns that blew winner EF Language of Sweden into port in 29 days, 16 hours. Standbridge, in an interview in Toshiba's marquee here, said: "I'll make as few changes as possible. We have just had a major change. I am not going to try and reinvent the wheel."

Toshiba's crew will be increased from 11 to 12 for the 4,600-mile Leg 2 through the Southern Ocean to Fremantle, Australia.

Another crew change was announced here yesterday. British navigator Stuart Quarrie will join the Dutch boat BrunelSunergy, which finished Leg 1 last in 10th position. He replaces Joao Cabecadas of Portugal, who will remain on the boat as a crew member. Gerald Rogivue, a Swiss with a military background who found the Dutch style of sailing too relaxed, will leave the boat.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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