Smith named co-skipper for Chessie's second leg Veteran replaces Allsopp for stage to Fremantle

November 01, 1997|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Dee Smith, a veteran ocean racer, has joined Chessie Racing, the Maryland boat in the Whitbread Round the World Race, as co-skipper for the second of the nine legs in the 31,600-mile circumnavigation.

Smith, 45, will join Mark Fischer, 39, at the helm of the 64-foot, white-hulled racer, which finished the 7,350-mile first leg from Southampton, England, to Cape Town in fifth place.

Neither skipper has sailed the Whitbread before, but both are seasoned ocean racers. Together they will take the boat 4,600 miles through the Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties to Fremantle, Australia, a voyage expected to take about 18 or 19 days.

Smith, of Incline Village, Nev., replaces James Allsopp, of North Sails of Annapolis, who co-skippered the first leg with Fischer, taking the crew through a steep learning curve.

Of the crew he will now command, Smith said: "They think they have learned a lot more than anyone else has learned [on the first leg]. Hopefully, we can take some of that learning and use it for the start of this race."

Smith's experience on Chessie is limited to sailing from Annapolis to Newport and a couple of other outings. He readily acknowledged: "I have got a lot to learn. I am way, way behind.

"But I think it's good to have new blood. That always gives, hopefully, an objective look at things."

Referring to his absence from the first leg and the short time left before the restart of the race Nov. 8, he said: "My biggest challenge is trying to get 7,000 miles experience in seven days," he said.

Smith, a former owner of UK Sails and a racing professional since 1988, has a reputation as a yacht tactician. He was tactician on board Jameson, part of the winning U.S. Admiral's Cup Team in 1997. He will need all of his skills during the exit from Cape Town, where the weather can be what sailors term "fluky," and the entry into Fremantle.

"It's going to be won or lost leaving here and getting into Fremantle," he said. "How you leave here is going to set you up as to how you sail in the Southern Ocean."

In between heading south from here and then north to Australia, Chessie and the eight other boats still in the race will have to face the ferocious winds, mountainous seas and bone-chilling cold of the Southern Ocean.

Of Chessie's chances, he said, "It would be great if we had breakaway speed, but I don't think any of the boats do." Eight of the boats were designed by Bruce Farr & Associates of Annapolis, and the first leg suggested there was little difference in boat speed. What counted were the boats' sails and finding the right weather patterns.

Chessie, funded largely by George Collins, former head of Baltimore mutual fund company T. Rowe Price, through his educational foundation Living Classrooms, will be carrying some new sails for the heavy conditions.

Navigator Juan Vila, from Spain, also will use a new receiver for direct satellite weather transmissions.

"I think we can retain where the boat's been, and I'm hopeful that we can do better," Smith said. "There doesn't seem to be any reason we couldn't do better."

In the first leg, Chessie sailed higher into the wind in the Bay of Biscay than most of the fleet, lost contact with the leaders and never managed to re-establish it. After 32 days, 6 hours at sea, Chessie crossed the finish line here 2 days, 13 hours behind the leg winner, Sweden's EF Language, skippered by Paul Cayard.

Whitbread standings

after Leg 1

Boat ......... .......... Pts.

1. EF Language .......... 125

2. Merit Cup ............ 110

3. Innovation Kvaerner ... 97

4. Silk Cut .............. 84

5. Chessie Racing ........ 72

6. Toshiba ............... 60

7. America's Challenge* .. 48

8. Swedish Match ......... 36

9. EF Education .......... 24

10. BrunelSunergy ........ 12

* dropped out of race

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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