Crew 'fattens' up with crash course With its own physician and cook, Maryland team bulks up for stress of Leg 2

Chessie update

November 05, 1997|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - The crew members of Chessie Racing are being made fitter and fatter before they take their 64-foot racer on the Leg 2 of the Whitbread Round the World Race on Saturday. Chessie, financed mainly by George Collins, former chief of Baltimore mutual fund company T. Rowe Price, is one of the few teams in the Whitbread to have its own physician and chef.

On hand to make sure the crew is in finest fettle for the tough second leg of the race across the Southern Ocean and through the Roaring Forties to Australia is Dr. Reynaldo Rodriguez, a sports medicine specialist from San Diego, Calif.

In the kitchen of their private dining hall, serving them one high calorie meal after another during this two-week stopover, is Linda Jones, a sailing chef from Connecticut. She has nine years experience in the galleys of racing and cruising boats.

Together they are trying to repair any physical setbacks suffered by the crew, all judged to be in top condition on departure from Southampton on Sept. 21, during their 32-day voyage here.

"They go through dramatic stress, physically and emotionally. But these guys were in peak condition when they left," Rodriguez said.

On Leg 1, the Chessie sailors escaped serious injury. The only real mishap came when bowman Rick Deppe was whipped against the rigging as he filmed a spinnaker change from the top spar of the mast, 100 feet above water. He sustained a cut on his forehead, which was treated by Jerry Kirby, one of four medics on the boat.

Emotionally, they appear to have fared well, too. But even without physical or emotional problems, long-distance sailors can suffer from debilitating weight loss.

Research by the University of Sweden on earlier Whitbread sailors found they burned an average of 5,000 calories a day (twice the amount needed by an sedentary male), but still lost between 5 and 10 kilograms on each leg of the race.

The current race has nine legs, and Rodriguez and chef Jones will be at each of the stopovers to take care of the Chessie crew.

What concerns Rodriguez is that some of the crew were so fit at the start of the race they were down to 7 percent body fat. The average person has 12 percent to 20 percent body fat, while a healthy person will have between 9 percent and 12 percent.

A heavy weight loss in someone with low body fat would lead not just to loss of fat, but also muscle - and strength. On a cruise the work is hard, which is why Rodriguez hired a gym and designed an exercise program for the crew.

On a moving boat, crew members get constant isometric exercise despite cramped conditions, but the freeze-dried rations to keep up their strength are hardly appetizing, which leads to some of the crew not getting the required number of calories daily, adding to the weight-loss problem.

On the boat's 26th day at sea in Leg 1 last month, Dave Scott, Chessie's watch captain, messaged the team's headquarters: "Dinner is on the stove: some different colored powder to be added to boiling water and then to be doctored individually with any form of seasoning that comes in the plastic bottle provided."

Rodriguez, who is checking the health and weight of each crew member during the stopover, said: "Now we will stress that they need to increase their calorific intake. You just tell them to eat everything they can - and enjoy it. But you don't want them to eat candies and sugar. You want complex carbohydrates for various vitamins and enzymes."

This is where Linda Jones comes in. She greeted the crew, on their arrival here, with a dockside American-style barbecue of chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers and potato salad. "Cheeseburgers were a big hit, a very bit hit," she said.

"I am trying to give them good calorific food throughout the day," said Jones, who is feeding a group of 40, including the boat crew, the shore crew and family members.

"Meals are the only time that they actually get together. It's a time to socialize with their families, to relax," she said. "We want to make it as pleasant as possible."

More coverage

Television: Today, 2:30 p.m., Southampton to Cape Town, ESPN. Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Cape Town to Fremantle, ESPN. Monday, 3 p.m., Cape Town to Fremantle, ESPN.

Internet: For more of The Sun's coverage of the Whitbread, go to www.sunspot.net/whitbread/. Other sites include, www.us.net/whitbread/ and www.whitbread.org.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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