Finally, Roaring 40s arrive Chessie update

November 19, 1997|By KENT BAKER

The past seven days have been a mixture of frustration and exultation aboard Chessie Racing, the Maryland entry in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

Chessie has experienced extended calms, collided with a whale, changed from shorts and T-shirts to cold weather survival suits and on Monday received its first blast of heavy weather from the Roaring 40s.

"Yahoo! The Southern Ocean is here at last," Whitbread veteran and Chessie watch captain Grant Spanhake reported in Monday's electronic mail to race headquarters.

"It is just how I remember it: overcast skies, very cold, very wet, huge seas. Flying along finally with a reaching spinnaker set, everybody on watch working their tails off to catch the next wave."

At today's second position check (0602 GMT), Chessie was sailing in sixth place, 706 miles behind leader Swedish Match.

The collision with a whale last Wednesday has blunted Chessie's keel and slowed the Maryland boat slightly, but the crew reports no leaks or structural damage to the boat.

Spanhake reported the team's first major breakdown occurred when a spinnaker blew out while Chessie was "hurtling down these huge seas at nearly 20 knots."

Last Thursday night, the seals failed on the team's hydraulic boom vang, which inhibits violent and potentially dangerous movement of the spar at the base of the mainsail. A block and tackle system has been rigged to complement the hydraulic vang, which lost at least 30 percent of its fluid.

Yesterday, Chessie made the tactical decision to pass south of the 80-mile-wide Kerguelen Islands, and had done so as of early today. The move added to the distance Chessie must sail on the leg, but it rewarded the crew with stronger winds. Earlier in the week, Swedish Match was hit with light winds while passing north of the islands, and the rest of the fleet quickly cut 200 miles out of its lead.

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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