Leg 3: Guarding against runaway winner Along way to Sydney, leaders will be on lookout for unusual departures

December 10, 1997|By Bruce Stannard | Bruce Stannard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When the Whitbread Round the World Race fleet reaches the great bulk of Cape Leeuwin on its first night at sea after the restart off Fremantle, Australia, on Saturday, tacticians will face a critical choice, one that may decide the outcome of the 2,250-nautical-mile Leg 3 to Sydney, Australia.

Under cover of darkness, tacticians may be offered the kind of bold opportunity in which Swedish Match stole Leg 2 off Cape Town, South Africa.

Although the standings leaders will no doubt try to maintain contact with each other, tacticians will have an opportunity to choose either to round Leeuwin and head east, straight across the Great Australian Bight, or to steer a southerly course in the hope of hooking into the powerful prevailing belt of westerlies.

On board Chessie Racing, the Maryland entry in the race, the burden of that decision will to a large extent fall upon the shoulders of John Kostecki. Kostecki, one of America's hottest tacticians, has been flown to Fremantle to join the boat for the first time. Chessie syndicate chairman, George Collins, also will be aboard.

Chessie crewman Dave Scott, a sailmaker from North Sails' Performance Research Group, said: "Right now it looks as if the furthest south we'd be going would be the northern coast of Tasmania. I'm sure you will see the point-score leaders all going in the same direction. Cape Leeuwin will be the only place you might see a Swedish Match-style breakout.

"If the boats get there at night, the question is, do you stay inshore or sail way offshore? The course you steer around Cape Leeuwin will pretty much dictate where you go beyond that."

Scott says the mood in the Chessie camp is still very upbeat. "It's hard to keep saying this, but we do keep learning," he said. "We know the boat has plenty of potential. And without a doubt, this is the leg in which we must find that."

Scott has been working on Chessie's sail shapes. "We are only allowed 38 sails for the entire race," he said. "Pretty much every offshore leg will have a little bit of everything, so, as far as sail shapes are concerned, we've gone after something we can build on throughout the whole race rather than case-specific shapes for certain legs.

"The general trend for the Fremantle-Sydney leg would be toward lighter sails than we had on the last leg," Scott said. "We have a few sails that we will leave on the dock and a few others we will take with us. We will be going back to lighter sections because the only place where there's a chance for a good breeze will be through Bass Strait (between mainland Australia and the island state of Tasmania).

"Thirty-six hours before the start, we have to declare which sails we are going to take, and at that time our navigator will have a fair idea of the kind of weather that lies ahead of us. We will make the final decision right at that 36-hour time limit," he said.

Although it's too early to say with certainty what the Leg 3 weather is likely to be, Scott expects that, at worse, the fleet should hit one low, but that should be nowhere near as bad as the lows it encountered in the Southern Ocean.

"We've got a 10-year weather program that's given us a polygon that we will try to stay within," he said. "Looking at that now, there's not a lot of weather through that area."

On the last leg through the Southern Ocean, Scott says Chessie found itself behind the major front. While Lawrie Smith's Silk Cut clocked an astonishing 32.4 knots and logged a world-record 449.1 nautical miles in a 24-hour run, the best the Maryland boat could manage was 25 knots.

"During our trans-Atlantic shakedown, we clocked 29 knots, so we know what we're capable of and we certainly hope to best that," Scott said. "These boats can sail incredibly fast, and it doesn't take much to get them up and planing. We figure they should be able to surf along at 32-33 knots.

"The thing we aim at out there is not simply hitting top speed on surfs, but in maintaining a consistently high average. We want to be averaging 24-25 knots for over an hour at a time.

"We figure these boats are capable of 460 miles in a 24-hour run," Scott said. "We're not going to crack the 500-mile barrier in these boats. It might be possible with a few more crew, but right now we're restricted to just 12 guys so it's just not possible to do it in the middle of a leg. We're not wide enough awake to maintain that kind of speed and still keep the boat upright."

@Standings after Leg 2

Boat (Country) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Pts.

Innovation Kvaerner (Norway) .. .. .. .207

EF Language (Sweden) .. .. .. .... .. .197

Silk Cut (Britain) .. .. .. .. .. .. ..168

Swedish Match (Sweden) .. .. .. .. .. .161

Merit Cup (Monaco) .. .. .. .... .. ...158

Toshiba (U.S.) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...157

Chessie Racing (U.S.) .. .. .. .. .. ..132

EF Education (Sweden) .. .. .. .. .. ...60

America's Challenge (U.S.)** .. .. .. ..48

BrunelSunergy (Netherlands) .. .. .. ...36

**Withdrew from race

Race update

The Whitbread Watch is a weekly log of the Round the World Race. Look for it every Wednesday in The Sun.

Pub Date: 12/10/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.