Collins weighs in on race competition 'Third is good enough,' but others have no chance

Chessie update

January 14, 1998|By BRUCE STANNARD | BRUCE STANNARD,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - When Chessie Racing skipper George Collins acknowledged the day after the Maryland entry's third-place finish in Leg 4 that the best showing Chessie could hope for in the Whitbread Round the World Race final standings was third place, his concession took into account the strengths and the weaknesses of the competition and a major shortcoming of his campaign.

Collins, the former CEO of Baltimore brokerage T. Rowe Price, expects certain boats, including Chessie, to finish among the leaders in the legs to come. After four legs of the Whitbread, Chessie is in sixth position with 294 points, five behind fifth-place Toshiba and 78 points behind leader EF Language.

On the other hand, Collins said there are two boats, the Netherlands' BrunelSunergy and the all-woman crew aboard Sweden's EF Education, that are "just not in the race.

"The Dutch guys on Brunel have a boat that's way off the pace," he said. "They're going to bring up the rear on every one of these legs.

"As for the all-girl crew aboard EF Education," he said, "it's nice to see the girls out there on an equal footing with the guys, but let's be honest about it, they are nowhere near strong enough for these boats. When these sails get wet, they weigh over a ton. It takes six men to lift them. And they have to be shifted up to the windward side every time the boat tacks. The girls just can't be expected to cope with that.

"I'm sure that on some of their tacks, they just say, 'Oh, to hell with it, let's leave them where they are.' I can't imagine what they're going through."

Collins is prepared to concede that the major flaw in Chessie's campaign was his failure to develop a two-boat program, in which he could have developed faster sail shapes, in particular.

"It's stupid and foolish to go do this Whitbread thing," he said. "OK, I'm stupid and foolish. But back then I thought, how much more stupid and foolish and I going to be if I build not one, but two of these boats? My wife should shoot me or cart me off to Sheppard Pratt as a psych case.

"I was tempted to build the second boat," Collins said, "but I saw it as a waste of $750,000. Because no one would let us race with a water-ballast boat, I thought I'd never get a penny back. . . . With the benefit of hindsight, that was a mistake. If we had had that test bed, we would be a lot quicker today.

"We set out to win, but, what the hell, third is good enough," he said. "and I think that's where we're going to end up when we get to [the race finish] in Southampton."

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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