Kostecki is hooked on the Whitbread Recent addition to crew set on return engagement - next time around

January 28, 1998|By BRUCE STANNARD | BRUCE STANNARD,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Chessie Racing tactician John Kostecki, who has sailed in two America's Cup campaigns, including America3's winning effort in 1992, is sold on the round-the-world race concept.

Speaking in Auckland after he guided Maryland entry Chessie to a creditable third place on Leg 4 from Sydney, Australia, Kostecki, one of the world's best-regarded sailboat skippers and tacticians, said the America's Cup no longer had the special allure it once held for sailors.

"Look around," he said. "This Whitbread fleet has the hottest sailors in the world. Guys like Dennis Conner, Paul Cayard and Grant Dalton are the best. That's why the Whitbread is where it's at."

Kostecki, whose introduction to the Whitbread has come on the past two legs aboard Chessie, is the first sailor committed to race in the next Round the World Race, which will be sponsored by Volvo, in 2001-2002. He will mount his own challenge, and he will campaign on behalf of yet-to-be-identified foreign corporate interests.

"The Whitbread is the greatest sailboat race in the world," he said. "I've made the commitment, and I intend to be there on every leg, driving the boat right around the world."

Kostecki said he enjoyed the opportunity to sail aboard Chessie on Leg 3, from Fremantle, Australia, to Sydney, in which Chessie also finished third, and Leg 4, from Sydney to Auckland.

At the post-race press conference in Auckland, Chessie Racing skipper George Collins paid tribute to Kostecki.

"John made a huge difference to the boat," Collins said. "I think the result speaks for itself. We know we are very competitive, and now that we've got a little continuity in the boat, we expect to go on to greater things."

Although he won't sail the next leg, from Auckland to Sao Sebastiao, Brazil, because of a previous commitment, Kostecki hopes to sail on the remaining legs aboard Chessie. He thinks the Maryland boat can still be competitive the rest of the way.

"There's nothing much between the boats," he said. "I would say the boats are all basically equal. It comes down to the best sailors and the best sails."

Given the kind of sailing talent he pinpointed, was it unrealistic to expect Chessie Racing to be doing any better?

"We will have to," Kostecki said. "We will have to improve. But there is a lot more racing to go, and I know George [Collins] is committed, and he will do whatever it takes."

So how should Chessie go about finding that essential extra speed?

"It's a whole lot of little things," he said. "Sailing has more variables than just about any other sport I know of. It's a matter of eliminating stuff that's going to get in your way. It's a matter of simplifying your program as much as possible. We have to eliminate our weaknesses."

And Chessie's weaknesses?

"There are so many little things," Kostecki said. "Sails, masts, crew, rigging. It's little things with each area. Taken on their own, they may look insignificant, but together they add up. It's the old story: He who makes the least mistakes, wins.

"It's a matter of perfecting our crew work and fine-tuning our sails and all that equipment," he said. "We can win. I'm sure of it. Maybe not the whole race, but we certainly can win a few legs."

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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