Dark cloud, Doldrums bedevil boat CHESSIE UPDATE

March 25, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Chessie Racing, the Maryland entry in the Whitbread Round the World Race, was running in sixth place in today's second position report at 6 a.m. (GMT) as the fleet neared Barbuda and the last turn toward Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Once the turn is made, it is possible Chessie will benefit from a broader sailing angle, and make up ground lost during the past week - although crew member Tony Rey reported in an e-mail that the Maryland boat has been flying for days.

"We are ripping down the trade wind pipeline under jib top, staysail and full main," said Rey, aboard the Maryland boat for the first time on this leg that began in Sao Sebastiao, Brazil. "Chessie is . . . off like a rocket."

But the steady breezes have increased the speeds of the other eight yachts as well, and Chessie has fallen through the fleet, a slide that began during a difficult three-hour period a week ago.

"One cloud sealed the fate for Chessie today," watch leader Grant Spanhake wrote in an e-mail last Wednesday, after an encounter with a large, black rain cloud. "This doesn't sound so bad in itself. In fact, a rain shower is a pleasant relief from the stifling heat. What is bad is the associated phenomena," including westerly wind shifts, frequent sail changes, winds dying away and rising again from different directions.

During one three-hour squall, Spanhake said, Chessie's net loss was 13 miles and "all of a sudden we went from the front of the pack to the back."

Coming out of another squall Friday, Chessie found itself in sight of U.S. entry Toshiba, Sweden's EF Language and Norway's Innovation Kvaerner.

On Friday night, Chessie crossed the Equator, and on Saturday it entered the Doldrums and was becalmed while Innovation Kvaerner and EF Language continued to make good speed only half a mile away.

Since exiting the Doldrums Monday, Chessie has made good speed - at times the fastest in the fleet - and the crew is hopeful they will have speed enough to climb in the standings between Barbuda and Fort Lauderdale.

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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