Numbers battles tough wind, takes lead

Chessie is in second in Chesapeake Grand Prix

April 30, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

The conditions were shifty in the Outer Harbor. Winds whipped the six identically designed 48-foot yachts in the inaugural Chesapeake Grand Prix within inches of each other. And on the second day of this series, Numbers finished the day No. 1 with Chessie nipping at its sails.

"Basically, what we've got is two teams doing very, very well, who are real consistent," said skipper John Kolius of the third-place Abracadabra. "And then you've got four expansion teams."

Going into the day, Chessie, owned by former Baltimore investment banker George Collins, held a one-point lead. But the crew of Numbers and its skipper, Russell Coutts, gave a little demonstration of why they are the defending America's Cup champion.

With winds blowing up to 16 knots and pushing back and fourth at 40 and 50 degrees, Coutts, with the help of his tactician Brad Butterworth, came from behind to finish first in each of the day's three races.

The series continues with a third day of racing in Baltimore's outer harbor before shifting to Annapolis Sunday for a distance event on the Chesapeake Bay.

"On a day like this, there can be dramatic gains and dramatic losses," said Chessie skipper Ken Read. "And it is the tactician and the helmsman who determine who wins. To be honest, Russell Coutts and the Numbers team just plain old did it better. They were consistent. They were fast. They were smart and they just did it better."

There were near misses. Annapolis native Terry Hutchinson, the skipper of the fourth-place Prime Outlets, thought Chessie had come too near his boat and protested, but no penalties were assessed.

"Chessie was very aggressive, but the umpires made a decision that it wasn't too close," said Hutchinson. "It will be interesting to see what closer will be."

Read acknowledged his boat was, at times, close.

"In boats like these, they all go the same speeds," he said. "To gain a position you've got to come within inches of another boat and it's very exciting. These boats each weight 16,000 pounds. So two boats going 10 knots at each other at a closing speed of 20 miles an hour, it's exciting."

Second-day results

(Boat/sponsor/skipper/scores; total)

1. Numbers/John Risley/Russell Coutts/1-1-5; 1-1-1; 10

2. Chessie Racing/George Collins/Ken Read/2-2-2; 4-2-3; 15

3. Abracadabra/Jim Andrews/John Kolius/6-4-1; 5-3-5, 24*

4. Prime Outlets/Peter Gordon/Terry Hutchinson/4-3-4; 6-5-2; 24

5. Windquest/Dick and Doug DeVos/Doug DeVos/3-6-6; 2-6-4; 27

6. Starlight/Jay Ecklund/Ed Baird/5-5-5; 3-4-6; 28

*Abracadabra came in first in one race, so wins tiebreaker for third

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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