International exposure: Ocean Race's port of call

On The Outdoors

August 19, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

A few months ago, the organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race announced that Baltimore would be a stopover port in the spring of 2001, but the 32,250-nautical-mile course also has a few new wrinkles.

The competition, formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race, will begin in Southampton, England on Sept. 23 next year and then run through four oceans and 10 stopovers in the next nine months.

"During the last 12 months, our team has spent many weeks traveling the world and evaluating possible venues, taking into account the amount of international media that each port could potentially generate and the location and quality of the facilities on offer," said Helge Alten, chief executive of the race.

"I am in no doubt that the venues that have been chosen will each provide an arena for a higher level of quality stopover events than we ever have seen before."

Major changes in the course are legs ending in Rio de Janeiro; Miami; Gothenburg, Sweden; and Kiel, Germany -- and a three-hour pit stop at Hobart in Tasmania.

"We are aware that the past success of this race has been built on the romance and exhilaration of round-the-world racing, and this will remain our guiding principle for the future," Alten said.

But race organizers also are very aware that the event must be marketed to draw international attention to the sponsors' products. So, the smaller, out-of-the-way stopovers such as Punta del Este, Uruguay, and Fremantle, Australia, are largely gone.

The ports of call in order are Cape Town (South Africa), Sydney (Australia), Hobart (Tasmania), Auckland (New Zealand), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Miami, Baltimore, La Rochelle (France), Gothenburg and Kiel.

The changes in the course set up two very long legs across the Southern Ocean -- Cape Town to Sydney and Auckland to Rio de Janeiro -- and long ocean legs from Southampton to Cape Town, Hobart to Auckland, Rio de Janeiro to Miami and Baltimore to La Rochelle.

There also will be four sprints to major boating centers -- Miami to Baltimore, La Rochelle to Gothenburg, Gothenburg to the finish at Kiel and the curious leg from Sydney to Hobart.

The Volvo fleet will race as a separate division in the Sydney to Hobart Race, cross the finish line and make quick repairs and three hours later start racing up the Tasman Sea toward Auckland.

"The route retains the stormy test of the two major southern ocean legs, perhaps made more difficult by requiring more time farther south while skirting Antarctica," said race director Michael Woods. "The integrity of the race is being carefully preserved."

In light of the disastrous Sydney to Hobart Race this past winter, when an unexpected storm ravaged the fleet, race organizers said even the sprint legs in the race can present strong challenges.

"When you think that the fearsome Sydney to Hobart Race acts as a warm-up for the leg to Auckland," said Woods. "even the criticism of short legs in ocean racing, which was looking less and less valid last time, looks unreasonable."

Race organizers said there may be as many as 15 entrants for the Volvo, and 12 syndicates already have paid the registration fee. Of those there are two entrants from Denmark and one each from Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, New Zealand and the United States (team Dennis Conner). Four entrants have asked race organizers to keep the details of their syndicates confidential.

The fishing report

Ocean City: Flounder action continues steady in the back bays, although the ratio of undersized fish to keepers remains high. Sea trout are a good bet at the inlet piers and jetties and from the Route 50 bridge. Offshore, marlin fishing is excellent in 500 to 700 fathoms, and chunkers have been doing well for yellowfin tuna at the Chicken Bone. Bluefish, king mackerel and false albacore at the Jackspot.

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Increasing numbers of breaking rockfish are being reported, with the mouth of the Chester River perhaps the best location and the incoming tide the best time. Spot and croaker over oyster bottoms along the Eastern Shore, and white perch action on many of the lumps off the western shore.

Middle Chesapeake Bay: The mouth of Eastern Bay is a good choice for breaking rockfish and bluefish to 22 inches, while the drop-offs continue to produce good numbers of spot, croaker and flounder for bottom fishermen. Spanish mackerel are reported mixed with blues and rockfish and breaking in the mouth of the Choptank River. The lower Choptank and Sharps Island Flats are good choices for croaker, spot and some sea trout.

Lower Chesapeake Bay: The HS Buoy and Buoy 72A have been very good for chummers after rockfish and blues, while Hoopers Straits is a good bet for sea trout. Tangier Sound also is hot for croaker and sea trout, and the mouth of the Potomac River and the Southwest Middle Grounds are reliable for blues and rock, sea trout and Spanish mackerel.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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