Home is where the race takes them

Two Volvo competitors from Annapolis enjoying fresh air of familiar waters

April 23, 2002|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For most of the crew members on the eight racing machines tied up at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore is just another stop in their round-the-world-voyage known as the Volvo Ocean Race.

But for Annapolis-based sailors Chris Larson and Peter Pendleton, it is a homecoming.

"It was such an exhilarating feeling to be sailing home," says Pendleton, watch captain on Amer Sports One. "When we crossed the line, I couldn't wait to get to the dock and see my wife and not go to a hotel, but go home. It was fantastic to be here."

Larson, part of the tactical triumvirate on ASSA ABLOY, was a little more reserved. "It's definitely nice to come home and see the family," he says. "It's tough when you get caught up with sailing stuff."

And even the stop at home isn't all family time. Larson was crouched over a laptop computer in ASSA ABLOY's construction trailer office at the race village Friday afternoon going over a schedule of interviews, luncheons and personal appearances and trying to arrange some time off.

"Wait, that overlaps," said the father of 10-month-old twin girls, Madison and Olivia. "Oh, I don't have to be there until five? OK. Well, how about I take off the 23rd, then?"

Yesterday, he was part of a crew that took reporters on a courtesy cruise on the Patapsco aboard ASSA's stablemate, a look-alike boat used as a trial horse in preparation for the race and now a promotional tool.

The worst part of sailing a nine-month race, he says, is missing his girls' development. The leg from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, took about 3 1/2 weeks, "and there were amazing changes in them," Larson says. "It's sad to not be there, but it's all part of the sacrifice you have to make to do the project."

His wife, Victoria, is a sailor, too, who "understands the game and knows what it's all about," he says.

Pendleton, who has a 4-year-old daughter, Yardley, and 10-month-old son, Henry, spends much of his shore time ensuring that all the "technical stuff that needs to be done gets done" during the layover, he says.

His wife, Rebecca, "is pretty good about it," he says.

Larson and Pendleton both grew up sailing, they both work for sail makers, and this is the first round-the-world race for both of them.

Pendleton has been with Amer Sports One since before the race began. Larson, the 1997 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and a short-course specialist, was part of ASSA ABLOY's shore team until he was tapped for his racing job in December. He sailed the Sydney, Australia-to-Auckland, New Zealand leg, missed Leg 4 to Rio because of a previous commitment and is expected to be on board for the rest of the race, which finishes in Kiel, Germany, in June.

ASSA, which finished in the back of the pack on the first two legs of the race, has won two of the three legs that Larson has been aboard and placed third in the sprint from Miami to Baltimore.

Although he deflects praise, talking about "everyone doing their best jobs," navigator Mark Rudiger points to the results.

"If you look at the statistics of the performance level since Chris has been aboard, it's better than previously," Rudiger says. "He's done a lot for us."

Larson and Pendleton both provided what sailors call "local knowledge," the sense of the quirks of a particular body of water, for the arduous slog up Chesapeake Bay in light winds.

Pendleton is "the reason we did so well," says Warren Douglas, a spokesman for Amer Sports One, which finished second.

"I knew where to look for crab pots and fish traps and things like that," Pendleton says. "And I could feel when something was happening and feed that information" to the tactical team. That consists of Dee Smith, the tactician, Grant Dalton, the skipper, and Roger Nilson, the navigator.

Larson says he was able to recognize landmarks and knows where to be careful of dangerous shoals.

But in a race that sometimes depended on luck as the lead changed repeatedly with the unpredictable whims of spotty breezes, Pendleton had a little more luck than Larson. He was carrying a lucky penny that Henry kissed before the start of the Miami to Baltimore leg.

When they passed Cape Henry at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Pendleton flipped the penny over the side and "made a wish for a top-three finish," he says. "And we did it."

The boats will remain at the Inner Harbor until Friday when they leave for Annapolis in a parade of sail. The next leg of the race, to La Rochelle, France, starts Sunday north of the Bay Bridge.

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