Collins to head syndicate for '05-06 Volvo Ocean Race

Chessie chief to direct group based in Annapolis

August 20, 2003|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore and Annapolis - the only U.S. stopovers for the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race - now have a hometown syndicate led by a local veteran of global sailing.

George Collins, who led Chessie Racing, the yacht in the 1997-98 Whitbread campaign, is chairman of the new Annapolis-based syndicate Team Kan-do.

The announcement yesterday by Volvo Ocean Race in Southampton, England, was greeted with delight by the region's sailing and civic community.

"It's a gigantic boost for the area. ... It keeps the Chesapeake in the center of attention," said Gary Jobson, sailing analyst for ESPN and NBC, who lives in Baltimore.

Said Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer: "Being a stopover, that's a privilege. But having a boat in the race really demonstrates what we say and what our sign says - we are the maritime capital."

Volvo Ocean Race organizers said in February that they hope to have 10 boats compete. In June, a trio of Australian yachtsmen announced the formation of the syndicate Premier Challenge. Then last month, Neal and Lisa McDonald, both skippers in the 2001-02 race, said they would combine efforts on one entry.

During the 2001-02 campaign, Baltimore and Annapolis reprised their roles as stopovers, but the region was unable to attract a syndicate to compete. Having a local entry improves fund raising and media attention, said Greg Barnhill, the president of Ocean Race Chesapeake, the stopover host.

"This is the catalyst," he said. "This is what we've been waiting for."

Added Jobson: "We've done one without a boat and we've done one with a boat. Without a boat is OK, but with a boat is much more fun."

Collins, the retired chief executive officer of T. Rowe Price, said prominent local sailors "hounded me and hounded me" until he agreed to lead the organizing effort to recruit a boat designer and sailmaker, skipper and crew.

Already he has reached out to the Annapolis sailing industry, consulting preeminent boat designer Bruce Farr and the staff of North Sails.

"I want it to be an American effort, and we are well on our way in that respect," he said.

The local entry won't come cheap. One of Collins' partners in the venture, John Alden, pegged the price tag at $16 to $18 million.

Alden said that level of funding helps ensure a top-three finish and provides "a business platform around the spirit of Team Kan-do that embodies optimism, confidence and a sense of purpose."

"We hope to be fully funded and in training by the first of the year," he said.

Like the partnership between Chessie Racing and the Living Classroom Foundation, which used the 31,600-mile circumnavigation as a tool for teaching math, science, geography and history, Team Kan-Do also is going to have an educational component, he said.

The Volvo Ocean Race will start in November 2005 from an as-yet named Mediterranean port. The finish line will be at a Baltic port.

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