The Last Whitbread Round World Race
Kathleen L. May
History of the race
Leg 1 - South Hampton, England to Captye Town, South Africa
Leg 2 - Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia
Leg 3 - Fremantle, Australia to Sydney, Australia
Leg 4 - Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand
Leg 5 - Auckland, New Zealand to San Sebastio, Brazil
Leg 6 - San Sebastio, Brazil to Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Leg 7 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Baltimore, Maryland
Leg 8 - Baltimore, Maryland to La Rochelle, France
Leg 9 - La Rochelle, France to South Hampton, England
Future of the race
Final standings and point totals
In 1971 Anthony Churchill and Guy Pearse conceived an idea during Cowes Week in Great Britain, to have an ocean race around the world following the routes of the first explorers. The concept was simple follow the Atlantic Ocean down to the southern ocean and keep the capes of Good Hope and Horn on your port side. The race would be run with four stopovers to repair and reprovision the boats for the next leg.
The first race started on September 8, 1973 in South Hampton England with 17 yachts, that set out on a 36,000 nautical mile race. The yachts were diverse in both overall length and rigging, from a 73-foot alloy ketch to a yawl built in 1936. On April 1, 1973 Clay Blyth with a crew from the Parachute Regiment in a 73 foot ketch Great Britain II, designed by Alan Gurney and funded by 'Union Jack' Hayward crossed the finish line. While they didn't win the race on corrected time they were the first to complete the race, that would become known as the Whitbread. The race has been run every four years since then and has become known as the Mount Everest of ocean sailboat racing. For Nine months twelve people live, work, eat, sleep and generally try to survive in a boat that is only 60feet long and that isn't much bigger than a walk in closet below deck.
Twenty-five years later a few things have changed the boats that are raced are of one type, Whitbread 60's. The winner is no longer determined on corrected time. The winner of the race is decided on a points system. Each of this year's nine legs have a maximum to minimum amount of points a boat can earn, which depends on how long or short the leg is and where they finish. First place gets the most points last place the least. The boat, which has the most points at the end of the race, wins.
The longest leg of the Whitbread race 7,350 nautical miles to Cape Town South Africa. The racecourse was south across the Atlantic Ocean toward Trinidad then southeast through the doldrums of the equator and sail south along the coast of Africa to Cape Town South Africa.
Leg one is a shake down leg where the crews find out what works and what doesn't work on the boat under the stress of hard driving ocean sailboat racing. Nearly every boat has something that has broken on it when they reach Cape Town. As always the crews scramble to fix what they can at sea and jury-rig or do without what they can't fix.
As usual the weather played an important role and this leg was no exception. The Whitbread 60's were stuck in the doldrums (the windless zone around the equator) a little longer then expected. Then there was the high-pressure system around Trinidad that some of the boats got caught in. Both of these factors contributed to the duration of the leg. Most boats provisioned for 28 days at sea, and ran short on food, which had to be rationed. Chessie Racing was the exception she had brought food for 35 days and arrived in Cape Town with freeze dried leftovers.
Most of the W60's suffered very little damage the exception was the Dutch entry Brunel Sunergy, which had the distinction of being the first of the Whitbread 60's to collide with a whale off Cado Verde Brazil. The force of the collision broke off over half meter of the rudder. Brunel had two unenviable choices: 1. Jury rig the rudder and continue as best as they could to Cape Town. 2. Stop at the nearest port for repairs. The Captain and crew of Brunel Sunergy choose the later of the two and dropped anchor at Recife Brazil for repairs. She finishes in tenth place..
While most of the W 60's remained pretty much intact on this leg the same could not be said for the crewmembers. On Innovation Kvaerner skipper Knut Fostad's eye came into contact with a steel rod antenna which punctured his right eyeball. Alby Pratt the onboard medic took care of Knut's eye, luckily there was no lasting damage to the eye. On Americas Challenge Captain Ross Fields son Campbell got the end of one of his index fingers caught in the main sheet block it was handled by the medic. Campbell arrived in South Africa missing a small piece of his index finger, which was amputated when his finger got stuck in the block.
On this leg the crews tried out their new electronic communications equipment which was provided by the Whitbread Race Committee as a part of the $25,000 entry fee.
Teams were capable of sending video pictures and Email back to the Race office. Some of, which was used in TV coverage around the world as well as being posted on the races Internet web site at: www.whitbread.org. Nick Willets and Christen Horn Johannessen of Innovation Kvaerner formed Snus Korp Productions and subsequently sent back the first piece of video taped investigative journalism. A report on why the crew had ended up with more toothbrushes than people on the boat. After an extensive investigation Nick's explanation was simple and ground breaking in the behavioral science of toothbrushes. He concluded that the toothbrushes mated at night. This was the first of many thrilling and educational reports from Innovation Kvaerner by Snus Korp.
During leg one Cheesie Racing added a new member to the racing family. Bowman's Rick Deppe wife Annatasia gave birth to their second child a girl named Isabelle. With the aid of friends and family member's video cameras and access to the Internet, Rick was able to see his daughter six hours after she was born. The images were Emailed to the Chessie headquarters in Baltimore Maryland which forwarded them to the Whitbread Race Office in South Hampton England. Next they were emailed to Chessie which was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on her way to Cape Town South Africa. When the first race was run in 1973 the race headquarters in South Hampton were lucky if they could communicate with the boats by radio. Today the technology has changed everything. The race office can not only transmit information to the boats but also receive messages from the boats anywhere on the racecourse. In the form of Email, video, or digital photographs.
Paul Cayard of E F Language surprised everyone by finishing in first place. Using a code 0 or whomper sail he was able to finish a full day ahead of the rest of the fleet. Merit Cup finished in second place, Innovation Kvaerner was third. The rest of the fleet finished in the following order: Silk Cut forth, Chessie Racing fifth, Toshiba sixth, Americas Challenge seventh, Swedish Match eighth, E F Education ninth and Brunel Sunergy finished in tenth place.
During the layover in Cape Town South Africa, America's Challenge had to drop out of the race due to continuing financial problems. The rest of the Whitbread fleet would remain intact with the exception of a few mast problems on the boats and sail the remaining eight legs.
After a few weeks in Cape Town South Africa, it was off to Fremantle Australia. This is the first of the three southern ocean legs. Sailors refer to them as the roaring forties, furious fifties and screaming sixties.
At the start Swedish Match surprised everyone and took a flyer to the east. Heading away from the fleet she grabbed the lead. The crew seeing smoke from a merchant ship on the horizon realized there was wind over there and headed for it.
There are times in ocean racing when despite all the high tech electronic navigation equipment onboard there is no substitute for a pair of binoculars in the hands of a sailor on a W60. Swedish Match maintained her lead to finish in first. Innovation Kvaerner who had followed Swedish Match so closely throughout the race finished in second place. Toshiba finished in third.
E F Languages experience in the first southern ocean leg can best be described as Paul Cayard and crew fought the southern ocean and the ocean won. E F Language broached badly loosing a place on the leader board to Chessie. However Chessie Racing was soon to have a battle of her own with the southern ocean. Sailing along quite well in third place the boat slowed down a knot or so when Chessie hit a sleeping whale. For the next few days Chessie kept dropping on the leader board she went from third down to fifth place. Everyone on the boat knew she was not performing properly. The damage to the boat had to be assessed, this meant that someone had to go for a swim in the southern ocean, which on a sunny day might be a balmy 32 degrees. Jerry Kirby got dressed in two survival suits tied a rope around his waist and went over the side. He tried to dive under water only to bob to the surface again after a couple of attempts the solution to the buoyancy problem became painfully clear. Jerry unzipped the suits to let the trapped air out that was causing him to float to the surface in doing so he let the freezing southern ocean water in. He dived again and feeling the front of the keel he found that it had been damaged. Jerry then proceeded to use his hand to scrape away what debris he could and returned to the surface. On Chessie the rest of the crew were making hot coffee and heating water. When Jerry came aboard from his swim crewmates poured the hot water over his head and helped him out of his survival suits. From a warm bunk wrapped in a sleeping bag with a mug of steaming hot coffee in his hand he related what he found and what he did about it. With the inspection complete Chessie was off again, despite all of Jerry's efforts she still did not perform vary well and finished in sixth place. Innovation Kvaerner collided with what they described as an organic object i.e.: a whale. The damage wasn't as severe as it had been on Chessie, and didn't effect her performance as much as it had on Chessie.
The highlight of the leg came from Silk Cut. Lawie Smith had set the world mono hull distance record in the 1993-94 Whitbread aboard Intrum Justitia averaging 17.86 knots traveling 428.7 nautical miles in twenty-four hours. Twelve days into this leg, the first leg of the southern ocean Silk Cut skippered by Lawie Smith demolished his old record. In one twenty four hour period they traveled 449.1 nautical miles averaging a brisk 18.7 knots. When asked if everyone onboard Silk Cut knew that they had broken the mono hull twenty-four hour distance record? Adrian Steed replied "We all had a idea that if we kept going like we were, and if the wind held out we thought we could break it". Lawie Smith theorized in 1993-94 "that it was possible for a W60 to travel 480 nautical miles if the wind holds". He came within thirty nautical miles of making his theory a reality.
Fifteen days after the start at Cape Town South Africa Swedish Match glided into Fremantle Australia. The next day Innovation Kvaerner crossed the finish line taking second place. On the following day three more boats in the nine boat fleet finished. Toshiba, Silk Cut and EF Language finished respectively in third, fourth, and fifth. Bringing up the rear Chessie Racing in sixth, Merit Cup seventh, EF Education eighth and Brunel Sunergy in ninth.
With the Fremantle stopover came the traditional parade of the boat crews through the streets of the central district of the town. The street parade is the culmination of the Fremantle Festival and is incorporated into the Whitbread race celebrations. During the parade a water balloon and squirt gun battle ensued. This is a Whitbread tradition in Fremantle and some crews were more prepared then others. The water gun and water balloon arms race was lead by Knut Fostad of Innovation Kvaerner who went shopping in the local toy stores and purchased what could be described as the biggest water pistol in Fremantle. Swedish Match was close behind with their twelve squirt guns. What they lacked in firepower they made up for with accuracy. The battle started when Knut Fostad started lobbing water balloons at the crew of Swedish Match. Swedish Match quickly shot back unfortunately Chessie Racing got caught in the crossfire. From that moment it was every man for him self. The Whitbread Crews did not run short of ammunition, buckets of water materialized some of which were hidden along the parade route ahead of time. The Spectators soon joined in the action after it was over the soggy W60 crews and spectators adjourned to the local pubs.
With peace restored to the streets of Fremantle, the Whitbread crews got down to the business of engaging in the in the five R's: repair, reprovision, rest, relaxation and recreation. Repair and reprovasion the boats, the rest, relaxation and recreation were taken up in wind surfing, mountain climbing, swimming and sunbathing on the beach.
The Fremantle stopover yielded more crew changes. Due to Brunel Sunergy poor finishes in legs one and two Captain Hans Boushcholte was replaced by Roy Heiner who is one of match racing's up and coming "rock stars". Chessie also made some changes. After two poor finishes George Collins not wanting to disappoint the school kids participating in the Living Classroom Foundation's Chessie Chase on the L C F"s internet web site www.livingclassrooms.org took over as skipper and brought "rock star" John Kosteecki onboard as tactician for leg three.
This was the second and most northerly of the southern ocean legs of the Whitbread. The course was a simple one. Sail from Fremantle south down the West Coast of Australia hang a left (port tack) around Point D'Entrecasteaux sail along the southern coast of Australia through the Bass Strait the channel of water between Australia and Tasmania. Turn left and sail up the East Coast to Sydney Harbor to the finish line. A piece of cake right? Not hardly!
Within 72 hours Silk Cut's desalenators broke. Day four dawned and brought Innovation Kvaerner to a stand still. She suffered a compression fracture of her mast.
Harald Hjort of her shore crew described what happened next. " I was in the middle of the Thank God They're Gone Party drinking my third rum and coke when I was suddenly interrupted by a call on my cellular phone, telling me that the boat had a problem with it's mast. I had to leave the party and go over to the to the Volvo Race Village where the containers were all packed, locked and ready to be loaded onto a ship sailing to Auckland New Zealand. I had to then unlock and unload the container to put together a repair kit for the mast. While I was putting the repair kit together another member of the shore crew had hired a helicopter to fly the parts out to the boat which had to anchor to receive the repair kit". The first scheduled transfer didn't take place as the helicopter ran short of fuel and had to return. A second helicopter with a larger fuel capacity was hired the repair kit was then lowered to the anchored Innovation Kvaerner. The crew raised anchor and made the necessary repairs while underway. Harald said "We had to wait to see if the kit worked or not. The repair kit worked much to everybody's relief. "If they needed another part or the repair didn't work one of us (shore crew) would have had to fly to Sydney and get the necessary parts from our container that was in the race village". There was a humorous part to this episode the navigators from Swedish Match, Silk Cut and Toshiba noticed that Marcel Van Treist had changed course. Thinking that he might know something they did not about the wind close to the coast of Australia they followed Innovation Kvaerner only to find that she was anchored and taking on parts for repairs. The following day Swedish Match suffered almost identical damage to her mast. The crew managed to rig a "Spanish windless" which worked okay.
The first and only man overboard emergency in the race happened aboard Innovation Kvaerner. Alby Pratt the medic was swept overboard during a sail change.
The strobe light he carried proved to be worth its weight in gold. It served as a beacon to his location for Innovation Kvaerner to steer towards. Once it was discovered that Alby was missing Innovation's crew sprung into action immediately. The Whitbread Race Office was notified that they had a man overboard and would start the boat engine to retrieve him. Video pictures were then taken of the engine seal, that done the engine was started. The boat was turned around and Alby was back onboard, the engine was then turned off, the boat was turned around to continue the race. The race office was then notified that he was back onboard. The engine was resealed a video was taken of the engine seal and was sent back along with the video of the original engine seal to the Whitbread Race Office in South Hampton England, as required by race rules.
This leg had more than its share of tacks, E F Education (the girl's boat) had a particularly hard time of it lacking the upper body strength of their male counterparts. What the girl's lack in strength they make up for in perseverance and excellent seamanship. If any of the crewmembers aboard the W60's were unsure about how well their boats handled during a tacking situation they got more than enough data to analyze during the first three days of this leg.
The Sydney Opera House provided a dramatic backdrop to an exciting leg three finish. It was to be the closest finish in the Whitbread's twenty-five year history and showed just how evenly matched and fast this year's W60's were. E F Language was across the finish line first, making this their second first place finish in three legs. Swedish Match and Chessie Racing were next in a case of match racing at its best Swedish Match nosed out Chessie Racing by a slim twenty seconds. Followed by Merit Cup forth, Innovation Kvaerner fifth, Toshiba sixth, Silk Cut seventh, Brunel Sunergy, eighth and E F Education in ninth. All the boats were across the finish line within one hour and forty minutes. The first place finish put E F Language in first place overall.
The Whitbread crews celebrated Christmas and New Years in Sydney. Each skipper was asked to make a few New Years resolutions. The resolutions are revealing George Collins of Chessie Racing resolves to "Stop spending money" Collins has spent about 15 million dollars of his own money on Chessie's Whitbread Campaign. The boat electronics have broken down and had to be replaced. Christine Gialou of E F Education "To Get on that podium as soon as possible" While E F Education has had some promising starts and has moved up as well as down the leader board, they have yet to achieve a podium finish.
The notable crew change for leg four was aboard Toshiba. Dennis Conner announced that he would join the team for leg four as skipper. John Kostecki and George Collins would be sailing in leg four to Auckland. Rick Deppe who was injured when he went up the mast to help untangle a sail will be spending this leg on shore.
Sydney to Auckland New Zealand is one of the shorter legs a distance of 1,270 nautical miles. Auckland is one of the more popular stopovers among the Whitbread crews, as it has been called the sailing capital of the world. A warm welcome was granuteed as hometown favorite Grant Dalton skipper of Merit Cup was coming home.
Once again Swedish Match took an early lead. As she rounded Cape Reinga, New Zealand however her lead quickly evaporated when she got caught in a wind hole, which she couldn't crawl out of. The wind hole that Swedish Match had fallen into off Cape Reinga is created as a result of the landscape and the way in which the wind blows around the northern tip of New Zealand.
Kiwi Grant Dalton on Merit Cup took advantage of Swedish Match's misfortune.
His local knowledge of the area gave him the extra edge he needed to take the lead. Merit Cup never looked back; Dalton sailed into his hometown victorious much to the delight of the kiwis. Toshiba with Dennis Conner at the helm finished in second place. Chessie Racing surprised everyone by taking third place for the second time in a row. In these last two legs Chessie has come on strong. Originally thought of as the "education boat" she was not considered a serious competitor. Now it seems that all the other W60's teams will be looking upon her with a bit more respect. Chessie has proved that she is a serious competitor and is out to take her fair share of podium finish positions. E F Language finished in forth place, followed by Swedish Match in fifth place. Sixth place went to Silk Cut followed by Innovation Kvaerner in 7th, Brunel Sunergy in 8th and E F Education in ninth position.
This is the leg that defines the Whitbread. The second longest and perhaps the most brutal leg of the race. Leg five is where both men and boat are pushed to the limit and then exceed them. Ask any W60 sailor to describe the Whitbread in three words he or she will reply "the southern ocean". One of the more exciting leg's leg five kept W60 crewmembers, armchair and cyber sailors on the edge of their seats.
Mechanical problems spread through the fleet like the flu. EF Education and Silk Cut were dismasted within days of each other. Chessie Racing week of hell as Rick Deppe so aptly put it began with the boats one and only head breaking. This was only the beginning the radar refused to work and the generator or donkey engine quit after it had been fixed. The donkey engine has two vital functions: 1. To transfer water ballast from one side of the boat to other by powering the pumping systems. 2. To power the water desalination device that gives the boats crew fresh water for drinking and cooking. On Swedish Match the boats water maker also stopped working. EF Education and Silk Cut masts broke, they would stop and replace them at Ushuaia Argentina. Chessie would anchor a mile off of Tierra del Fuego and take on spare parts for the donkey engine from the shore crew and fix the generator while underway.
At the start of the leg Innovation Kvaerner and E F Education were engaged in southern ocean match racing. The girls of E F Education kept Innovation Kvaerner's navigator Marcel Van Triest on his toes every time he looked team EF Education were right beside them. The girls were holding there own against the boys until their mast broke. They managed to jury rig the mast, but soon dropped to the back of the fleet. Team EF Language grabbed the lead and maintained it as she rounded Cape Horn. Paul Cayard and crew had a steep learning curve to overcome after their first southern ocean experience in the second leg of the race. Proclaiming that he would not risk lives by going full throttle he finished three days ahead of everyone else. What ever the problems were on the first southern ocean leg Paul Cayard and crew overcame them finishing first and taking the overall lead in the race standings.
Next it was Silk Cut's turn to experience the fury of the southern ocean. With an eye on breaking their own world record for mono hull speed Lawie Smith and crew pushed the boat too hard. The mast broke; the crew jury rigged what was left of it and like the girls began to head for Ushuaia. With two Whitbread 60's loosing their masts the question that begs to be asked is who do you call to get a new one? Answer: Formula Spars of Bath Road in Lymington England. Formula Spars was kept busy throughout the Whitbread they had replaced E F Education's and Silk Cut's mast and were busy preparing other replacement masts if needed. After the mast is finished you can't just take a 95ft mast and hop on the next plane to Ushuaia, you hire one of the few huge C 41 cargo planes that are privately owned and charter it. Even then the mast has to be cut in two, which to a certain extent compromises the strength of it. The shore crew then must reassemble the mast using a sleeve that goes over both parts of the mast and fasten it together. Exactly where Silk Cut's mast broke was a team secret Lawie Smith would only say that E F Language's mast had the same problem that caused theirs to break.
Chessie Racing's Leg could best be described by a sentence from one of Bowmen's Rick Deppe's E-mails " My week of hell began when the head broke". This was an inconvenience that could be overcome by the use of a bucket along with some jokes from the other crewmembers about having to use a bucket instead of the head. The head breaking was a portent of things to come. The radar broke down; it was fixed only to give up again. Chessie was sailing in the southern ocean with icebergs on the bow; to port and starboard with no way to see them except for a crewman stationed on the bow equipped with a pair of binoculars. Just like crewmembers Fredrick Fleet and Reginald Lee on the Titanic and we all know how that turned out. Dee Smith had no choice but to head further north away from the ice. Things deteriorated further when the generator to the donkey engine starter quit functioning. No generator meant any hot food or fresh water. The donkey engine's generator starter provides the power for the desalination of water which was used not only for drinking but was added to the freeze dried food when it was cooked on the galley stove which also got its power from the generator. The water ballast instead of being moved from one side to the other of the boat to provide stability at a rate of over 200 gallons of water a minute had to be pumped by hand. The standard procedure was for the captain or watch captain to announce that the boat would be tacking in 30 minutes. The crew would then man the pumps and pump the water by hand over to the other side of the boat where it was needed. This would work fine as long as there were no emergencies. Rick Deppe and Jerry Kirby managed to fix the donkey engine starter which worked for a while and then stopped again after almost twenty four hours of staring at the engine it was concluded that the " starter is fried" as Rick Deppe and Jerry Kirby put it. With that freeze dried food became a thing of the past. The crew subsisted on the chocolate bars they brought for snacks and what water they could get from hand operated water desalinatetors and gathered off the mainsail after it rained. For five days Chessie's crew existed on rationed chocolate candy bars and three cups of water a day for each crewmember. During this time it was decided that they should take on spare parts for the generator starter and fix it while underway. To do this required them to anchor a mile off shore and take on the parts. The decision was to create some controversy among the other boats, and spark a spirited debate online at the races official web site as well as among the competing teams. Chessie wasn't the first to do this Innovation Kvaerner did it in a previous leg to get parts for their mast.
Chessie Racing's crew morale was quite low they had given up on a podium finish and decided to try for the legs media award instead. Rounding Cape Horn navigator Juan Vila came out of the navigation station down below and announced that " I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is Swedish Match, Innovation Kvaerner, Merit Cup and Toshiba are parked in a high-pressure system off the east coast of South America. The bad news Brunel Sunergy is catching up with the rest of the W60 fleet fighting for second place. If Cheesie could anchor meet the supply boat and take on the parts she needed relatively quickly they would have a chance for a podium finish if the weather gods were kind, they could avoid the high pressure system and the wind held.
Meanwhile in the parking lot off the South American coast the other four boats in the Whitbread Race were having troubles of their own. Swedish Match's water maker broke and the crew was forced to using hand desalanators and getting rain water off the main sail when it rained. They were also running low on fuel for the generator and had to ration that as well as water. Innovation Kvaener ran low on food and were asking for recipes over the Internet for cooking sea kelp. No one was moving and if the weather didn't change soon both food and fuel would run out. While each boat had the option of anchoring within a mile from shore to take on spare parts not one boat did. Come what
may each was determined to make it to San Sebastiao without stopping.
Silk Cut retired from the leg after they stopped in Ushuaia Argentina to replace the broken mast. Lawie Smith would leave the boat and fly to London to take care of some team busisness and meet the crew back in Brazil. The girls of E F Education were in town next. They replaced the mast and decided that they would sail the rest of the race to San Sebastiao Brazil. Team E F Education won over everyone with their tenacious attitude of never quitting. After a Herculean effort the weather turned against them and they too had withdraw from the leg,
After rounding Cape Horn Brunel Sunergy took a flyer to the east, instead of sailing to the west of the Falkland Islands and hugging the coast of South America as the other Whitbread 60's had done. In a bold move Burnel sailed around the East Coast of the Falklands and then headed north to San Sebastio Brazil, thus avoiding the parking lot the other boats found themselves in. In similar fashion Chessie went east also but still stayed on the western side of the Falklands, they also avoided getting caught in the high-pressure system. What was a four boat race for a second place finish quickly changed to a two boat race between Chessie Racing and Brunel Sunergy. Yet another match race was developing this time it was between Chessie and Brunel at stake a second place finish and 119 points. In the end Chessie could not catch Brunel which finished second. Chessie finished third and was greeted by the entire crew of Brunel Sunergy who proclaimed that "there is no second without a third". Swedish Match came in forth, followed by Merit Cup fifth, Innovation Kvaener sixth. Toshiba was disqualified for starting her engine and not reporting to the race committee.
Chessie had succeeded beyond everyone's expectations, not only had her crew overcome the southern ocean and mechanical breakdowns, she suddenly found herself in fourth position. The City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland had a contender and would be anxiously awaiting her arrival at the finish of leg seven. Perhaps the Baltimore Sun's headline summed it up best "THEY KNOW CHEESIE NOW".
The stopover in Brazil can be described as hot days and hotter nights. The Whitbread fleet arrived in the middle of summer and at Carnival time. The sixth leg of the Whitbread had none of the usual weather patterns that dominate this leg of the race. Crews also suffered from cases of Spotty Body or Gunwale Bum.
While E F Language, Brunel Sunergy and Chessie arrived in time to catch the tail end of carnival, Toshiba, Swedish Match, Merit Cup and Innovation Kvaerner missed it altogether or so they thought. The people of San Sebastio were gracious hosts and staged carnival again after they arrived. During that week Chessie's Bowman Rick Deppe admitted that he hadn't been to bed before 3AM in a week. For almost an entire week W60 crewmembers struggled to get to training at six o'clock in the morning. Training consists of running a few miles and working out in the local gym with weight training. It would be safe to say that hardly anyone was up to their peak performance levels after a night of partying until 3 or 4AM but all the crews made an effort to get to training on time. .
By this time Silk Cut had their new mast stepped and rigged in Ushuaia, they set off for San Sebastiao motor sailing up the South American coast. Silk Cut arrived in San Sebastiao with enough time to prepare for leg six. E F Education was not so fortunate after only two days of sailing with the new mast they got caught in another high-pressure system off the coast of South America and made the painful decision to retire from this leg of the race. They arrived with only two days to prepare the boat for Leg 6, which was a 4,750 nautical miles to Fort Lauderdale Florida, USA.
Among sailors there is an unwritten rule: We all lookout for each other. Nowhere was this truer than in the case of E F Education. With just two days to go before the start of Leg 7 the other W60 shore and boat crews came to the girls aid. The other Whitbread teams had completed their repairs and reprovision of the boats, normally the crews would be spending the last couple of days sightseeing or resting for the next leg. Instead they volunteered to help out the girls, scraping and sanding the bottom of the boat, repairing sails and rigging the boat. As a result E F Education was ready for the start of leg seven. Team E F Education not only had won over the sailing fans (they received marriage proposals from some of Brazils eligible bachelors when they arrived in San Sebastiao) they had won the respect of their race competitors as well.
If the stopover in San Sebastiao was one continuous party on land, the start of Leg Seven was one huge party on the water. Despite reassurances from the Brazilian Navy that everything would be under control and no spectator boats would be on the racecourse when the starting gun was fired, the reality was much different. Kerry Fishback of Chessie Racing's shore crew observed " It was chaos. On the water there were motorboats, sailboats, jet ski's with helicopters buzzing overhead, which came within a few feet of the boats (W60's) mast". Collisions between spectator boats and Whitbread 60's were a real possibly. The Brazilian Navy tried it best to keep the spectator fleet under control but were sailing against the wind and tide. In the end the Whitbread 60's sailed off without a scratch or dent among them to Fort Lauderdale.
The traditional weather patterns that mark this leg were nonexistent. Usually the Whitbread sailors get stuck in the doldrums and have fairly light tradewinds in the Atlantic Ocean up to Florida. This year the opposite was true, the tradewinds blew harder than usual and the fleet passed right through the dreaded doldrums. About the only thing to go wrong on this leg was a fleet wide epidemic of Gunwale Bum or Spotty Body. A rash that is caused when bare skin is exposed for long periods of time to the saltwater of the sea and not allowed to dry out sufficiently. Each crew had their own way of dealing with this on Silk Cut one crewmember fashioned a skirt to wear out of spare materials that were onboard. Always willing to help out fellow sailors suggested various home remedies to the Whitbread boat crews that were E-mailed from cyber sailors who were following the race at the official Internet web site http://www.whitbread.org. After the site ran an article on the subject. The treatments sent in by E Mail ranged from putting baby powder on the effected area to using Bag Balm Ointment (this product is generally used on cows teats to heal skin abrasions and to prevent heat rash, which is closely related to Gunwale Bum) to not only treat it but also prevent it.
Lawie Smith and Silk Cut finally preformed up to everyone's expectations, the pre race favorite averaged 12.9 knots over an estimated 4,750 nautical miles in this leg, finishing more then four days ahead of the April 2, 1998 scheduled estimated time of arrival. Following in hot pursuit (less than an hour and a half-hour later) was E F Language. Even though she finished second E F Language still maintained a large lead. In doing so she would have an almost insurmountable lead on the scoreboard.
Swedish Match came in third and was this leg's surprise comeback kid. Starting out by taking a more easterly course then most of the other boats she was in last place for half the leg. She then turned west with this maneuver she quickly started climbing the leaderboard and finished in third place. Finishing third gave her second position overall.
Innovation Kvaerner's passage was plagued by wind holes and parking lots caused by uncooperative weather patterns. She reported being "attacked by squalls"; it was unclear as to whether the rogue squalls singled out Innovation Kvaerner in particular or whether it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Snus Korp who reported the attack was vague on the details of the incident. Innovation Kvaerner finished in forth place. Merit Cup finished in Fifth place falling one notch on the overall leader board from second to third place.
Once again Chessie and Toshiba were engaged in another match race. In the last three days of the race they seemed to have (as a crewmember from Chessie put it) one long string which was tied to both of them. First Chessie would be ahead with Toshiba in sight then Toshiba would lead then Chessie and so it went for three days. In the end Chessie would manage to squeeze out another victory over Toshiba by just less than three minutes.
Aboard Brunel Sunergy they got entangled in fishing net at the beginning of the race which damaged the leading edge of the keel. As a result they were unable to make up the miles they lost. In addition the crew came down with some sort of stomach bug they picked up in San Sabastiao and finished in eighth place.
The girls of E F Education who arrived in San Sebastiao with less than three days to prepare for leg six finished in ninth position. They were physically exhausted from the previous leg, even with this handicap they refused to give in to fatigue and still managed a respectable 11.6 knots for this leg. Team E F Education finished in 16 days 10 hours and forty minutes.
The Whitbread 60's finished with Silk Cut taking first place followed by E F Language in second, Swedish Match third, Innovation Kvaerner forth, Merit Cup fifth, Chessie Racing sixth, Toshiba seventh, Brunel Sunergy eighth and E F Education in ninth.
The crew changes for leg seven were to prove to be expected and controversial. Aboard Chessie Racing George Collins would sail this leg. Toshiba was to have Dennis Conner at the helm once again along with a Chesapeake Bay Pilot. With the pilot on board one crewmember would have to sit out this leg. Paul Standbridge would not sail up to Baltimore Maryland he would drive.
The Whitbread 60's left Fort Lauderdale Florida, next stop the cities of Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. The Cities of Baltimore and Annapolis intensive lobbying of the Whitbread Race Committee had finally paid off, they were chosen as the leg seven stop over. The cities were determined to make the W60's boat and shore crews feel welcome and to make this the best stopover of the nine legs in the race. From the moment the Whitbread 60's arrived in the Chesapeake Bay, a flotilla of both sail and powerboats full of fans and well wishers escorted the W60 fleet up the bay.
. Annapolis based Whitbread 60 designer Bruce Farr's daughters were coming home. For hometown favorite Chessie Racing it was her homecoming, and hopes were running high that she would cross the finish line off Baltimore's Fort McHenry in first place if not first, second or third would be acceptable. The only question that remained to be answered was. Who would be the Bride (finish first) and who would be the Bridesmaids? Most people who live and sail around the Chesapeake Bay (the author includes herself in this group) felt that the Farr designs would make a clean sweep of the podium positions. After all eight of the nine W60's were Bruce Farr designs. It was practically a done deal right? Wrong.
The start of leg seven off Fort Lauderdale had Chessie and Toshiba out in front of the rest of the Whitbread 60's. Crossing the start line first was Toshiba followed closely by Chessie. The other W60's were soon to follow. Each of the Whitbread 60 navigators were plotting the shortest possible and most direct course to the Gulf Stream to take them up the eastern seaboard of the United States. The tactics were simple get in the Gulf Stream and let it carry you up the East Coast of the USA. Off Cape Hatteras North Carolina you start to head west out of the stream towards the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore Maryland. Everyone took this course except Brunel Sunergy.
While everyone else was battling their way into, up and out of the Gulf Stream due to weather conditions that were not typical for the time of year or region. Brunel Sunergy once again took a Flyer to the east. Brunel not only got stronger winds she took the lead as well. Leaving the fleet behind her she had a 40 nautical mile lead at one point.
Like previous legs, leg seven had its share of W60 match races; Swedish Match and EF Language were both in last place for a while on day one. Both soon began to ascend the leader board. Match racing around Cape Hatteras and into the Chesapeake Bay all the while eating away at Brunel Sunergy's lead. Brunel's lead may have been shrinking, but she never relinquished it. At one point having only a 3.5 nautical mile lead she held on, to everyone's surprise she crossed the finish line first. The match race between E F Language and Swedish Match soon turned into a drag race to the finish on the Chesapeake Bay. The lead went back and forth until Swedish Match grabbed the lead from E F Language finishing in second place. E F Language followed thirty seconds later finishing in third place it had been a close run thing. Following close behind were Innovation Kvaerner and Silk Cut who finished within four minutes of each other. Nineteen minutes later Merit Cup crossed the finish line.
Once again Chessie Racing and Toshiba were engaged in another fight to the finish match race. Toshiba would run aground despite having a bay pilot onboard, she was still was able to nose out Chessie by just ten seconds at the finish. The closest finish in Whitbread history it shattered the old record that was set in Sydney Australia during leg three of this race. Once again Chessie was in the middle of it. E F Education finished in ninth place. Later Toshiba was to be penalized by one place as the result of a ruling on a protest lodged by E F Education.
The large crowd lining the quay at the inner harbor in Baltimore Maryland clearly surprised and overwhelmed Chessie founder and skipper George Collins. He hadn't expected such a turn out for the Whitbread. And from the welcome Chessie received one might be under the impression that she had finished in first place instead of eighth. To cheers from people both on land and sea she glided into the Inner Harbor and tied up at the dock she was home. The city of Baltimore pulled out all the stops in welcoming the Whitbread fleet. During the week the W60 fleet was there the crews enjoyed a Baltimore Oriole baseball game at Camden Yards stadium as well as numerous receptions held in their honor.
On April 28, the Whitbread fleet departed Baltimore harbor on what had been called leg seven and half of the race to Annapolis Maryland. Chessie sailed into Annapolis followed by the rest of the Whitbread 60's. Annapolis not to be out done by Baltimore welcomed the W60's crews with welcoming speeches from the mayor of Annapolis and Admiral Larson supernatant of the U.S. Naval Academy. Each incorporated ESPN's Sailing Commentator Gary Jobson's trademark line "once you've been touched by the Whitbread life is never the same" in their speeches. Gary Jobson who makes his home in Annapolis and was one of the driving forces behind getting the Whitbread stop over also welcomed the W60's crews to Annapolis. Each of the W60 Skippers was presented with a tee shirt for having completed leg seven and half.
On Saturday hometown favorite Chessie Racing boat and shore crew were honored and introduced to the crowd with cheers and applause. As with Baltimore thousands of people turned out to see the Whitbread 60's berthed along the Annapolis City Dock and talk with the crews putting the finishing touches on rigging and stowing the last part of the provisions for leg eight crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. Like Baltimore the city of Annapolis threw a party and everyone was invited, there were receptions as well as special events on the waterfront. When residents of Annapolis and Baltimore were asked if they would like to host another stop over in the 2001/02 race, most without hesitation replied yes. If the residents of the cities were enthusiastic the W60's crews seemed to like this stopover for the visitor turn out and for the easy access to facilities to maintain the boats. For the cities of Annapolis and Baltimore, they have been touched by the Whitbread and for them life will never be the same.
Across the Atlantic Ocean to La Rochelle France. Leg eight had a little of everything in it, constant changes in the leader board standing, match racing, ice alerts, exclusion zones, and comebacks. Team E F Language was to have one crew change however, Marco Constant would not be sailing on this leg. On leg seven he took what he describes as a "dive down the companion way" landing on and breaking his right wrist. Although he finished leg seven against medical advice by refusing to be air lifted off the boat he was in no condition to cross the pond on a Whitbread 60. A lucky or not so lucky (depending on how you look at it) shore crewmember was pressed (drafted) into the crew. Aboard E F Education Isabelle Autissier (best known for her solo sailboat racing in the Around Alone race) came on board to sail the last two race legs.
If the Whitbread 60 crews were surprised by the welcome they received upon their arrival in Baltimore, the send off they got at the start of leg eight off Annapolis must have overwhelmed them. Before leaving the city dock in Annapolis the crew of Brunel Sunergy showed their appreciation by spelling out the following message in bold capital letters on the back of their shirts for the crowd gathered on the dock: ASU UOY KNATH. The translation: THANK YOU USA. It seems that the crew were lined up along the rail backwards, my guess is that none of them will be on Wheel of Fortune anytime soon and that letter turner Vana White's job is safe for now. Over 3,000 boats (this is a conservative estimate) of all shapes and sizes were out on the Chesapeake Bay to see the W60's off. Spectators were also on shore at Sandy Point State Park in the beach seats with binoculars and telescopes in hand. The Sky suites were reserved for those who participated in the annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk. While the walkers were "officially prohibited" from stopping on the bridge to watch the race start they found a way around the rules, by walking in every direction possible except in the direction they were supposed to. The box seats were for those out on the bay in whatever would float.
With the start of the race Chessie Racing quickly took the lead. She wasn't the first up the bay in leg seven, but her crew was determined to be the fastest down it to capture the "Fastest down the Chesapeake Bay Trophy" that was donated by Chessie Racing's founder/skipper George Collins.
The run across the big pond (Atlantic Ocean) could have been as cold, wet, and as treacherous as the southern ocean, complete with icebergs. The Whitbread 60's had the choice of two routes, the Gulf Stream or the circle (northerly) route that was slightly more to the south than the course the ocean liners including the Titanic took when they crossed the Atlantic on their weekly runs between Europe and the United States. At the last minute the race committee imposed an exclusion zone due to an "Ice Alert" (iceberg warning) from the United States Coast Guard. Each route had its advantages and disadvantages. The Gulf Stream offered speed, the circle route while shorter was colder.
Each of the Whitbread 60 teams had different priorities going into leg eight. Adrian Stead and crewmembers of Silk Cut were hopeful they would have another record twenty- four-hour run if conditions were right. The girls of E F Education goal was to get on the podium. Paul Cayard and crew of E F Language didn't necessarily want to win this leg. Team E F Language's strategy was to prevent Swedish Match their closest competitor from gaining any points to over take them for the overall lead. Not one to leave anything to chance Cayard even considered (perish the thought) of slowing the boat down to let Swedish Match to catch up so he could keep an eye on her. Paul this is the Whitbread there is no slowing down in the Whitbread.
Innovation Kvaerner and Merit Cup took the most southerly route until thirty-six hours after the start of the leg when they along with the rest of the W60 fleet turned north. The Gulf Stream strategy was abandoned the fleet would take a long reach across the Atlantic in the north.
The first match race of this leg between Merit Cup and Toshiba began when both plotted a middle of the road or rather ocean course. Neither sailing as far north or south on the racecourse both were trying to stay in first place. In the northern part of the course, the bright green mythical sea monster Chessie Racing and the white shark swimming in a purple sea Silk Cut were behind the fleet each vying for next to last place. Trailing the leaders by over 250 nautical miles things did not look very promising for either Chessie or Silk Cut. Chessie Bowman Rick Deppe called his wife Anastasia and told her not to worry they had a plan. The plan depended on a high-pressure system running north to south.
Most race commentaries predicted that if the W60's and the high-pressure systems timing was right that there would be a restart at the high-pressure ridge as the wind died. This would give Chessie and Silk Cut a chance to catch the rest of the fleet. Chessie plan was contingent on a low-pressure system catching them first along with the strong winds. Chessie's timing along with Silk Cuts was perfect. Swept along by the winds of the low-pressure system that pushed them towards the east, they caught up the rest of the W60's who were in the parking lot of a high-pressure system.
The next match race developed when Merit Cup dropped back and Silk Cut took her place beside Toshiba. With the lead Toshiba ran into light winds of the Ile dere and Silk Cut almost over took Toshiba for the lead. Toshiba's Skipper Paul Standbridge was able to get through it and win leg eight. Silk Cut came in second followed by Chessie in third her forth third place finish. The girls E F Education came in forth place and still made it to the podium having the fastest twenty four-hour run on this leg. Grant Dalton on Merit Cup came in fifth and had promised that if the girls of E F Education ever beat him he threatened to stick a whole pineapple in a place that is unspeakable to say the least. There has been no word on whether Dalton has made good on his promise. Sixth place went to E F Language who finished just ahead of Swedish Match who finished in seventh place. EF Language's finish secured her overall position in first place and gave them the Volvo Trophy with a leg to spare. The last two boats to finish were Innovation Kvaerner in eighth place, one minute and ten seconds ahead of Brunel Sunergy, which took ninth place.
The last leg of the Whitbread was controversial not only for the number of protest flags that were raised at the start, the finish itself had to be choreographed to correspond with the media's primetime coverage. This was the first time in race history that the finish would be timed to provide maximum television coverage. As a result the Whitbread Race Committee had laid out two courses a long and short one. Depending on the wind and weather conditions a decision would be made at the last minute as to which course would be sailed. On E F Language Marco Constant was back on board for leg nine, Chessie Racing 's founder/skipper George Collins would not be sailing the last leg as planned. A English Channel pilot was taken onboard to hopefully give them the extra edge needed for a second or third place finish.
While the winner of the 1997/1998 Whitbread had already been established with E F Language winning the Volvo Trophy with a leg to spare. The second and third places on the podium were still up for grabs. The formula for figuring out which W60 had to beat who and what place they needed to finish in took on all the characteristics of figuring out which football team in the NFL would be the wildcard team in the post season play- off's. In order for Chessie Racing to come in third place they had to win the leg nine and finish one spot ahead of Merit Cup. For the second place spot on the podium she must finish again in first and put five Whitbread 60 boats between them and Swedish Match who at the start of the leg was in second place. With Swedish Match, Chessie Racing and Merit Cup racing for two podium positions it was any ones race to win or loose.
La Rochelle situated on the Atlantic coast of France. A city that is one of the oldest in Europe, its medieval building provided a dramatic setting for the start of leg nine of the Whitbread. Some 2,000-spectator boats came up to see the W60's off. Behind approximately 31,170 nautical miles of hard sailing, ahead a 430 nautical mile of difficult sailing in the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel to South Hampton England and the finish.
The race committee having laid out two racecourses decided on the Whitbread 60's would sail the shorter course of 430 nautical miles due to the light winds that were predicted. This would have the boats arriving in South Hampton between 12 noon and 2pm local time. The Whitbread 60's were informed at the last minute (ten minutes before the start gun was fired) which route they would be sailing.
The start was not without it's problems. The Start gun didn't fire. And the girls of E F Education had a collision with it's own support vessel a ferry that was filled with the cheering fans of E F Education decorated with bright orange and blue EF Flags. The ferry then "allegedly" cut off British entry Silk which flew a protest flag against team E F Education as a result saying the ferry had forced them to change course.
Toshiba as usual had its share of protests against them. While first across the start line, rounding the mark she along with Innovation Kvaerner and Swedish Match turned around and sailed back though the fleet toward the second mark. Protest flags popped up for course violations on three boats including Chessie Racing. Having cleared the spectator fleet they were off to England.
Paul Cayard and team E F Education had a rough time of it at first loosing a spinnaker sheet she dropped to sixth place. They soon recovered from this set back however. And true to form she fought her way back to vie for a first place finish.
During the leg a lot more wind than the race committee had anticipated developed, the breeze eased off Ushant France. Just as that obstacle was overcome another appeared. The boats ran into a strong ebb tide that compressed the fleet to five miles from the front of the fleet to back.
As with the other legs there were to be a few more match races between the Whitbread 60's. Merit Cup led the fleet as the crossed the English Channel just ahead of E F Language. Not far behind the white shark of Silk Cut, and the elegant midnight blue, white and gold hulled Swedish Match were engaged in their own match race.
Around Anvil Point and Poole Farway the fleet took on its final shape for the finish. Merit Cup would finish ahead of E F Language, which finished in second place. Innovation Kvaerner took third place finishing one minute ahead of Silk Cut. Silk Cut was forth and finished a minute ahead of Swedish Match who took fifth. Toshiba was sixth, Brunel Sunergy was seventh, Chessie Racing eighth and E F Education was ninth.
The sailing up the Solent to South Hampton England was so slow that Chessie Racing had to anchor out in the harbor and take their tender ashore because the tide was out. The girls of E F Education had problems too. By the time they arrived at Hurst Narrows they almost had to anchor the boat because the tide was so strong. After the race all protests were dropped in a show of good sportsmanship.
The last Whitbread will most likely be remembered for the countless match races between the W60's which were so evenly matched, and the record breaking finishes. And then there were the amazing comebacks most notably by Chessie Racing nicknamed the Kids Boat she surprised everyone by finishing a respectable sixth having finished in third place in four out of the nine legs. Brunel Sunergy became the boat who would take chances taking flyers around the Falkland Islands on leg five to take second place and on leg seven sailing to the east avoiding the rough and tumble Gulf Stream. Finishing in first place in a leg up the Chesapeake Bay that was supposed to be a clean sweep for the hometown W60 yacht designer Bruce Farr of Annapolis Maryland.
THE FUTURE OF THE RACE
What will happen as Volvo takes over the race for 2001/2002? All we know for sure is that the name has been changed from the Whitbread to the Volvo Ocean Race or the VOR. Most of the Whitbread management team will stay in place along with the race headquarters located in South Hampton England. On June 8th Helge Alten has been appointed managing director of Volvo Event Management UK that will oversee the next race.
However for those of us who have followed the Whitbread for the last twenty-five years one thing will always remain the same. The name may have been changed to the Volvo Ocean Race but for some of us it will always be known as the Whitbread.
Volvo has brought the race from Whitbread and the next race in the year 2001-2 will be known as the Volvo Ocean Race. On September 21, 1997 ten Whitbread 60's set out from South Hampton England on the last Whitbread Around the World Ocean Race. What follows is a leg by leg summery of the race.
THE FINAL STANDINGS AND POINTS TOTALS
Copyright © 1998
KLM Publishing Co.
Most recent revision of site September 19, 1998