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Former Rivals Team Up for Whitbread

NEW YORK, New York—Two former rivals are teaming up as co-skippers for the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race—America's Cup veterans Dennis Conner and Chris Dickson of New Zealand.

The two were competitors in the 1993-94 Whitbread race, and during the 1986-87 America's Cup trials in Fremantle, Australia, they butted heads over the fiberglass construction of the New Zealand boat, KZ-7—which was derisively dubbed the "plastic fantastic"—before Conner defeated Dickson and went on to win the Cup.

The announcement was made by the U.S.-based Computer Systems Division of Toshiba America Information Systems, which is the primary sponsor the estimated $6 million campaign and is introducing a new line of portable computers.

"Chris was looking for a program and we'd been looking for a co-skipper," Team Dennis Conner spokesman Bill Trenkle said of the Conner/Dickson pairing. In the previous Whitbread race, New Zealander Brad Butterworth was Conner's co-skipper and Dickson was the skipper of his own boat, Tokio.

The Conner/Dickson sailboat will be named Toshiba, and will be equipped with several of the manufacturer's new notebook computers, which feature infrared/wireless communications capabilities. The boat is being designed by Bruce Farr & Associates.

Australian Andrew Cape, who sailed with Dickson aboard Tokio in the last Whitbread race, was named navigator.

The 32,000-nautical-mile ocean marathon is set to begin Sept. 21, 1997, in Southampton, England. The race has nine legs, with eight stopovers, including Cape Town, Republic of South Africa; Fremantle and Sydney, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; So Sebastiao, Brazil; Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore/Annapolis, United States; and La Rochelle, France; before finishing in Southampton in May, 1998. This is compared to the six legs and five stopovers in the last race.

In the 1993-94 contest, Dickson's Tokio was leading the Whitbread 60 class until the ultralight sloop was dismasted off the coast of Brazil. Dickson ended up in sixth, after losing several days while a new mast was stepped.

Conner sailed two of the six legs aboard Winston, which finished fifth in class. It's not been decided how many legs Conner will sail in the coming race.

Asked whether the Toshiba sponsorship and/or arrangement with Dickson was a prelude to an America's Cup campaign, Trenkle said, "A lot of people are reading that into it, but it's too early to tell. Right now, we're just concentrating on our Whitbread program, and after that we'll just have to see how things go."


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