Whitbread Race: Leg 7
Ft. Lauderdale to Baltimore
Kostecki, Chessie Racing Take Lead in Leg 7; Cayard, EF Language Retain Overall Lead
FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA
APRIL 19, 1998
Leg 7 of the 1997-98 Whitbread Round The World Race began today with a downwind start, with race leaders Paul Cayard and EF Language taking a conservative approach and crossing the line in third place behind Dennis Conner's Toshiba and Innovation Kvaerner of Norway.
Race leader EF Language off the coast of Florida.
The comparatively short 870-nautical-mile hop to Baltimore, Maryland, will take about three days to complete, with the first finishers expected to cross the line sometime Wednesday night.
The wind at the start was an easterly 15-20 knots, with boats being carried forward by a half-knot current on the inshore edge of the notorious Gulf Stream, the strong, warm ocean current that flows northward off the Atlantic coast of North America. The strategy for the racers is to take as much advantage of this current, which can reach 3 to 5 knots, as possible before turning inshore toward Chesapeake Bay and the finish at Baltimore.
Kostecki Leads Fleet Into Gulf Stream
The Baltimore-based Chessie Racing, co-skippered by AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki, was fourth across the starting line, but as the boats approached the first gate three miles up the course, Chessie was on a more favorable heading and did not have to gybe, taking over the lead. Kostecki was followed through the gate by Silk Cut of the United Kingdom, Toshiba and EF Language.
It was pretty much of a parade from there to the turning mark, with Chessie extending its lead to roughly 200 yards as the fleet fanned out toward the center of the Gulf Stream. But once around the mark, Merit Cup overhauled all but Chessie to move into second place, and Silk Cut dropped back to seventh as the boats positioned themselves in the Gulf Stream.
For Cayard and navigator Mark Rudiger, the remaining three legs are a strategic battle. While winning every leg would cement the overall victory, it's not practical to assume they will. Therefore, it's more important that they beat the boats in the best position to overtake EF Language, which are the pre-race favorites Swedish Match and Merit Cup, second and third overall respectively.
If Chessie Racing, fourth place overall, hangs on to win this leg and the other boats finish in their current positions, it would move the American boat into third place overall, and Merit Cup would take over the second spot, 98 points behind EF Language of Sweden.
The positions could easily change, however, as this leg can be considered two races in one there is the potential for a virtual restart once the boats enter Chesapeake Bay. The final 120 nautical miles up the bay to Baltimore will present tricky tides and currents to the competitors and the skills of the navigators will be put to a tough test.
Follow the progress of AmericaOne's Paul Cayard and John Kostecki with their reports from the race course posted here at the AmericaOne Web site. See What's New for links to the latest reports.