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Whitbread Race: Leg 8
Baltimore to La Rochelle
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Kostecki, Chessie Racing Get Excellent Start; Race Leader EF Language Trails the Fleet

MAY 3, 1998

EF Language
Race leader EF Language
Chessie Racing, with AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki as the interim skipper, had an excellent start in Leg 8 of the Whitbread Round the World Race and was challenging Swedish Match and Toshiba for the lead as they passed through a gate seven miles into the race.

Overall race leader EF Language. skippered by AmericaOne skipper and CEO Paul Cayard, trailed the fleet following a less than desirable start, and will have to play catch-up on the 3,390-nautical-mile leg to La Rochelle, France.

In an on-board interview, Cayard said: "I screwed up the start. We got a little low with the current and tangled up with EF Education. There was no wind, we got trapped on starboard and couldn't abort.

He further explained that he was on the right side of the course where there was less current, but "Swedish Match is on left side, looking for more pressure. Maybe they're right."

Swedish Match, in second place overall and the only boat with any real chance of beating EF Language, was right, found a better breeze, and took the front position from early leaders Toshiba and Chessie Racing.

There was a very large spectator fleet on hand, estimated at more than 2,000 boats, but the U.S. Coast Guard kept them at bay and away from the racing boats.

It was very tactical start in a light breeze of 4-8 knots. The boats had to tack southward and sail through a gate, about 100 yards wide, before picking their own way for the remaining 100-plus miles to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.

As the boats passed through the gate, seven miles into the race, they were in the following order:

  1. Swedish Match
  2. Toshiba
  3. BrunelSunergy
  4. Chessie Racing
  5. Silk Cut
  6. Innovation Kvaerner
  7. Merit Cup
  8. EF Language
  9. EF Education

Leg 8 takes the competitors 120 nautical miles to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, where they are expected to enter the North Atlantic Ocean early Monday morning. From there the navigators will be charged with choosing the most advantageous route — though not necessarily the shortest — to La Rochelle. The leaders are expected to arrive about May 16.

Ideally, the boats will be pushed by the Westerlies, but getting caught on the wrong side of a low-pressure system will mean head winds. Moreover, the competitors are prohibited from sailing into the iceberg zone, which further limits their options.

Cayard and crew are looking for another win — they've won three legs so far — which would clinch the overall victory. But Cayard also said he plans to sail conservatively so nothing breaks. An average of fifth place or better on the final two legs will also clinch a victory for the Swedish boat.

Swedish Match, however, would love to play the role of spoiler. Lying 104 points back, skipper Gunnar Krantz will be looking for any opportunity to pounce on Cayard's lead. Nonetheless, Krantz also must protect his backside. Merit Cup, with veteran Kiwi skipper Grant Dalton in charge, trails by just 58 points, and Norway's Innovation Kvaerner is only eight points further back. Chessie Racing is in fifth place overall, 25 points behind Kvaerner.

Kostecki said he will have a man on Chessie's bow with a powerful light watching for crab pots in the bay, and another crewman in a wet suit ready to go over the side if the boat becomes entangled in one.

EF Language has a new crew member for this leg. Sailmaker Paul Murray (New Zealand) was brought on board to take the place of Marco Constant (South Africa), who broke his wrist on the last leg. Constant hopes to be able to sail the final leg.

The final 450-nm leg, La Rochelle to Southampton, England, is set to begin on Friday, May 22, and the nine-boat fleet is expected to finish on May 24.

Follow the race action with Paul Cayard's daily reports from EF Language.

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