LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE
MAY 22, 1998
John Kostecki and Chessie Racing grabbed the early lead in the final leg of final leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race and moved into second place overall relative to the positions of Swedish Match and Merit Cup.
The victorious crew waves from aboard EF Language in La Rochelle.
If Chessie holds on to win the leg, it will be an amazing come-from-behind finish for the American boat. When Kostecki, the AmericaOne tactician, stepped aboard the American boat in Fremantle, Australia, it was in sixth place overall.
Kostecki said they will sail the best race they can. "Towards the end of the leg we
will have to look at the points scenario and then focus on the boats we
have to beat and maybe change our tactics." Chessie Racing has
brought on board Englishman Derek Clark for his local knowledge.
Remaining in second place overall will require not only beating the current second-place holder Swedish Match and third-place Merit Cup, but having boats between them.
However, the wind and currents in the Solent near the finish may not cooperate and the positions could easily flip-flop as the trailing boats catch up with the leaders. And with places 2 through 6 up for grabs, the final Leg 9 promises be a nail-biter right up to end at Southampton, England.
The shortened 430-nautical-mile hop from La Rochelle is expected to take two days the shortest leg of the nine-leg, 32,000-n.m. ocean marathon but could be the most intense competition seen so far.
Even though they have already won the overall Whitbread Race, Paul Cayard and his EF Language crew plan to mix it up. With nothing to lose, they will sail their own race in an effort to finish the event the way they began in first place. Giving a new twist to an old accounting term, Cayard said, "We want to be first out, first in."