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SAILING / RICH ROBERTS : Top Names Featured in Race to Ensenada

April 23, 1993|RICH ROBERTS

Dennis Conner and Gil Knudson are among 410 entries in 17 classes that will start the 46th Newport-Ensenada International Yacht Race off Newport Beach at noon today.

Gil Knudson? He's the owner-skipper of Tigress, the Hinckley 38 that last year won the President of USA Trophy for posting the best corrected time in the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet. It meant that, given the relatively ungainly qualities of his 24-year-old boat compared to some sleeker racing vessels, Knudson and his crew did the best job of sailing.

Knudson, a member of the Bahia Corinthian and South Shore yacht clubs, is 72 and had an angioplasty procedure earlier this month. But he has long planned to defend his title and said he will be there.

So will Conner, who two years ago set the overall record by sailing the 125 miles in 9 hours 7 minutes 48 seconds on the 60-foot soft-sail catamaran that was his backup boat in the 1988 America's Cup defense against New Zealand. Conner will sail the same boat this time.

The monohull record is 12:13:33, by Don Choate's 68-foot Saga in 1983, when during a particularly windy race, nine boats clocked elapsed times that still stand among the 10 best. The fifth-best was Morning Star's time in 1953, which prompted Fred Martin of the organizing Newport Ocean Sailing Assn. to observe, "The 'three' thing is working. This is 1993, so it's going to be a terrific race."

Fair weather?

"Gorgeous," Martin promised.

Good wind?

"Absolutely."

The boats will parade out of the Newport jetty from 10 to 11 a.m. There will be two starting lines, with classes starting simultaneously at 10-minute intervals for more than an hour.

Mexican comedian Cantinflas is best remembered for his role as Passepartout opposite David Niven in the 1956 movie, "Around the World in 80 Days," based loosely on the Jules Verne classic. Cantinflas died Tuesday at 81.

On the same day, the 85-foot French catamaran Commodore Explorer completed its 25,000-mile quest for the first Jules Verne Trophy offered to anyone who could sail around the world in less time than 80 days. It finished in 79 days 6 hours 15 minutes 56 seconds. The difference was a 24-hour run of 507 miles last weekend when it averaged 21.13 knots.

The fastest circumnavigation previously was 109 days by France's Titouan Lamazou in the '89-90 single-handed Globe Challenge.

Verne's fictional character, Phileas Fogg, made 80 days on the stroke of the hour after traveling not only by boat but train, hot-air balloon and various other means. Bruno Peyron and his four-man crew, including Cam Lewis of Newport, R.I., did it all the hard way--under sail at sea--as two rivals dropped out with disabled boats.

Early on, one hull was severely damaged by the first of two collisions with whales. There was a near-capsize at the Cape of Good Hope and terrifying winds from 60 to 82 knots for nearly 24 hours at Cape Horn. Last Friday night, Commodore was jolted by a collision with a huge derelict log.

Lewis, showing humor and clarity, sent regular reports by fax, including this one excerpted Monday, near the finish:

" . . . Speed 18 knots, wind SSW 20 knots . . . don't break the boat/no more whale research . . . stopped dead in water by huge log/cheated death again . . . no damage (but) down to 4 lives left (for the 'cat') . . . everybody smiling and laughing . . . our voyage is biggest news-sports story ever in France/Bruno regarded as most respected explorer in modern times . . . arrival will be huge/bigger than Lindbergh's . . . looking forward to some solid ground."

France's national betting agency posted a $1-million prize for the feat. The effort cost Peyron about $450,000. Like Cantinflas, he barely made it to the finish.

The ULDB 70s' Spring Sled Regatta at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club last weekend featured a dramatic rescue at sea.

Chuck Fowler, a crewman on Ed McDowell's Grand Illusion, was whipped overboard by a line controlling the headsail. McDowell quickly turned the boat around and grinder Kelly McMartin, leaning over the side with someone holding his ankles, snagged Fowler's hands on the first pass and pulled him in.

Grand Illusion lost only two places because of the incident, winding up third overall in the four-race event behind John DeLaura's Silver Bullet and Brack Duker's Evolution.

It was significant that in this event the sled owners, rather than industry professionals, were required to steer their own boats.

Sailing Notes

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