Chessie , one of the nine Whitbread Round-the-World racers, and the Navy 44 sloop Swift , one of a class of 20 at the U.S. Naval Academy, are vastly different in concept yet are much alike in two important respects. Both of these boats are superbly designed for their intended use, and their ocean-racing crews make the most of them by driving the boats and themselves to the absolute limits of performance and endurance, night and day, in long distance races. For the Whitbread sailors, this 32,000 mile race is the ultimate test of extreme sailing. For midshipmen, racing offshore and around the buoys is as close as they can come to combat experience in the environment in which they will serve.
Chessie , designed by Bruce Farr & Associates of Annapolis for Gibson Island sailor George Collins, is capable of sustained speeds of more than 20 knots. Built to the measurement limits of the Whitbread 60 rule, these boats achieve high speed by using water ballast, which can be pumped from side to side for increased stability to balance a very large sail area. The seventh leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race will finish off Fort McHenry in Baltimore on 22 April. Leg 8 to La Rochelle, France, will start one mile north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on 3 May.
The Navy 44, designed by McCurdy & Rhodes to replace the Academy’s famous Luders yawls, is an immensely successful cruiser-racer, and is the centerpiece of the Naval Academy’s sailing program. For the past 60 years, midshipmen have learned the age-old lessons of command, seamanship, and navigation while racing and cruising small boats in what Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, then Commandant of Midshipmen, called his “best leadership laboratory.”
Every summer about 1,000 midshipmen in the entering class are taught to sail at Annapolis, while more than 500 upperclass midshipmen are racing and cruising offshore under sail, as part of a program that has never been more successful.
In 1992, Ensign Kyle Weaver, who learned to sail at the Naval Academy, won the First Overall St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy in the Newport to Bermuda Race—the first time it had been done in the Academy’s 54 years of competing for this world-famous prize. The varsity intercollegiate dinghy has won the National Dinghy Championship four times. Three Naval Academy sailors have been named Intercollegiate Sailor of the Year, sailing’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, and the Academy has more than twice as many sailing All-Americans as any other college. During the 1996-97 season, the Naval Academy won the McMillan and Kennedy Cups for the intercollegiate big-boat championship, the National Women’s Dinghy Championship, and the Leonard M. Fowle Memorial Trophy for best overall team performance for the tenth time in the past twenty years.
Chessie and the Navy-44: Representing top performance in the sailing world from Chesapeake Bay!
Admiral McNitt , a distinguished naval officer, is the author of Sailing at the U.S. Naval Academy published by the Naval Institute Press.