Sailing: Two more skippers quit Whitbread

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The Independent Online
Losing one skipper could be seen to be careless, but three is stretching it a bit. Yet, as Stuart Alexander found in Fremantle, that is the situation the Whitbread Round the World Race found itself in yesterday when two of the nine-boat fleet saw changes at the helm for the third leg.

Chris Dixon parted company with Toshiba at the end of the first leg in CapeTown and the second leg to Fremantle proved to be the swan-songs of Chessie Racing's Mark Fischer and Brunel Sunergy's Hans Bouscholte.

Fischer has gone to allow the owner and co-skipper, George Collins, to take his place for the 2,250-mile sprint to Sydney, which starts on 13 December. Collins denied that the navigator, Juan Vila, was also being replaced.

The American Fischer, who brought Chessie into Fremantle in sixth place to take seventh overall, is thought to have been uncomfortable with aspects of the leg from South Africa.

After 35 days at sea on the first leg and 19 on the second, the Dutchman Bouscholte, who himself took over the reins from the original skipper, Arend van Bergeijk, before the start, has found something better to do with his time than continually being last.

Indeed, Brunel's Dutch campaign is now looking more like a trial for a full challenge in the 2001 Whitbread. In addition to twice replacing the skipper, in Cape Town they also replaced their navigator with the Briton Stuart Quarrie.

There was also a change of personnel on Innovation Kvaerner, the race leader parting company with their Australian mastman Ian Walker. "There was a disagreement between him and skipper Knut Frostad, so they decided to go their separate ways," a spokesman said.

Also preparing for 2001 is the German sailing veteran Willi Illbruck, a long-time campaigner in the Admiral's Cup with a series of boats called Pinta. He has decided he does not like the new format for the 1999 Admiral's Cup and will instead race the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii. In the meantime he has chartered Heineken, the original Yamaha 1, from Swedish Match to be painted in German colours for the Dusseldorf Boat Show next month.