The U.S. Women's Challenge, an all-female yacht crew formerly skippered by Nance Frank, was to announce today that it is back in the Whitbread Round the World Race with a new leader and a new name.
Dawn Riley, an America's Cup sailor from Detroit, boarded a plane for Uruguay yesterday to take Frank's place and lead the crew in the 31,975-nautical-mile competition. Riley was the watch captain aboard the all-woman entry, Maiden, in the 1989-90 Whitbread.
"This is very good news," said race spokesman Jennie Fitzhardinge from Punta del Este. "It wouldn't do women's sailing any service at all if that boat failed to continue."
Ocean Ventures, which manages the Yamaha campaign (Yamaha is a 60-foot entry in the Whitbread) and leased the 60-foot boat to the women, has repossessed it and entered a proposal to the race committee that should enable the boat to sail under Riley.
"I believe it is in the best interests of the race to allow the boat to continue," race director Ian Bailey-Willmot said.
The U.S. Women's Challenge withdrew from the race Oct. 30 when Frank said her program didn't have enough money. But the news came one day after two of the most experienced sailors pulled out -- navigator Adrienne Cahalan, 29, of Australia and watch captain Mikaela Von Koskull, 34, of Finland. Three others then said they refused to be part of the crew because of on-board dissension.
Frank, formerly of Annapolis, was unavailable for comment.
If the U.S. Women's Challenge is readmitted with a new name, 14 boats will depart Saturday for the 7,558-mile second leg through the Southern Ocean. Questions remain as to how the women will get enough money to repair tattered sails, ripped spinnakers and other defects on their boat, which is in 11th place overall.
The former crew's most lucrative support was a $200,000 commitment from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, which will end up giving the team $50,000 in exchange for the promotional value Key West and the Florida Keys received. Frank, 44, was born in Key West.
Cahalan and Von Koskull will return to the 11-sailor crew, with Riley -- a pitman on Bill Koch's America -- and Maiden veteran Jeni Mundy (Britain), Marie-Claude Kieffer (France) and Renee Mehl (U.S.) as new additions.
Leaving the boat are Frank, chef/medic Susan Chiu, former crew spokesman Barbara Span and bowman Vanessa Linsley.