This morning, the fleet in the Whitbread Round the World Race for the Volvo Trophy could be closing on Cape Finisterre in northwestern Spain and hoping for the first hints of the Northeast Trades, the prevailing winds that for centuries sped sailing ships toward the Equator.
During the first three days of the nine-leg, 31,600-nautical-mile race, winds have been light and unpredictable, and the lead in the 10-boat fleet has changed often.
"It's a lottery out there," racing manager Michael Woods said as the Whitbread 60s worked away from Southampton, England, toward the island of Ushant off France.
The latest lottery winner was Innovation Kvaerner (Norway), which late yesterday made a "calculated guess" and swept into the lead.
Skipper Knut Frostad and navigator Marcel van Triest moved out from the French coast yesterday, headed 20 nautical miles west of the fleet and built close to a three-mile lead over EF Language (Sweden), Merit Cup (Monaco) and Silk Cut (England).
Chessie Racing, the Baltimore-Annapolis entry, had fallen to sixth place, according to race positions reported at 6 p.m. (GMT) yesterday. Chessie had, however, gained 10 miles over a six-hour period.
The early leader was Toshiba, the Dennis Conner-Chris Dickson entry that chose a more westerly course than most of the fleet, but then faded to last in the fickle winds.
"We fell into a hole," Toshiba navigator Andrew Cape said Tuesday evening. "That's unfortunate, but that's life."
Yesterday, Toshiba moved within nine miles of the leaders and was steadily gaining ground.
Pub Date: 9/24/97