First Corinthian home - American George Stricker arrives in Cape Town

American skipper George Stricker became the first unsponsored contestant to complete Leg 1 of the Around Alone race early this morning when he crossed the finish line off Cape Town after a passage of 49d, 06h, 42m, 51s. Stricker’s time aboard his Bruce Marek-designed 50-footer Rapscallion III-he arrived just before one a.m. local time (2257 GMT on November 14)-was good enough for fourth place in Class II.

The 63-year-old native of Newport, Kentucky said his final evening at sea was “pretty good. I had a little surprise about two miles from the line when the wind shifted. The last two days the wind was aft and I was tacking downwind. But it picked up a bit coming in. My speed wasn’t great but it was a steady six knots. I got here in good shape.” Race director Mark Schrader, gesturing at Stricker’s shaved cranium, concurred. “George’s boat looks great and so does he,” said Schrader. “His time for the leg was just a few hours longer than that posted in the last race by Niah Vaughan [on his classic Rodger Martin-designed Jimroda II, which won Class II of the race in 1986-87 as Airco Distributor under original skipper Mike Plant]. George had a really good passage.”

Stricker also heaped praise upon Rapscallion, a boat that was originally commissioned for the race by veteran solo skipper Steve Black. When Black’s plans changed, Stricker purchased the narrow sloop that will remind nobody of the beamy Finot 50s campaigned by “classmates” J.P. Mouligne and Mike Garside. He’s glad he did. “I had over 10 days where I made over 200 miles,” said Stricker. “She’s a great heavy-air boat and I think she’ll really shine on the next leg. My only [gear failure] was a broken halyard, otherwise I had no problems.” Stricker is the first arrival thus far who relied primarily on a windvane, rather than an electronic autopilot, for self-steering. “My Monitor [vane] steered great, it was my best buddy,” he said. “It’s a great piece of equipment-it follows the shifts, it’s quiet, and you don’t have to charge your batteries to use it so it saves diesel.”

Though Stricker is one of America’s more seasoned solo sailors, he did not take up the sport until he was well into his twenties. And he started not on an ocean racer, but on a tiny Sunfish daysailer. However, once he was bitten by the sailing bug, he was smitten. He eventually traded the Sunfish for a succession of racer/cruisers, including a Frers 45 once owned by Mouligne. A successful Baltimore-based businessman who sold his educational services company, Sylvan Learning, just prior to entering Around Alone, he cut his racing teeth on round-the-buoys events on the Chesapeake Bay before moving on to a succession of offshore solo contests. Now, he’s looking forward to setting sail in the Southern Ocean. “I’m used to the North Atlantic, the rough stuff,” said Stricker. “My boat should go well down there. I call it an old man’s boat,” he laughed. “She doesn’t need a whole lot of sail to drive her. I’m going to bring some extra food on the next leg so if those lightweight flyers, the hot rods [sailed by Mouligne, Garside and Brad Van Liew], get into trouble, I’ll have plenty to eat onboard when we pick them up!”

With Stricker in Cape Town, six sailors remain on the course. The next in line, Russian Viktor Yazykov, was 216 miles out at 0944 GMT today and is due to arrive early this week. Race officials have been closely monitoring Yazykov, who has a serious problem with his elbow, as he makes his final approach. He’s scheduled for a complete examination as soon as he hits the Cape Town docks.