ST. MARY'S CITY, MD. -- All compassionate sailors took pity on the crew that logged 33,000 miles last year aboard the wettest, crudest entry in the Whitbread 'Round-the-World Race -- the 82-foot Soviet aluminum maxiboat Fazisi, nicknamed "The Submarine."
But it couldn't have been as bad as it looked, because now that their sodden offshore effort is over, the Soviet sailors won't get off the boat.
"We needed to send two crewmen home to cut down expenses, so we asked for volunteers," said Brian Hancock, an American who is helping co-skipper Fazisi on a U.S. goodwill tour that included a stop here last weekend for the Governor's Cup Race from Annapolis to St. Mary's. "We're still waiting. They're all fighting to stay."
"Well, sailors want to sail," countered Vladislav Murnikov, Fazisi's designer and principal architect of her plunge into the world of modern offshore racing last year. Left unsaid was the fact that those who go home have no chance to get on another boat headed for distant ports. When it comes to the Soviet offshore sailing fleet, Fazisi is it.
But not for long, if Murnikov has his way. Fazisi's tour, which concludes around Christmas in Florida, is part of his scheme to launch a joint U.S.-Soviet entry for the next Whitbread in 1993-94, this time with the aim not of just competing, but of winning.
Fazisi was 11th of 15 maxis to finish the race in England, which doesn't sound great. Then again, many at the start a year ago wondered if she would complete even a leg of the grueling ordeal. Fazisi's decks are slung so low, there were times at sea when she simply disappeared beneath a rolling wall of green water, then came bobbing up on the far side.
"I was steering in the Southern Ocean one night when a green wave came down the deck, picked me up off my feet and strung me out like a rag," said Dale Tremaine, a New Zealander who did three legs with the Soviets. "I hung onto the wheel for dear life. When it was over, I said, 'That's it, I've survived the worst the sea can deliver.' Then it happened three more times that night."
Fazisi's 'Round-the-World saga was punctuated by tragedy when her skipper, Alexei Grischenko, committed suicide, hanging himself in an Uruguayan forest after completing the first leg from England.
At the time, many suggested harsh conditions aboard might have contributed to Grischenko's mental turmoil. But Murnikov, who designed Fazisi without ever having seen an ocean racer before, denied that she is unusually rough.
"Many people call this yacht a submarine," he said as Fazisi coursed smoothly down Chesapeake Bay in the moonlight Friday night, churning along at 10 1/2 knots to sweep past most of the 303 local entries racing for the Governor's Cup.
"But it's not true," said Murnikov. "All Whitbread yachts are wet." As for accommodations below, where the bunks are hard, canvas cots, the lighting is dim as a dungeon and the only standing room is two narrow passageways, Murnikov sniffed: "The idea was to keep the crew on deck, not down below. Anyway, no racing yacht is a luxury cruiser."
Murnikov offered little hope for a kinder, gentler vessel next time around either. "The next boat will be very spartan as well," he said.
Next time is much on Murnikov's mind these days as Fazisi bounces from port to port to show the flag, supported entirely by profits from T-shirt sales conducted by a fast-talking ex-Soviet named Moses Litmanowicz, who barks at tourists like a carnival pitchman and moves T-shirts at a head-spinning pace.
"Get your Russian T-shirts here, 10 buckskis, cheaper than McDonald's and better for you," shouts Litmanowicz, and in Annapolis and St. Mary's, you had to shoulder your way to the front of the line to make a buy. His thick Russian accent, Litmanowicz conceded, was dredged in part from a distant past. He has lived in Florida for the last 27 years, working as a public relations man.
But in these times of perestroika, Americans crave connection with anything even remotely Russian, even hokey T-shirts, which is just the emotion Murnikov hopes to tap with his joint-venture Whitbread scheme.
He has already snagged one big-name ally. Starting next month, Fazisi will stage a series of match races against Ted Turner IV, son of the Atlanta media mogul, who bought ex-Whitbread maxiboat The Card and announced plans for an $8 million effort for the 1993-94 race. Their series includes racing Oct. 3-7 in Annapolis.
Murnikov figures a serious U.S.-Soviet Whitbread effort will cost at least $5 million, which obviously isn't T-shirt money, and he is seeking a U.S. sponsor to foot a big chunk of the bill -- presumably a company with eyes on the budding joint-venture trade opening in the Soviet Union. The sailing effort will be 50-50 all the way, Murnikov said -- half U.S. design team, half U.S. money, half U.S. crew.
One thing he is not worried about is rounding up competent Soviets to man their end of the boat. Crew? He can't get rid of them.