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Academy Hopes to Refloat Sunken Sloop Once Used for World Record

April 22, 1991

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) _ The Naval Academy is investigating the sinking of a $1.25 million training sloop that went down in Chesapeake Bay after a collision with a coal barge.

″Our current plans are to attempt to salvage the vessel,″ Noel Milan, deputy public affairs officer, said Monday. ″A lot will depend on the condition of the vessel.″

The 60-foot sailboat American Promise, which once set a world record for circumnavigating the globe, sank Sunday morning, four hours after the collision near the mouth of the Patuxent River.

A junior at the academy was thrown into the 50-degree water and was treated for hypothermia. No one else aboard the sloop, the barge or a tugboat pulling the barge was injured, said Lt. Cmdr. Mike John, the academy’s public affairs officer.

Milan said academy officials did not know what caused the accident or whether the sloop hit the barge or the barge hit the sloop.

Other details will not be known until the investigation is completed, he said.

The barge, owned by Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., was being towed from Newport News, Va., to a power plant in northern Anne Arundel County.

BG&E spokesman Art Slusark said the Coast Guard allowed the tugboat and barge to continue its journey after a preliminary investigation.

The sailboat may have had a problem with its rigging when it ran into the bow of the 365-foot barge, said Coast Guard Lt. Gary Merrick. After the collision, the sloop’s mast became tangled with the 78-foot tugboat.

″We have no idea of what the exact problem was,″ Merrick said.

The sailboat was donated to the academy by millionaire Dodge Morgan of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

In 1985-86, Morgan sailed it around the world in a little over 150 days, cutting the record for solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe nearly in half. That record has since been broken by a Frenchman who made the trip in under 130 days.

Morgan, 59, said he has no regrets about donating the boat to the Naval Academy.

The sloop was carrying a crew of nine midshipmen and three officers on a two-day training cruise. It was to have returned to Annapolis on Sunday.

Milan said the sloop was part of an extensive sailing program at the academy that includes sailboard training.

″The basic principles of navigation, seamanship and boat handling apply at all levels,″ he said. ″Some of the skills that midshipmen learn as part of their sailing training here will bear fruit later in their careers on the open ocean on frigates and destroyers and submarines and everything else.″

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