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"Odessa' on quest for financing

The contributions are hardly torrential. It's more like a trickle at the moment, but the plight of Anatoly Verba, his seven-man crew and their 60-foot sailing ship Odessa, drydocked in Tampa, is attracting funds and attention.

Their quest, as St. Petersburg Times columnist Hubert Mizell wrote a week ago, is the 33,000-mile, nine-month-long Whitbread Race, an around-the-world seagoing adventure for 16 yachts that begins Sept. 25 in Southampton, England.

It began as a project underwritten by private funds and Moscow banks. But as the former Soviet Union began to disintegrate, so did the dream. Now, in reality, the quest is for money, for survival.

They owe race organizers about $20,000. They need $400,000 worth of sails, a mast that will cost at least $60,000. In all, they need about $2.5-million.

"We've gotten very little concretely," said Lerea Goldthwaite, president of Earth Ocean Sail Inc. "Regular people who say, "I'd like to help; I don't have much money but I'd like to encourage them' are sending us $25, $30. There are no big contributors yet, but there are the beginnings of a movement toward ideas for finding them."

She said the national media (Sports Illustrated, Yachting Magazine, NBC Weekend) are showing interest in Odessa's plight. And Don Mains, an events management and marketing consultant, said he is exploring a grass-roots fund-raising effort.

"Not all the money has to be in our laps by the 25th (of September)," Goldthwaite said. "If we receive commitments (from donors), as long as we can put, say, 50 percent down, (suppliers) will ship us some of what we need."

Mains, former general manager of the Hall of Fame Bowl, said he hopes to approach Home Shopping Network, the Clearwater-based shop-at-home cable TV system, "to see if we can extend this effort to people across America.

"It's going to be tough for major corporations to make a decision immediately (to help fund the Odessa project)," Mains said, "but by demonstrating grass-roots support for this dream, it could very well drive national corporate involvement. There is a novelty to having these sailors sell their dream."

Goldthwaite's phone number is (813)-254-5001.