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30 April 2004, 11:43 am
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The Transat

Plymouth, starting port of the race since 1960, has been one of Britain's principle naval strongholds since well before Drake famously spied the Spanish armada from Plymouth Hoe.
The Transat will acknowledge this with the start gun being fired at 1400 BST (1300 GMT) from HMS Tyne, the first of the Royal Navy's new 79.5m long River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels and official starting vessel for the race. As of today, there is just one month to go before the start gun fires on Bank Holiday Monday, 31 May.

The Transat has always been an international event, attracting competitors from all over the world including Eastern Block countries, such as, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria [as they were at the time]. But as ever the Class 1 and Class 2 fleets in this year's Transat are dominated by the French, who make up almost three-quarters of the entries. However, an encouraging trend is the increased number of competitive non-French sailors, particularly in the monohull classes. The UK have three Open 60 competitors in the form of Mike Golding, Conrad Humphries and Alex Thomson, while Switzerland follows with two in Bernard Stamm and Dominique Wavre and from 'Down Under' there is Australian Nick Moloney and Mike Sanderson from New Zealand. A country new to the Open 60 class is Austria, represented by Norbert Sedlacek.

Like a majority of the other competitors Sedlacek wants to compete in November's Vendée Globe and must complete The Transat to qualify. An individual who will add much colour to The Transat, Sedlacek originally got into sailing when he became bored of his job as a tram driver and decided to embark on a career as a sportsman, first as part of the Austrian Tae Kwon Do martial arts team and, ultimately, as a yachtsman. He has since sailed around the world twice - the first time single-handed on his 8m long Oasis 2.

Sedlacek completed his qualifier for The Transat this week and will soon be turning his attention to delivering his Open 60, Austria One - a Joubert-Nivelt design related to Thierry Dubois' Solidaires - to Plymouth for the start.

This week has seen the last of the ORMA 60 qualification passages for The Transat, with the exception of Alain Gautier's Foncia and 10 of the Open 60s - the latter having a special dispensation as they competed in the Defi Atlantique last autumn and do not have to complete their qualification passage until 15 May.

While their finish places in The Transat will be of paramount importance, The Transat also counts for points within the 2004 FICO Lacoste World Championship. Results in different races throughout the season are translated into points for skippers, crew and sponsors counting towards this championship.

At present Bernard STAMM is the clear leading skipper, having won last year's Around Alone race, but is followed by 60ft trimaran favourite Franck CAMMAS in second and Vincent RIOU in fourth. Mike Golding, Roland JOURDAIN and Michel DESJOYEAUX hold seventh to ninth places respectively with only a handful of points separating them.
Event Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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