Today (Friday 24 September) sees the official opening of the Global Challenge 2004/05 Race Village at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth.
The start week celebrations will turn an already buzzing shopping, dining and entertainment venue, into a dynamic and exhilarating race village for the 12 competing yachts' crews, sponsors and spectators of this captivating race.
On Sunday 3 October, 12 identical 72ft yachts will race in some of the most extreme conditions, the wrong way round the world. With each yacht comprised of 17 crew from all walks of life, and one skipper - the only professional sailor on board - the fleet will endure ten months of hard and fast racing, encountering six ports enroute.
Today kicks off with the arrival of the 12 crews, comprising a total of 216 sailors, all making their ultimate farewells to family and friends before final race preparations get underway. The Ceremonial Arrival of the 12 racing yachts into Gunwharf Quays on Saturday 25 September, will be supported by the lively Batala Samba Band, a huge balloon release, along with the exciting RNLI Display team performing crowd gathering helicopter fly-bys and man overboard drills. A local radio road show will also be providing live commentary of all the actions and events during the day.
On Sunday 26 September the yachts will be opened up to the masses of Portsmouth and out-of-town visitors expected during Race Week. Guided tours by the Crew Volunteers will give the public the opportunity to experience the cramped and challenging conditions the crew will enounter for the next 10 months. Other activities include the start of a two-yacht 36-hour charity-rowing marathon in aid of Save the Children, the official race charity.
Celebrations and race preparations continue at the start of next week with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) giving every boat a thorough and mandatory check for all safety equipment on Monday, followed in the afternoon by the official Pindar Naming Ceremony and party. Tuesday 28 sees the City Reception of the boats and teams, followed by a final opportunity for the different crews to mix and bond as slick racing teams, at the Crew Party. Support for the race has been astounding from all ages. Local schools in the Hampshire area have each adopted a yacht and Wednesday will see the influx of more than 1000 school children visiting the yachts and crew to show their support and discover what will be the homes to the crew over the coming months.
As part of the race start celebrations, on Friday 1 October Challenge Business is hosting the first of two Press Conferences, followed by a Spinvox sponsored Press Happy Hour, as a show of gratitude to the continued support and loyalty afforded to the Global Challenge.
The atmosphere illuminates, the crowds build and the anticipation levels rise on the 2nd October as the Global Challenge Grand Carnival tours round Portsmouth and concludes at Gunwharf Quays.
Sunday 3 brings the preparations to a close and opens the door for the 12 yachts to the reality of the race start. Hundreds of spectator boats will be covering the horizon from the early hours, along with huge crowds taking every available spot along the Portsmouth and Southsea waterfronts. HRH, The Princess Royal, will be starting the firing gun at 14.00 to release the yachts on their 30, 000 mile adventure, with their last reminders of home being the fleet of ribs chasing the fleet into the far distance.
When asked how he feels about this year's starting celebrations, Sir Chay BLYTH, executive chairman of race organiser, Challenge Business explained:
"The anticipation for the start of the race is unbelievable, the Race Village is in an absolutely first-rate location. Gunwharf Quays is set to host the biggest ever Global Challenge yacht race start, let alone the best week long celebrations!"
Everyone is being encouraged to join in the celebrations and to come down to witness another historic Global Challenge event in the making.