There are three days to go before the start of the Round Britain and Ireland Challenge and, with the all yachts' 'To Do' lists virtually complete, the teams are now eager to get going.
The eight yachts taking to the start line for this year's event are: Barclays Adventurer, BP Explorer, Besso, SAIC, Save the Children (sponsored by Basilica), 7eam, the Firm and Kunachi.
With the crews having been announced just five days ago it has been a demanding time, as they have had to quickly gel together as a team in a relatively short time. This does not seem to have fazed them in the slightest however, as Geoff HAND aboard Kunachi explains: "The crew is really fusing together, forming into their watches and picking up their jobs, fantastic. It's a dream to be sailing around Britain and Ireland. We're all really fired up."
Over the past few days the crews have been keeping a close eye on the weather charts, hoping there will some change from the sunny, calm weather pattern the UK has been experiencing over the last couple of weeks.
It would appear their wish may become reality as a large low-pressure system is forecast to be moving this way for the weekend. This will bring SW/W winds for Sunday, which will make an exciting down-wind start from Cowes to the forts off Portsmouth.
Loz MARRIOTT, who competed aboard the yacht BG Group in last year's race, comments: "Skippers and crews can expect to experience a wide range of weather patterns, from the light, frustrating airs of a high pressure system, as we had off the west coast of Ireland, to the exciting, powerful gales of a low pressure system such as those we experienced off Muckle Flugga at the northern tip of Scotland."
The route around the British Isles has long been considered one of the most tactically challenging, adding to the overall appeal of the race to the 112 crew competing in the event.
James ALLEN, who led his crew to second place, aboard Spirit of Southampton, in the last race continues: "The skipper and crews will also have to contend with the fast and complicated tidal gates, such as the overfalls at Portland Bill and the fleet splitting tidal gates at the Dover Straits.
"The first boats to get through the Dover Straits, with the tide, will break away very quickly and any boats that don't make it through before the tide turns will be battling against 3-5 knots of tide which will slow them down considerably, enabling the lead boats to gain valuable miles."
Duggie GILLESPIE, who won the inaugural Round Britain Challenge in 2003 aboard LogicaCMG comments: "One thing the fleet can be sure of is that they will get plenty of wet and wild conditions up at Muckle Flugga, as we did in the last race and also some vital tactical weather and tide decisions will need to be made as they race down the East Coast of the UK and into the final stretch along the South Coast, past Brighton and into the Solent."
Racing was neck and neck during last year's race, making for some exhilarating racing across the whole fleet. Spirit of Southampton was leading for much of the way but lost out to LogicaCMG at the crucial eleventh hour.
Gillespie continues: "The stretch from Dover to St.Katherine's Point was where our fleet jostled for positions, playing the tides off the Dover Straits and Beachy Head, navigating the shallows off Bognor Regis and pushing hard for the final sleepless 24 hours. We managed to pull away with just an hour between the first two yachts. An incredible race."
One thing you can be sure of is a very close and tactical race from these one design powerful boats. Brendon HARRIS, from Auckland, New Zealand, who is sailing aboard Save the Children, concludes: "It's going to be very competitive. During last's race all the yachts were pretty much in sight of each other so there'll always be someone pushing you that little bit harder."
The race starts on Sunday 30 May 2004 at 13.00 from the Royal Yacht Squadron, off Cowes.