The Round Britain and Ireland Challenge got off to a downwind start yesterday afternoon, with eight 72ft Global Challenge race yachts jostling at the start line when the 13.00 gun was fired.
First over the start line from Cowes Royal Yacht Squadron was Barclays Adventurer, skippered by Stuart JACKSON, closely followed by SAIC, which was first to start hoisting their spinnaker in a freshening 20 knot breeze, all fears of a light start having been proved wrong.
The rest of the fleet was a little way behind in a pack led by BP Explorer and Kunachi. However, it was Clive COSBY and the crew of 7eam who managed to set their spinnaker first and gain an early lead.
After five minutes Team 7 had established a 10-boat length lead over SAIC, closely followed by BP, Barclays, The Firm, Kunachi, Save the Children and Besso bringing up the rear a little way behind.
Families, friends and supporters of the teams gathered in Ocean Village from 7am yesterday morning ready to see the yachts off and say their fond farewells. The first yachts then slipped their berths from 08.30 under a fanfare of cheers, applause, some tears and confetti bombs, adding to the carnival atmosphere of this spectacular event.
There is a low pressure to the west which moved over the fleet during Sunday night and Monday and will give the fleet strong winds from the south or south west. This will certainly 'blow away the cobwebs' and enable the yachts to make good progress down the channel.
Looking ahead, it is likely that the wind will move to the west or north west - on the nose for the race fleet, before going light during next week.
Full position reports are available on the event website at the address below.