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4 July 2001, 12:16 pm
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Ecover and Kingfisher ©2001 Jacques Vapillon

EDS Atlantic Challenge

The EDS Atlantic Challenge started yesterday at St. Malo, France under clear skies and fair winds. The fleet is bound for Cuxhaven, Germany.

After months of planning and years of preparation the EDS Atlantic Challenge, the first-ever fully-crewed transatlantic Open 60 regatta finally got underway today in spectacular fashion. The fleet of seven Open 60 yachts crewed by some of the world's elite offshore sailors departed the shores of France bound for Germany 575 miles away. In a fashion uniquely French, a huge crowd turned out to give the yachts a rip roaring send off. Helicopters buzzed overhead and the usually calm Brittany coastline was abuzz with spectators on land and an armada of small craft on the water. The real stars of the show, the yachts themselves floated like giant butterflies as they plowed through the spectator chop.

"It was just as I imagined it would be," Sir Chay Blyth, event founder and race Chairman said at the start. "A group of the world's top sailors pitting themselves against each other in the fastest monohulls on the water. It was truly a magnificent spectacle." Sir Chay's sentiments were echoed by Gordon Moultrie, EDS Vice President EMEA. "I think we are on the cutting edge of ocean racing with this event. Extreme performance, no limits might be our race strap line, but after today I think that it sums up what we saw at the start. These yachts and skipper's are the most exciting things on the water."

As the start gun fired at 1825 hrs local time, it was Sill Plein Fruit skippered by Roland Jourdain that leapt into an early lead taking advantage of the fair easterly wind. Along with Gartmore (Josh Hall) with French sailing legend Christophe Auguin at the helm, the two boats headed offshore while La Rage de Vivre (Loic Pochet) showed a surprising turn of speed sailing up the middle of the course. The fleet short tacked to a turning mark and then set spinnakers for a fast sail towards a shipping mark at Banchenou and then to Cap Frehal. As they rounded the final mark before setting off for Germany, Sill Plein Fruit remained in the lead with Gartmore (Josh Hall) second and Ecover (Mike Golding) third. Pre-race favourite Ellen MacArthur aboard Kingfisher was a distant fourth. Behind them in order were Fila (Andrea Scarabelli), Alphagraphics (Helena Darvelid) and La Rage de Vivre (Loic Pochet.)

The first leg of EDS Atlantic Challenge races to Cuxhaven, Germany and Portsmouth, England before setting off across the Atlantic for Baltimore in the United States. From there the fleet sails to Boston and then on to the finish in St. Malo with the first yachts expected to arrive between August 19 and August 22.

EDS Atlantic Challenge Press/News Editor
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