A new chapter in history was started yesterday when the inaugural Volvo Ocean Race shifted from the planning and preparation stage to a fully fledged professional round the world yacht race.
For every syndicate, the day started early with final preparations and checks to ensure each yacht was ready to take on the first 7,350 nautical mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa. Each sail wardrobe was on deck to be counted by the measurers as only 17 are allowed to be taken onboard for any one leg. Seals were put on anchors, chains and water tanks in order to prevent the crews shifting certain gear around in the boat. Ian Bailey Willmot, Chairman of the Race Organising Committee and former Race Director and competitor overlooked the scene, commenting that "When I did it (the Whitbread) a long time ago the boats were much smaller and it took me 43 days (to sail to Cape Town) at that time. This time it is very similar to the last time."
As the clock started to count down the final hours for the start, it was time to say farewell to families and loved ones. Fathers carried their children on their shoulders down to the boats for the final hug for a month with other partners all trying to hold back the tears in front of a cast of thousands of well wishers. But before the boats left for the start line, along with several thousand well wishers and spectators in Ocean Village, the crews observed a minutes silence in memory of the victims from the New York and Washington atrocities. With crew members alone drawn from 15 nations and many more represented in design and construction, plus a truly international gathering of supporters, a world community showed unity in their thoughts and prayers.
Finally the first boat to cast off the lines at 11.30hrs in Ocean Village was Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One, followed by Lisa McDonald and her all female crew on Amer Sports Too. When Assa Abloy left next with skipper Roy Heiner on the wheel, the crew lined up on the spreaders with their respective national flag in the hand. They youngest skipper was to follow next, Knut Frostad, on djuice, the pink and black racing machine. Next illbruck challenge let slip the dock lines with John Kostecki in command and Bowman Tony Kolb nursing the white and green boat out of its berth. They were followed shortly after by Briton Jez Fanstone on Newscorp with previous race winner Ross Field as Navigator.
Gurra Krantz from Sweden on the bright green SEB followed right on and the only one left to go was Tyco. They finally left the dockside to the deafening cheer of many Tyco fans. Led by their Kiwi Skipper Kevin Shoebridge the boat slipped out. All boats were accompanied by the songs they have chosen to represent team spirit.
Out of Ocean Village they took their way down the river Itchen into the Southampton Water to finally assemble in the middle of the Solent for the start. In the Solent a start box and a corridor was set up, followed with a corridor to get the fleet under way. Seven Police launches, ten Marshall Ribs and two Police Ribs protected the fleet from hundreds of spectators crafts, from larger power boats to sailing dinghies, the cruise ship Galaxy and even a square rigger.
All the boats assembled on the Isle of Whight side of the starting line and were fighting aggressively with Amer Sports One luffing illbruck for clear air
As the gun was fired by Prince Andrew it was Gunnar Krantz'sTeam SEB who crossed the starting line first with the A5 reaching kite up in a 8 - 10 knot Northerly breeze, followed by Amer Sports One with Grant Dalton in command and Dee Smith calling the shots. Third was News Corp, followed by Tyco, djuice, illbruck and ASSA ABLOY. On Lisa Mc Donald's boat the kite split right at the start line which immediately left them behind. Replacement was at hand and set less than five minutes later putting the all female crew in the position to chase the fleet.
Position Report at 23 SEP 01 14:14:00
LS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C ETA PO
1 AONE 50 45.40N 001 22.88W 07315 242 07.7 - 00000 00.0 14 OCT 01 8
2 ILBK 50 45.52N 001 22.96W 07315 251 11.2 - 00000 00.0 14 OCT 01 7
3 DJCE 50 45.52N 001 22.91W 07315 250 13.3 - 00000 00.0 14 OCT 01 6
4 NEWS 50 45.65N 001 22.88W 07315 252 13.1 - 00000 00.0 14 OCT 01 5
5 AART 50 45.64N 001 22.80W 07315 254 08.7 - 00000 00.0 14 OCT 01 4
6 TSEB 50 45.48N 001 22.48W 07316 252 10.9 - 00001 -04.3 23 OCT 01 3
7 TYCO 50 45.52N 001 22.48W 07316 252 10.9 - 00001 -04.3 23 OCT 01 2
8 ATOO 50 45.56N 001 22.04W 07316 245 11.5 - 00001 -04.3 23 OCT 01 1