And they're OFF! The final leg of the 2004/2005 Global Challenge got underway from La Rochelle, France this morning at 12:00 (local time) in light winds and on an ebb tide. This final sprint leg will decide the final podium positions and retun the fleet to Portsmouth, Great Britain from where they set off nearly ten months ago.
The Race Office has been notified of several 'Intentions to Protest' after the tricky light winds start in La Rochelle.
Imagine It. Done.
have protested Barclays Adventurer
for "failing to keep clear as windward boat as required by RRS." Meanwhile BG SPIRIT
have reported that they intend to lodge a similar protest against Imagine It. Done.
Meanwhile, Team Stelmar
and Imagine It. Done.
are currently leading the fleet out into the Bay of Biscay with a tight chasing pack of seven just a mile behind them.
However, a few miles further back Spirit of Sark
, Me To You
and BP Explorer
are still suffering from a windless zone which has seen the front-runners already pull out a five mile advantage over these yachts bringing up the rear.
Tensions will be running high on all the yachts as they try to make the most of what little breeze they have. "It's going to be quite frustrating as it looks like we've got some light airs out there,"
commented Imagine It. Done.
crew-member Steve GUSH this morning. "Considering how close the yachts have been throughout the race we're going to have all eleven other yachts around us the whole way - the pressure will be on for three days solid."
Likewise, Team Save the Children
's Anthony CAMPBELL notes that every effort is being taken to improve their competitive advantage on this final leg back to Portsmouth: "The boat is completely stripped out; we're taking boil in the bag food so it's all very light. We've been really strict about what we can take on the boat so we're trying every trick in the book to help us go fast."
The pressure will certainly be on for the next three days in the fight for a podium position. Nevertheless, crews will also no doubt be making the most of the last few days racing together as a team after their momentous race around the world.
skipper Amedeo SORRENTINO commented before leaving the pontoon in La Rochelle: "It will be a different race from usual, it will be a very short and very technical, competitive race - but it will be fun!"
Due to very light conditions forecast for the next three days, the course for leg 7 has been shortened to enable the yachts to finish in the early afternoon on Saturday. Once the yachts have rounded Ushant (northwest of France) the course will take them on a more direct route towards Portsmouth.
Although the shortest possible distance between La Rochelle and Portsmouth is approximately 450 miles, a course of nearly 700 miles had been set to accommodate the three days of racing.
As the leg develops, further amendments to the course may be necessary including lengthening again it if conditions become more favourable.