Huge crowds turned out to watch the start of the Volvo Ocean Race Leg Seven from Annapolis, USA to La Rochelle, France.
Heavy rain and glowering clouds did nothing to dampen the spirits of the huge crowds, which gathered on the dockside in Annapolis today, for the start of the 3,400 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race leg seven, to La Rochelle in France.
The traditional blessing was given by the Rev William H Peters and the Rev Norman Crews and John Masefield's famous poem, 'Sea Fever' was read, followed by the fleet departing in reverse finishing order to cheers and flares.
At the start gun, fired at 1300 hours local time, the fleet beat towards the Bay Bridge, just a quarter of a mile to windward, with very little visibility. Amer Sports One made an impressive start, gaining clean air quickly, whilst the rest of the fleet jostled for position.
Full mainsail and No 2 headsails were set, with the Bay Bridge playing an important part in the race as the fleet tacked to cross underneath the structure, avoiding the upright bridge supports. At one stage, Assa Abloy tacked on to port and was forced to cross behind the entire fleet.
The wind increased once the fleet cleared the Bay Bridge and ballast tanks were filled as the fleet powered upwind.
The half-mile corridor was flanked by enthusiastic spectator boats, which were kept back from the course by patrol boats. The left hand side of the course was chosen by Amer Sports One, illbruck and Assa Abloy, who were enjoying their own personal battle, while SEB, racing neck and neck with News Corp, on the right hand side, had Tyco and djuice behind them as they reached speeds of approximately 11 knots. All the race crews were sitting with their legs over the side of the boats, the sails not stacked due to the amount of tacks necessary to reach the gate, set some six and a half miles up the course from the start line.
With 14 knots of south southwesterly breeze over a flooding tide, the sea surface remained relatively calm until the fleet broke free of the corridor and the hundreds of spectator boats started to churn up the water.
Amer Sports One and SEB continued to fight it out until Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One, keeping up a blistering pace, emerged at the head of the fleet at the gate, followed by SEB, News Corp and djuice, all very close together just 35 seconds behind Amer Sport One. Assa Abloy was next through, 55 seconds after Amer Sports One followed by Tyco - one minute, illbruck - one minute 45 seconds and Amer Sports Too - three minutes after the leader.
The fleet now has 140 nautical miles of the Chesapeake Bay to sail, with a flood tide, shallows, fish traps and crab pots to negotiate until it reaches the open sea where the decisions will be made as to which route to choose to finish in La Rochelle in first place.
The weather forecast supplied by the Met Office, issued on Sunday 28 April at 01.30 UTC is as follows:
Forecast discussion for area Baltimore along Chesapeake Bay to off Virginia Beach, covering the period 28 April 0600 to 29 April 0600 UTC.
General Situation: Depression moving east to Great Lakes, associated fronts moving east across Eastern Seaboard during period, clearing into North Atlantic later. Then fair for a while before showers run from the west during the 29th (UTC).
Wind: South/southeast force 4, becoming south by 1200 UTC, then occasional force 5. Veering SW after 0001UTC.
Weather: Fair interludes, but also occasional rain/showers or mist patches. Showers may be heavy/thundery. Mostly fair after 0001 UTC, following veer in wind to southwest. Showers developing again after 29th April 0600 UTC
Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 2, 0358 GMT