Hong Kong Clipper, skippered by Justin Taylor, blasted across the River Mersey start line ahead of her seven rivals at 14:30 yesterday.
Marking the start of the Clipper 2002 Round the World Yacht Race in Liverpool.
Beneath glorious blue skies in 10-12 knots of westerly breeze, the eight international Clipper yachts set sail on the first leg of the eleven-month challenge, racing to the Cascais Stopover in Portugal. A fantastic 45,000-strong crowd gathered in the award-winning Albert Dock and lined the banks of the Mersey to witness the start.
A very close start saw the fleet all coming in on a port tack, with Liverpool Clipper leading in the approach to the line. The local yacht then luffed, to avoid crossing the start line early, and Hong Kong came just to windward at full speed to cross the line on the gun.
As the fleet tussled for positions, Hong Kong reached the first mark ahead of the fleet, but overshot enabling London Clipper, skippered by Chris Hazeldene, to take the lead.
At the Liverpool Yacht Club mark, London had extended her lead, whilst closely behind New York went wide of the line managing to take Hong Kong's wind and moved into second.
Liverpool Clipper, under the helm of local skipper Adam Kyffin, chose then to take an inside route, making use of their local knowledge, and managed to make up a couple of places - much to the delight of the massive crowds lining the Mersey.
As the fleet then raced along the Mersey for the final time, embarking on the epic 35,000 mile marathon, London Clipper maintained a promising lead ahead of Richard Butler's crew aboard Bristol followed in turn by New York, skippered by the first ever female Clipper skipper, Samantha Fuller.
Skippers and crews alike were glad to be under sail after Sunday's severe weather caused the start of Clipper 2002 to be postponed for 24 hours and their enthusiasm was clearly evident when the teams proceeded through Canning Dock waving and chanting to their individual theme tunes.
Position Report at 0500 GMT, 29/10/2002
After a splendid start the fleet have been beating to the west along the northern Welsh coast in excellent conditions. As they left the River Mersey they had a brisk force 5 but as the night progressed the wind gradually died. Some boats were to experience the frustrations of falling into wind holes made doubling painful when those nearby sail straight past. There has evidently been some hard luck stories and a few smiling faces as the positions have changed throughout these early satages.
Although Hong Kong had the best start it was London who stormed into an early lead. She was caught by Bristol on the way out before Liverpool's own Adam Kyffin managed to get Liverpool Clipper in front.
The weather is changeable at present as the very slack pressure gradient starts to feel the effect from the incoming low pressure. By the time the leading boats were rounding Anglesey just before dawn the wind was picking up from south south east. Bristol reported that they were making their course but now wanted to edge out to the west in the hope that they could get on the westward side of the expected low pressure due over the next 36 hours. As the winds blow anticlockwise round the low pressure areas (depressions) in the northern hemisphere this would give then give them favourable winds to push them south.
Glasgow has done well by staying close inshore and just leads London and Hong Kong. Slightly further west Liverpool and Jersey are locked together with New York chasing hard 2 miles to the north. Cape Town appears to have suffered worse in the calms and has got displaced further north but still very much in touch.