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19 April 2003, 06:27 pm
Gale Force Winds Welcome Start
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Vail Williams Leads The Start© Challenge Business

Round Britain Challenge

Vail Williams took the start cleanly, but now out through the Hurst Narrows in the Solent, it is Spirit of Southampton who is leading the fleet in the decreased wind now at 15-20 knots.
Race Commentary

Update 14:15
Out at the Needles the wind speed has eased slightly 15-20 knots with the water flatter than off Cowes.

The fleet has passed through the Hurst narrows with poled out headsails many having to gype as they sail through the gap and rapidly approaching the Needles

First through the narrows was Spirit of Southampton, skippered by James Allen closely followed only about six lengths behind by Duggie Gillespie on LogicaCMG. Just behind them neck and neck were BG Group, skippered by Clive Crosby and Basilica skippered by Jon Crawford.

The second group was led by Team Spirit, with Mark Taylor leading this crew, then Ian Buchele on Spirit of Hong Kong and Jim Allen skippered the Daily Telegraph.

Vail Williams, skippered by Pete Scoggins, who was first over the line now brings up the rear following their broach and damage to their kite. A frustrating start for Pete and his crew.

However the wind is due to drop significantly this evening and then move around to the west. This gives Pete and his crew the perfect opportunity to repair the kite and start fighting their way up the fleet.

Update 13:55
Spirit of Hong Kong blows kite as she sails through Hurst narrows.

None of the yachts are flying kites - they have all poled out their headsails, protecting their kites for another day...

Update 13:50
The three leading yachts are approaching the Hurst narrows - Spirit of Southampton, Basilica and LogicaCMG.

Information coming back off the water reveals early damage to Vail Williams spinnaker and possibly spinnaker pole. The yacht did a chinese gype, broaching and blowing the kite in the process. Everyone is safe onboard.

A similar event also occurred on-board Team Spirit further back, when the kite was seen to be flying like a flag, however early reports indicate no damage on-board.

Update 13:25
The wind has eased slightly (around 15 knots) and Spirit of Southampton now leading the fleet.....closest to the favoured Island shore

Vail Williams some difficulties with the kite

BG Group overtakes Vail Williams.

LogicaCMG now third also overtakes Vail Williams,

Basilica 5th, followed by Team Spirit with Spirit of Hong Kong and the Daily Telegraph, both flying kites and battling to catch up

Update 13:15
Vail Williams, leading with kite flying, followed closely by Spirit of Southampton (no kite) and BG Group (no kite)

LogicaCMG currently 4th

Update 13.10
The Daily Telegraph now have set spinnaker and is flying

BG Group and Basilica furthest north

Update 13:05
LogicaCMG and Basilica are setting their poles

Spirit of Southampton and LogicaCMG going close in shore

Team Spirit and the Spirit of Hong Kong have hoisted their kites!!

Update 13.00
The race has started!!!!

Vail Williams, two boat lengths ahead of BG Group and Spirit of Southampton are the first ones over the line......then LogicaCMG and Basilica, with Team Spirit, Spirit of Hong Kong and the Daily Telegraph chasing at the rear

Update 12.58
BG Group and Vail Williams closest to the line at the outer end

Update 12.50
10 minute gun has gone

All the yachts are east of the line. With high water at 14:00 Portsmouth, the most favourable position is close inshoreis along the beach initially to get the first of the flood tide.

Update 12.35
Janet Grosvenor, Race Officer for the day, and her team of 3 assistants are currently making preliminary radio checks from the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes overlooking the start line

Update 12.30
The wind has now increased to around 30 knots - a near gale on the Beaufort scale - conditions are beginning to mimic the spectacular start of the 1996/7 Global Challenge (although admittedly a completely different wind direction). The water is becoming very choppy and we are unlikely to see any spinnakers flying unless the winds drops.

The yachts have begun getting their sail configurations set for the start - most of them have a reef in the main, staysail and a no2 yankee.

Much of the other racing in the Solent has already been cancelled due to the conditions, but the start of the Round Britain Challenge will go ahead.

Update 12.00
The eight yachts competing in the Round Britain Challenge are currently undertaking pre-start manoeuvres off Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

There is a biting north-easterly breeze of around 20 knots cutting across the Solent creating difficult and choppy conditions.

Duncan Jubb, mate on Basilica, although relaxed admitted "there is a bit more wind than we would want" - a view probably shared by all the teams.

The yachts are currently motorsailing with just main sails up, the foresails lashed to the decks ready to hoist before the start.

On-board some of the yachts, the crews can be seen consuming large quantities of calories - many of which will be used up in the first few hours as they head west towards the Scilly Isles.

The shoreline is teeming with crowds eager to get the best view from Cowes.

The yachts left Ocean Village around 10.00 this morning and have now been joined by a large flotilla of support vessels - some in passenger ferries, yachts, motorboats and RIBs. However in spite of the conditions, the support for the teams is immense.

There are many rivalries" within the event - one such rivalry is between husband (Richard on board BG Group) and wife (Alison on board Spirit of Hong Kong). Before she left, Alison's 92 year-old grandfather was there to see her off. Her parting words were "we are definitely going to beat them."

Round Britain Challenge Editorial Team
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