The 12 yachts in the Global Challenge set off in spectacular style today at 14.00 with HRH The Princess Royal starting the world's toughest yacht race from Southsea Castle, Portsmouth.
Thousands packed into Gunwharf Quays, causing traffic chaos in the city, then made their way to Southsea Castle and the start line to witness Team SAIC and Team Stelmar crossing the start line together. As the cannon was fired from Southsea Castle, Team Save the Children charged her way through in 3rd place, followed by Barclays Adventurer, Samsung, VAIO, Spirit of Sark, BP Explorer, BG SPIRIT, Pindar, Me to You and Imagine it. Done.
The fleet powered up the Solent, eager to start their ten month adventure, being chased hard by an incredible flotilla of support boats of all shapes and sizes with their wake turning the water into a blaze of white waves.
The weather today was a constant force 4-5, building later in the afternoon to force 6 or 7 with lumpy seas making it a bumpy ride for the smaller boats. Helicopters swooped down through the fleet desperate to get 'the picture' that would make the front pages tomorrow.
Sir Chay Blyth commented: "What a fantastic start and look at all these support yachts! It's been an exceptional week with the carnival, schools visits, public open day and sponsor networking events plus, of course, all the parties.
"The number of people who came down to witness the start of the race was quite phenomenal and our thanks to everyone at Gunwharf Quays and the city council for helping us to make the race such a spectacular event."
Early reports show that the Spirit of Sark was the first past the Needles. Check out the website for up-to-the-minute news, audio interviews with the skippers and crews, photos from the yachts, daily logs and the all important race viewer.