Challenge Transat departs

Six boats and crews set sail on transat en double format race

Sunday August 25th 2002, Author: Rachel Anning, Location: Transoceanic
The inaugural Challenge Transat started in spectacular style today from the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, Cowes. The start gun was fired at 15.00 BST and the front three leaders jostling for first place were Vail Williams, skippered by Dave Melville, BP skippered by Alex Johnston and Spirit of Hong Kong, skippered by Ian Bushelle.

Spinnakers were up within minutes of the start as a large flotilla of boats followed the yachts which were making their way up to the needles and towards the North Atlantic. The yachts took advantage of the 10-12 knots of NNE wind with blue skies and sunshine making for a picturesque start.

The start follows a weekend of celebration and festivities in Ocean Village, Southampton UK where hundreds of well wishers, friends and family packed the marina to give the yachts an overwhelming send off as they set out to embark on their 3,000 mile race across to Boston, USA. Each yacht slipped berth to the crew's anthems, which included Spirit of Hong Kong's Kong Foo Fighting and Logica's Sandstorm.

In total six skippers and six mates will be racing with equally matched crews of men and women from all walks of life and nationality. Nerves, excitement and some tears were shed as the yachts left to motor out into the Solent and towards the start line.

Yesterday Ocean village was filled with people who came down to observe the crews making their final last minute preparations. But the hard work is done - the intense training and preparation for the rookie crews is over. Alistair Hackett, logistics director, Challenge Business, said today: "We have had a good preparation fortnight. Everything was finished by 5pm last night - the crews seemed ready."

The hard work has now been transferred to the water and the battle of the big boats has begun.

Simon Walker, managing director, Challenge Business, comments: "The start to the race was incredible with the yachts joined by a large procession of boats right up Southampton waters. Crews were working flat out taking advantage of the wind and putting all their hard work into practice as they expertly raised spinnakers on the downwind passage past the start line.

"We've been delighted with the reception that the yachts have had both on and off the water. Yesterday we had a long queue all day by Save the Children, one of the 72' yachts not competing in the race which we opened up to the general public. It made the race all the more real for people who were able to look around and see what will be home to the Crew Volunteers over the next three weeks and how they cook, shower and sleep.

"There's going to be some full on competition amongst the boats with some skippers boldly claiming they were going to win but now we'll just have to wait over the next few days and weeks to find out who takes the podium position in first place."

Dave Melville's Vail Williams led the fleet out of the needles.

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