Mondial Brits

Brian Thompson, Damian Foxall and Ellen MacArthur are competing in today's Challenge Mondial Assistance

Sunday May 11th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
The port of Cherbourg was heaving with life this morning as the twelve 60ft trimarans headed out into the bay for the start of this second running of the Challenge Mondial Assistance fully crewed offshore race.

At 1400 GMT the start gun will go, sending the boats off down the Channel on their route towards Rimini on Italy's Adriatic coast.

As ever it was a cool, calm and collected Brian Thompson on the pontoons this morning. Fresh from scoring second place in the Course des Lions race for the Minis, the Maiden II skipper is racing on board Karine Fauconnier's Sergio Tacchini. Thompson is one of the most experienced non-French trimarans sailors having spent many years campaigning on board Steve Fossett's trimaran Lakota. However he admits that this is the first time he has sailed one of these latest generation boats with their advanced canting rigs and foils.

Thompson’s role on board Sergio Tacchini will be to drive her hard. Karine Fauconnier, with whom he has sailed before most notably on an F28 trimaran, will be taking care of the navigation with Damian Foxall, another old multihull hand. Foxall has sailed on PlayStation with Thompson and was on board Tyco for most of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Meanwhile Ellen MacArthur is racing on board Foncia, which over the course of this week has had her maststep hurriedly repaired. At the pre-race briefing at 0830GMT Ellen declared herself "excited and eager to get going" while oozing calm and seriousness, doubtless her thoughts already on her complex role on board Alain Gautier trimaran as navigator.

At the pre-race briefing held this morning, it was decided to prohibit the use of gennakers for the first 7 miles as the risk of damaging the sails was deemed too great.

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