Route du Nouveau Monde
This fully crewed race back across the Atlantic will take the boats between the Azores islands and then round Belle Ile before heading south for La Rochelle. The Azores waypoint has been causing some aggravation within the fleet as sailing into and out of a high pressure system could add many days to the competition. In fact the Azores high pressure system looks like it might be out of place at the time the boats have to pass this waypoint and they may just be lucky.
At present there are only four - possibly five - competitors.
Hot favourite is Roland Jourdain's Sill. Having won most of the events in the 2002 IMOCA calendar the red Marc Lombard design and her blonde curly haired skipper were highly tipped for the Route du Rhum, but had to pull into port when the mainsail was shredded in storm force winds.
Up against Sill will be a number of Open 60s all of them originally built for the 1992/3 Vendee Globe.
In this respect Miranda Merron's newly rechristened Dominican UUDS-Republic is the best prospect. As Alain Gautier's Bagages Superior she won the 1992 Vendee Globe winner and has been much breathed on since.
The other hot favourite for the 1992 Vendee was Loick Peyron's Fuji3, which suffered delamination problems soon after the start and had to pull out. She is now called Viadirect it Mie Câline and is being skippered in this race by Eric Dumont, who ironically campaigned Merron's boat in the last Vendee Globe. Confusing? Dumont is said to be mounting another Vendee campaign in a new Marc Lombard design.
The fourth boat is Thousand Images-Gédéon, the narrow Harle/Mortain design of Patrick Favre. This is the red yawl which as Vendee Entreprises Jean-Luc van den Heede sailed to second place in the 1992 Vendee Globe.
There is a question mark over the participation of Patrick de Radigues' Garnier. Most seem to think she has withdrawn from the event - except the organisers!
The race starts at midday local time on Saturday.