BOOM! The starting gun fires and the fleet of 28 yachts is flicked out of the Solent by the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. The 24 hour delay simply ratcheted up the tension aboard Saga and all aboard are on their mettle. It doesn’t help when you see some of the competitors lining up alongside you; Sir Robin Knox Johnston, Brian Thompson.. these are big beasts and that’s before you even start to look at the yachts themselves.
Tensions aside, Saga gets off to a flier and in bright sunshine and very stiff breeze, the crew can start to enjoy themselves in between wrestling with sails and battling with the wheel. But the main battle is with class rivals in IRC 1 and the fleet is tightly packed The fleet of four yachts is already stretched out along the south coast, with the Open 40 La Promesse displaying her downwind credentials and showing her rivals a clean pair of heels . Apparently her owner literally jumped for joy when he discovered the course had been reversed due to the weather. Early days though and in the meantime Saga is enjoying breathtaking sailing in 30 knots of wind. There was a brief pause for breath as the Volvo 65s screamed by, but other than that it has been a pell mell charge down the coast, running 11 and 12 knots.
Skipper Peter Hopps reflects: “Everyone enjoyed the spectacle of the start and the speed of the VO 65s was really impressive. Unfortunately we were taking our spinnaker down when the Volvos came past so we were a bit preoccupied! That sail has remained firmly in its bag since then – we had a good run up the Channel under poled out headsail which was very effective.”