The goodbyes are over and now it's time to concentrate on the start. Skipper Loz Marriott talks to us

Nerves and emotions were getting the better of some of the 216 crew of the Global Challenge round the world race this morning as they said their goodbyes to their families. As they finally slipped their lines at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth at 1130, however, the focus had shifted quietly to the race tactics ahead.

Loz Marriott, the skipper of Pindar, had made his farewells earlier, saying goodbye to his wife in the early morning in order to concentrate fully on the job ahead. Asked what aspects of the 6,000-mile leg to Buenos Aires he considered the most intimidating, he replied without hesitation: “The start.”

“That is the most daunting part,” he explains, “because we’ve got forecasts of 30-40 knots, though the weather system is not moving quite as fast as we expected. The decision of what sail plan to go with at the start is quite a hard one.”

Like most of the skippers, Marriott is concerned to get away without incident. “The plan is to play safe, not to be early on the line, get clean air and not to have any penalties,” he says. “So we’re going to make sure we have a clean start, stay out of the pack and get clean air on the windward side, then try and be the most southerly boat going up the Solent to get the shifts as they come through off the land.”

The fleet faces a hard first night at sea, which is also on his mind. “From midnight to three o’clock there will be gusts of up to 50 knots out there. It’s everything that we thought it would be but I’m a bit nervous,” he confesses.

Among the spectators in Portsmouth today were veterans of previous Global Challenge races. One was Paul Jeffes, who skippered Interspray in the very first race, the British Steel Challenge in 1992. He vividly remembers what it was like to say goodbye to loved ones and set out to circumnavigate the world.

“One thing’s for sure, just because its been done before doesn’t mean it’s got any easier,” he comments. “They’re going to be cold, they’ll be tired, seasick and scared out of their wits. They’re going to have to go through all of these things and also get to grips with living in a very cramped space, and one thing’s for certain: someone is going to get grumpy. Learning to be reasonable and get along is the hardest thing.”

“The start today is very exciting and everyone is really revved up and nervous. It’s not until they get out of the Solent that they will start to unwind and enjoy themselves,” he adds. “Then when you get to around the latitude of the Canaries it starts to be real fun: you can get your shorts on and get out there.”