Six Open 60 footers set off yesterday for the start of the 1,000 milles de Calais

Six Open 60s set off from the foot of the Blanc Nez headland under grey skies in an 8 knot north/ north-westerly at 250º, flat seas and around 2.5 knots of current at 1641 GMT yesterday for the start of the 1,000 milles de Calais.

The start was delayed by an hour and 41 minutes to give the competitors time to make the start zone and mark out the line in the light conditions. First across the start line between the minesweepers from the French and English navy on call to celebrate the Entente Cordiale, was Virbac, tailed by Ecover, with Bonduelle, Arcelor in the chase for the leading duo and considerably further back. PRB had to be recalled after over-shooting the line.

The first leg of the course is a 14-mile coastal sprint leaving Gris Nez and the Boulogne marker to starboard and from there the game plan will be to exit the channel as quickly as possible to benefit from the tide further offshore as it turns in their favour. The course will then lead the fleet around the Fastnet lighthouse before heading back to Calais via the mark at Dover.

Reports from the boats this morning show that the six monohulls have not all opted for the same strategy to escape the Channel. Some are flirting with the English coast (Sill, PRB, Bonduelle and Ecover), others are more centred (Virbac, Arcelor Dunkerque). All are making the most of a 10/12 knot northerly on starboard tack with the wind on the beam but PRB has the slight edge over Bondelle. Golding speaking communicating from the boat this morning said:

“First light, and Bonduelle is 0.5 miles astern with PRB and Sill just visible to the north. According to the last positions Virbac and Arcelor are several miles to the south of us. The forecast would indicate that the more northerly track would be better – we will have to wait and see. The Ecover team has divided into watches with Brian and Merf on at the moment trimming and talking in the pitch darkness of the cockpit whilst Gringo and Bruno are sleeping on the high side down below. I float between the watches adding extra help where needed whilst keeping tabs on where we are and how we are doing. Whatever the outcome of the race we are sure to gain a huge amount of knowledge from this race, with a combination of our designer, sailmaker, co TJV skipper and project manager we have the best crew I could imagine for this event.

“In an hour or so we will break out the frying pan and the aroma of bacon and eggs will, with luck, drift back to the team on Bonduelle who I am sure will wish they were here!”