Bianchetti and Hatfield win their respective classes in the prologue, and the public come to view the fleet

Italian sailor Simone Bianchetti, sailing Tiscali, won the Around Alone prologue race from Newport yesterday, sailing into the impressive arena of New York Harbor in 1st place. It is a promising start for him, though no-one is attaching much importance to the results yet. Class 1 has its seasoned professionals and a degree of pre-start gamesmanship is still being played.

In Class 2, on the other hand, the performance of Derek Hatfield on his Open 40 Spirit of Canada did make people sit up and take notice – he finished comfortably ahead of the 50s as well as the other two 40s. Hatfield has spent the last five years building the boat. He has sold his house and given up his job to do Around Alone, but clearly should not be mistaken for a gentleman adventurer.

Firmly in his sights is Brad Van Liew, a very experienced solo sailor doing his second Around Alone in a Finot Open 50. Van Liew is the clear favourite in this class, but says: “Do not discount these 40s, they are bullets. And Derek in particular is a tough guy and has a load of experience.”

The venue for Around Alone in New York is spectacular. The fleet is berthed on a pontoon beside Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier which is now a museum (pictured above). Access to the dock is open to the public and throughout the day crowds of people have come to look at the boats, children hunting autographs and family and well-wishers marking out their partisan support for different skippers. Many of the 1,000-plus yachts parading in New York Harbor as part of Sail for America, a gigantic remembrance of 11 September, also motored by for a closer look.

Most of the last minute work has already been done and scrutineers were sealing the engine props today. The most notable exception was Pindar, Emma Richards’s boat, where work was continuing as her shore team removed the runner winches and replaced them with larger ones.