The 46th Newport Bermuda Race will see Mike Sanderson skipper Speedboat's inaugural race

Today (20 June) will see the start of the 46th Newport Bermuda Race, starting just off Castle Hill Lighthouse in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. Customs officers from Bermuda worked till late last night pre-clearing thousands of sailors heading for Bermuda who have traditionally had to queue in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club to get clearance.

This years competition will be especially interesting, as it is the 100ft supermaxiSpeedboat’sinaugural race debut.Speedboatis owned by Alex Jackson, designed by Juan K, and skippered by Team Origin Director Mike Sanderson. Its crew includes a number of the Team Origin America’s Cup squad. If the wind plays ball, it is hoped that .Speedboatwill achieve line honours and may also have a shot at the unofficial race record set by Hasso Platner’sMorning Gloryin 2004 of 48 hours, 28 minutes and 31 seconds.

Mike Sanderson commented “We have now sailed the boat for all of seven days, and in those few days we even managed to get some racing in! This just highlights the amazing job that the guys designing, building and preparing the boat have done. For the New York Yacht Club annual regatta last weekend it was just about trying to get to know the boat, and what better way then to put a supermaxi through a 2 mile Windward leeward race series!

“There is no doubt battling through that experience that we will be better off for the Newport to Bermuda race. Our overnight trip on Tuesday night further tested the boat, especially when we had a 47knot gust. The couple of days since were being used to get her ready for what can be a very tough ocean race.”

Final entries for the race have fallen from 218 to 198 entries. One boat sank on delivery, one was t-boned on its mooring, while another had an electrical fire. Yet this is still the second largest fleet in the 102-year history of the race. The special, centennial race in 2006 holds the record of 263 starters.

Weather forecasters are predicting winds of about 10 knots from the south-southwest for the start. The bigger, faster boats may experience some light airs in the middle of their race and end hard on the wind. The breeze is then expected to fill on Monday and Tuesday, putting the smaller boats on a reach to give them a fast passage. The way the Gulf Stream is running, there are no significant reasons this year to sail away from the rhumb line (the direct route from Newport to Bermuda) in search of a southward push toward Bermuda.

The start of the Newport Bermuda Race will be broadcast on . For more information, visit .