Hard work for the 13 solo skippers in Around Alone as they face a long beat out of New York Harbor

Around Alone got off to a gloomy start in New York this afternoon, with hazy grey skies and rain squalls muting the backdrop of Manhattan. The 13 yachts taking part made a ragged crossing of the short line off Ground Zero and began an 8-mile beat south to Verrazano Narrows Bridge, where they were able to crack off and head out to sea.

With 15 knots of wind from the south, the fleet faced a beat against a two-knot flood to get out of the bay, a prospect that had been causing several of the skippers concern yesterday. Some felt that the effort of short-tacking would be unnecessarily tiring and risky; others with less capable windward boats were worried that they could lose an hour or more before they had even got out to sea.

The Open 60s made a cautious start, which left the way open for the more manoeuvrable Open 40s to worm their way to the front. Alan Paris’s 40 BTC Velocity was first over the line. Derek Hatfield’s 40 Spirit of Canada had the better position at the windward end of the line, though, and it was nearly half an hour before all the 60s managed to get past him.

Bernard Stamm in Bobst Group strode out into the lead and left the bay first, by which time the fleet had already opened out over several miles. Right at the back, John Dennis, who at 57 is the oldest skipper in the fleet, was double reefed and making slow progress, perhaps taking the view that it was better to conserve his strength for the fast beam reach up the coast expected tonight.