Getting Norwich Union to the front of the BT Global Challenge fleet as they set out on the first Southern Ocean leg has been hard work. Tim Thomas reports from on board

After all the preparation, after all the parties, after all the late nights of working on the boats, and after all the early mornings sorting out kit, we have finally left Buenos Aires for what we all admit is the challenge of a lifetime. There have been precious few moments to think about what we are about to do – racing around Cape Horn and through 5000 miles of the most remote and inhospitable stretch of water on the planet toward Wellington.

When we did finally realise the enormity of our undertaking, we all admitted to feeling nervous. We do not know what to expect, as this is an unknown quantity for all of us; all we know from our Norwich Union crew briefing is that the largest wave we are likely to encounter is over 30m in height.

Our first twenty four hours have been hard work – harder probably than any of us would have been comfortable with after a long, hot stopover. Norwich Union had a reasonable start, crossing the line in fifth position, but as we tacked east out of the Rio de la Plata, the wind strengthened and veered virtually round all points of the compass, such that we spent all night changing sails, flying spinnakers, and putting reefs in and out of the main.

The wind approached gale force at times, before easing slightly at sunrise, where we had a classic match-race style battle for the lead under spinnakers with LG Flatron. Some six hours later, and we have broken away and increased our lead to ten miles. Even as we put another reef in at 1400 local time, we are still happy with our progress so far. Maybe this will be Norwich Union’s leg after all.

We have also heard that BP are some 65 miles behind after their late start, crossing the line around 2300 Sunday following a problem with contaminated fuel. This must certainly be hard for them to have such a psychological disadvantage at the start of one of the toughest legs of the race.