Favourites come to the fore in perfect light winds start to the Artemis Transat

Muscling straight out of the starting blocks, the skippers of the Artemis Transat fleet made one of their keenest, tidiest solo starts yesterday. Seb Josse, sailing BT, was the first IMOCA Open 60 over the starting line, closely followed by race favourites Loïck Peyon on Gitana 80 and Marc Guillemot on the gorgeous-looking new 60 Safran.

Among the Class 40s, Miranda Merron had a superb start to her race, pulling away early to head the fleet. Merron has had a struggle to get to the start and is here with the loan of the boat and the contribution of 100 small sponsors from her home port of Hamble each donating £100 to cover her entry.

The fleet left Plymouth beating into a light south-easterly sea breeze, dodging past a huge spectator fleet of around 300 boats. The atmosphere among the skippers before the start had been remarkably relaxed and good humoured, as light easterlies promise them a few uneventful days to bed in.

But the sight of the skippers carefully hand-steering their boats carefully out to the Eddystone, the first mark of the course, was indicative of the hard work ahead in light winds. There will be a great deal of sail changes, a lot of hand steering and precious little sleep for the first few days of this race. In both the IMOCA 60 and Class 40 fleets it is crucial not to fall too far behind the leaders and allow a separation to occur. With the next low moving towards the fleet west of Ireland, the first boats to sniff the new wind are likely to pull away and could become impossible to catch.

We will have coverage and commentary throughout the Artemis Transat, with regular analysis from Mike Golding.

Photo courtesy of Thierry Martinez