Sixty-five-year-old Colin Drummond sailing his Sigma 362 Sleuth Hound led the fleet out of Torbay in the start of yesterday's Triangle Race

Under grey skies with light drizzle wafting across Torbay, and forecast gale force winds, 41 boats set off on the first 220-mile leg of the double-handed Triangle Race from Torquay to Crosshaven (Ireland) yesterday. Sixty-five-year-old Colin Drummond sailing his Sigma 362 Sleuth Hound, with crew Finbarr O’Halloran, who made the best of the start, and led the fleet out of Torbay.

In fact it was the more cruiser-orientated boats that were making the early running, with Gareth Thomas and Trevor Griffiths on the J/120 second, and the Sigma 38 Sigmania third in the hands of Richard Cox and Guy Haigh.

Once out into the English Channel, the fleet faced the last two hours of an adverse tide, before being helped on their way by a strong ebb.

With the forecast bad weather not due to reach the race area until late Tuesday, it could definitely be a case of size does matter, with the bigger boats likely to be almost in Crosshaven by the time the gale arrives, while the small ones take a bashing.

Husband and wife team Rupert and Kathy Smalley, sailing the smallest boat in the fleet, The Flying Fish (28ft loa), are keen just to get to Crosshaven, which will be the longest double-handed voyage they’ve made.

“I think just achieving this, just getting our little boat to Cork, I think is going to be an achievement, and don’t get too uptight about results,” said Kathy before the start, “we do well in fully crewed races, but double-handed is different.”

Rupert and Kathy are one of four married couples doing the race, while there are four other mixed crews, and one all girl crew, the first all female entry in the 20-year history of the race.

Kirsteen Donaldson and Mary Sturgess from the Royal Southampton Yacht Club are very experienced short-handed sailors, having been competing in their club’s double-handed series for several years, and as a team for the past four years.

The winners of the last Triangle Race, two years ago, Peter Howe and Mik Underdown sailing Majic, are amongst the most experienced at this event, having done nine previous Triangles between them. However, they are realistic about their chances of winning again. Underdown commented: “We do not anticipate winning this time because the race is entirely different, the boat mix is different, it’s a great race but it changes every time you go out.”

Explaining these comments he added: “There are different people who stand a chance of winning from scratch, there are also some very experienced people here who’ve done it over and over again, who stand a chance of winning because of that.

“Everyone had gone up a gear, whilst there are the corinthian spirit boats racing, there are also some bigger, faster more racing orientated boats, and I think this may be the year when one of those racing orientated boats wins.”

The race restarts for the 270-nautical mile second leg from Crosshaven to Treguier in Brittany on Friday 25 June, while the Club Nautique de Treguier send the fleet off back to Torquay on Wednesday 30 June.