In just over a week a fleet of international racers sailing high performance Eco 60 yachts will cross the startline of a gruelling 30,000-mile solo marathon around the world

Thousands of spectators are expected to flock to La Rochelle, home of the Velux 5 Oceans, to wave farewell to skippers as they set off on the Ultimate Solo Challenge on Sunday 17 October. Today, race officials have released details of the programme of events for start day.

On the morning of race day, the race village, located in the Bassin des Chalutiers, will open at 10:00 and activities will start at 10:30 with a rousing performance of Batala (a type of Brazilian drumming with a samba reggae style that originates from Salvador de Bahia, one of the VELUX 5 OCEANS host ports). By 12:30 the skippers gather for the an hour-long departure ceremony.

Hundreds of spectator boats will then take to the water at 14:00 to assume their positions ahead of the race start. Then at 16:00 the sound of the starting gun will ring out round La Rochelle and the eight ocean racers will pass the start boat. The first of five ocean sprints will see them battle the notorious Bay of Biscay before taking on the Doldrums and the South Atlantic en route to Cape Town, South Africa.

Velux 5 Oceans chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “There is no better experience than the start of a major ocean yacht race and the Velux 5 Oceans is the best of all. The nervous energy that will engulf La Rochelle is something that will stick in the minds of everyone there for years to come. Come to La Rochelle for October 17 and be part of something special.”

The race village, in Esplanade Eric Tabarly, will open this Saturday (9 October). It will form the nerve centre of the event and will be officially opened by the skippers at 10:00 on Saturday. Throughout the eight days leading to the start day, the race village will host a range of activities, including dance and music performances, watersports in the marina, school visits, cooking challenges and a chance for the public to meet the skippers.

One of the highlights in the lead up to the start will be the arrival in La Rochelle of one of the most famous classic ships in France, the beautiful three-masted tallship Belem, which will enter the port on the evening of 13 October. Each skipper will be introduced to the public in a special ceremony onboard the historic ship at 19:30.

The evening of Saturday 16 October will see sailing and rugby join forces. Velux 5 Oceans has teamed up with Top 14 rugby team Atlantique Stade Rochelais for their Amlin Challenge Cup second round clash against Agen. Atlantique Stade Rochelais will play in front of a crowd of 11,500 fans at their home ground Stade Marcel-Deflandre in a specially made kit inspired by the round-the-world race. (In place of their normal yellow and black colours, the team will wear a shirt featuring an Eco 60 yacht surrounded by open sea and the Velux 5 Oceans logo.) The day before the match, the skippers will go head to head with the Atlantique Stade Rochelais players in a winch grinding challenge in the race village.

The Velux 5 Oceans starts from La Rochelle, France on 17 October and features five ocean sprints. After heading from La Rochelle to Cape Town, the race will then take in: Wellington, New Zealand; Salvador, Brazil; and Charleston, USA. From the States the fleet head back across the Atlantic to France.

For more, visit

Subscribe to Yachting World magazine for all the latest racing news and reviews

Follow us on twitter.