Dee Caffari's brilliant start of the solo round the world race is the talk of the town

Dee Caffari scorched off to a magnificent start in the Vendée Globe today, putting her at centre stage of the race and prompting thoughts in France that she is on the cusp of becoming the ‘new Ellen MacArthur’.

Caffari made an excellent, safe start in her boat Aviva, shadowing previous race winner Vincent Riou in PRB in the crucial live TV coverage of first hour of the race, and also trading places with Jean-Pierre Dick in Paprec Virbac and Seb Josse in BT at the head of the 30-strong fleet.

This contrasted sharply with the fate of her mentor and former boss Mike Golding. The bad luck that seems to dog Golding struck even as the starting gun fired.

Minutes earlier Golding had been on the radio trying to establish the co-ordinates of the pin end mark. Whether from confusion or a misjudgement, he put Ecover over the line a fraction early and was penalised with an individual recall. From first place Golding was forced to retreat to last, recrossing the line behind all the other skippers.

The other British sailors: Alex Thomson; Sam Davies; Jonny Malbon; Brian Thompson and Steve White, had safe and uneventful starts, but it is Dee Caffari who is the talk of the town. Her emergence in such a prominent position was the biggest surprise of the day.

It could hardly have been orchestrated better for her or her sponsor in front of millions of TV viewers and spectators and it sends her off with a huge groundswell of interest and support.

With winds of 40-50 knots and a large and punishing seas forecast tonight and tomorrow, most skippers are being cautious. Dee Caffari, for one, is going to play it safe.

“I’m pretty confident. I’ve done a lot of heavy weather upwind stuff in the boat,” she said. “Everyone wants to set off and push really hard and get straight into the race but the balance might be better if you just get through this difficult first bit and then settle down into something more manageable, making sure we get into the rhythm of our race.”