With final sponsorship in place for Premier Challenge the fleet is now nearly ready for tomorrow's start

It’s impossible to imagine Sanxenxo before ‘La Volvo’ came to town.
Situated on the north-west coast of Spain, with an idyllic rural backdrop of
rolling hills and terracotta roofs, the last few months have seen what was a
quiet fishing village undergo an extreme makeover. It’s the first time that
the race starts outside the U.K, no wonder then that the village is buzzing

Even the sun has come out as the last few days tick away and the crowds build,
counting-down to Saturday’s start. Everyone is living, breathing, and even
eating sailing: sleepy cantinas have turned into team restaurants, with ‘Team
ABNAmro’ standing out for two reasons: the sheer number of them (ABN is the
only boat to sponsor 2 boats in the race), and the garish colors of its blue,
yellow and purple team logo!

Looking out to sea as you wander down the promenade, the stark shapes of the
V70’s out boat-testing are breathtaking on the flat water: you begin to
realise the sheer scale of these beasts. They dwarf the engine-less Volvo
Extreme 40’s, the ‘warm up’ act going round the cans each day crewed by
professionals and Olympians, many of whom are prominent Tornado sailors, such as
Hugh Styles. A commentator booms out the progress of the boats, such as Tommy
Hilfiger and Motorola, to an eagerly watching crowd: there’s not much breeze
but the racing is intense and close – too close at times, as Volvo found out
today when they became entangled in the top mark!

As the crowd cheer in the winners and retreat to the Volvo Extreme bar for a
pre-prandial drink or two, the scene is one of pure anticipation. Excitement
and fear are mixed, for no-one knows what will happen in this race. It may have
a 32-year history, but this is a year of firsts – as not only the start-line
but, most importantly, the boat design specifications have been dramatically
shifted, with the introduction of the Volvo Open 70 Rule. With its canting
keel, carbon mast and low weight, the design has already broken the world speed
record, with movistars’s unbelievable 530.19 nm in 24 hours, (averaging more
than 22 knots of boat speed!) There are predictions that the boats could
achieve distances of 550nm a day, but, with new speeds come new dangers too.
Everyone is holding their breath until the start, but many will be holding it
until the very finish, as 2005-6 looks set to be a dramatic roller coaster of
highs and, potentially, lows, for this offshore race