The 16-strong Admiral's Cup fleet headed off the startline at 1500 this afternoon in perfect conditions

As the Admiral’s Cup fleet headed away from the Needles on the start of the Wolf Rock Race, there was little indication that any of the top teams were establishing a dominant position.

In classic Cowes conditions at 1500, in 10-12 knots of south-westerly breeze, sunshine, and a building tide under the boats the 16-strong fleet set off down the Solent, towards the Needles and the English Channel.

Bertrand Pace, at the helm of the UNCL French boat Groupe Paprec, showed his class, with a great start at the shore end of the line, while Australia’s Wild Oats, from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, popped out of the middle of the line in a strong position.

Action immediately after the start was fast and furious, with all the boats trying to make the most of the advantageous tide along the island shore, and protest flags being broken out by Bribon Telefonica Movistar and Volvo for Life Team Tonic.

At the Hurst Narrows, just 10 miles from the start, both fleets were still tightly bunched, and it appeared that those who had stuck close to the island all the way, had benefited.

First boat out of the Solent, and into the English Channel, was Chernikeeff 2 of Britain’s Royal Ocean Racing Club, followed by the Royal Thames Yacht Club’s Bear of Britain, with the Spanish Real Club Nautico de Sangenjo boat Bribon Telefonica Movistar third.

The small boats were tight on the heels of their bigger brothers, led by Australia’s Aftershock, ahead of RORC’s Chernikeeff 4 and Dickies Yacht Sales from the Royal Southern Yacht Club.

Despite his good start, Bertrand Pace and his Groupe Paprec suffered the ultimate disappointment of an early retirement, when their rudder started to delaminate.

Once clear of the fickle and feckless conditions of the Solent, the fleet is expected to fall into the “pecking order”, established over the course of the Regatta and the battle for the bigger, higher rated boat to break away from the pack will begin.

An intense night of concentration is anticipated, with all the crews driving their boats to the limit, as well as trying to position themselves to make the most of the expected stronger winds, when they arrive.

The big boats have a course of about 360 nautical miles, turning to come back at the Wolf Rock while the smaller boats have approximately 230 nautical miles, heading home after rounding Eddystone Light House – with both fleets expected to finish on Monday.

Positions at Hurst Lighthouse

Big Boats

1 Chernikeeff 2

2 Bear of Britain

3 Bribon Telefonica Movistar

4 Wild Oats

5 Estrella Galicia Uno

6 Chernikeeff

7 Volvo for Life Team Tonic

Paprec Recyclage retired after the start

IMS 600

1 Aftershock

2 Chernikeeff 4

3 Dickies Yacht Sales

4 Chernikeef 3

5 Telefonica Movistar

6 Dancing Bear

7 Paprec

8 Estrella Galicia Dos