Heavy rain and glowering clouds did nothing to dampen the spirits of the
huge crowds, which gathered on the dockside in Annapolis today, for the
start of the 3,400 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race leg seven, to La
Rochelle in France.
The traditional blessing was given by the Rev. William H Peters and the Rev.
Norman Crews and John Masefield's famous poem, 'Sea Fever' was read,
followed by the fleet departing in reverse finishing order to cheers and
At the start gun, fired at 1300 hours local time, the fleet beat towards
the Bay Bridge, just a quarter of a mile to windward, with very little
visibility. Amer Sports One made an impressive start, gaining clean air
quickly, whilst the rest of the fleet jostled for position.
Full mainsail and No 2 headsails were set, with the Bay Bridge playing an
important part in the race as the fleet tacked to cross underneath the
structure, avoiding the upright bridge supports. At one stage, Assa Abloy
tacked on to port and was forced to cross behind the entire fleet. The
wind increased once the fleet cleared the Bay Bridge and ballast tanks
were filled as the fleet powered upwind.
The half-mile corridor was flanked by enthusiastic spectator boats, which
were kept back from the course by patrol boats. The left hand side of the
course was chosen by Amer Sports One, illbruck and Assa Abloy, who were
enjoying their own personal battle, while SEB, racing neck and neck with
News Corp, on the right hand side, had Tyco and djuice behind them as they
reached speeds of approximately 11 knots. All the race crews were sitting
with their legs over the side of the boats, the sails not stacked due to
the amount of tacks necessary to reach the gate, set some six and a half
miles up the course from the start line.
With 14 knots of south southwesterly breeze over a flooding tide, the sea
surface remained relatively calm until the fleet broke free of the
corridor and the hundreds of spectator boats started to churn up the
Amer Sports One and SEB continued to fight it out until Grant Dalton's
Amer Sports One, keeping up a blistering pace, emerged at the head of the
fleet at the gate, followed by SEB, News Corp and djuice, all very close
together just 35 seconds behind Amer Sport One. Assa Abloy was next
through, 55 seconds after Amer Sports One followed by Tyco - one minute,
illbruck - one minute 45 seconds and Amer Sports Too - three minutes after
The fleet now has 140 nautical miles of the Chesapeake Bay to sail, with a
flood tide, shallows, fish traps and crab pots to negotiate until it
reaches the open sea where the decisions will be made as to which route to
choose to finish in La Rochelle in first place.